In the busy life that working parents have, the amount of time we spend with our children or our spouses is very limited. "How do I make my time with him a pleasant experience for my 14-year-old son?" a concerned father asked me. "When he was five years old, his face used to shine and a big smile appeared on his face when I would walk into his room. Now, at age 14 his face also shines and he smiles from ear to ear — not when I walk into his room but rather when I leave it. What should I do?"

"How do you spend this limited time that you have with him?" I asked. His response was, "I make it an educational experience. I tell him I am displeased with the mess in his room. I also discuss my dissatisfaction with his haircut as well as his manners, and if there is some more time left I also try to educate him about how bad some of his friends are and how upset I am that he chose them as friends. My son is very upset about these discussions, but I feel that as his father, it is my duty to educate him."

I explained to the concerned father that, what he is doing is not education but destructive criticism, which creates a distance between him and his son.

Some teenagers go out of the room, or out of the house, when there parents are there in order to avoid criticism. An anchor was created that talking to their parents equals criticism, which equals bad feelings. And part of our natural instincts is to stay away from things which hurt us.

When we meet certain people or go to certain places where we had bad experiences, walking into this place, or talking to this person, will often trigger this negative anchor and create bad feelings — even if there is not anything negative being generated now.

As parents we want to make sure that we create positive anchors in the minds of our children. This will make them want to spend more time in the home with us, instead of looking for other people and other places to do so.

If you spend a lot of positive time with your child, you can afford to spend part of that time correcting their behavior. However, in cases where you only have a limited amount of time, make sure it should be a pleasant experience, which creates a positive anchor.

What to do if a negative anchor has unfortunately already been created. One approach is to go on a seven-day cleansing diet. In these seven days, we are not allowed to say even one word of criticism to our child. In fact, not only should we not say it, but we should not feel it either, because our body language sometimes speaks louder than words. The point is to concentrate on the good parts this child has, and every child has some good parts to focus on.

If we see the child sitting on the floor watching a video with his feet up, we can sit down on the floor next to him, get into his world, thank G‑d that he has healthy eyes with which to watch the video, look for something good that you can compliment him on, talk about subjects that interest him, ask him for his opinion, show him that he counts.

The seven days must be consecutive for the diet to work. If within the seven days we have slipped and broken the diet by saying or doing something negative, we have to start counting the seven days all over again. Hopefully, we can thus replace the negative anchor with a positive one and we can return to the way it was — that we see our child smiling and beaming when we walk into his room instead of when we leave it!

Try it — it works!