Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How Could You Do This To Us???

I love reading the AOL home page. It's kind of like reading The Enquirer while standing in line at the supermarket, but in private! This video/news posted on AOL story was about two parents.  Frustrated with their 15 year old daughter's complete and utter disregard for their rules, they decided to write this sign and make her stand beside it on a busy road in their community for all to see. It read: I sneak boys in at 3 AM and disrespect my parents and grandparents. One adult driver, passing by the girl, stopped his car and got out to talk to the girl. When interviewed by the reporter wondering what made him stop and talk to the girl, replied that he  "saw that this young girl looked so sad and upset and I was worried that this humiliation might make her do something to hurt herself."

Good for this guy, cause he has this exactly right. Shaming and humiliation is not a constructive disciplinary technique. It is abusive, and by the way rarely produces long term change. Clearly, sneaking a boy into her room at 3 AM is a HUGE concern, and I'm guessing not the first time. But I am also guessing that if this is how these parents are choosing to punish their daughter, their parenting style in general may be somewhat extreme and authoritarian. Probably not a lot of talking going on in this family.

At some point in your teen's life they will do something extreme that crosses your line. Every family is different, and the standard for crossing the line is different for every family.  Responding to this transgression with " How could you do this to me/us?" will get you nowhere. The fact is, your teen did not "do this to you." Your feelings, and wondering what the consequences would be do not even come into play with your teen. For that teen who snuck the boy into her room, what her parents or grandparents would do if she got caught was no where in her horny, impulsive teenage brain. And that is really the issue. Raising a teen means understanding that their egocentricity and narcissism is a part of their personality...for now.  It is not a character flaw, but a developmental hurdle that has to be planned for. Your teen acts on emotion and impulse, not thoughtful and careful consideration.
When parents use shame and humiliation as a consequence for this kind of behavior, they are shutting down communication, not opening it up at this very important juncture.

Clearly there need to be consequences for this girl. Both sets of parents need to sit down with the kids and talk not yell about what happened. Rather than banning this boy from the house which might send them out in secret, I would invite him into their house to hang with supervision. I would make sure there was no late night use of cellphones, which is how this  3 AM rendezvous must have been set up. I can imagine a late night sexting/texting communication that ended in a "I need to have sex with you right now" and up the wall into her bedroom he came!

Humiliation and shame can do long term harm to a person, and to their sense of self. Teens are extremely vulnerable as they are in the very beginning stages of assembling their identity. They are just getting the roots in place, and if those roots are stepped on rather than nurtured, there can be grave consequences.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Love Is All There Is

There is something about the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Maybe its the embedded memory of a half day at school and the anticipation of four days of freedom. I know for me its also the anticipation of my favorite meal ever, looking forward to savoring every morsel of turkey and stuffing, and a new recipe for Caramel Apple Pie I saw in today's paper. But what I look forward to most is the minute my beloved daughter walks in the door. There is nothing more special, more delicious, than that first hug with your child, no matter how grown up. Thanksgiving is a day to be treasured. All the worries of daily life, messy rooms, bad attitudes, disappointing grades, worries about money, job, family responsibility all put aside in order to cherish and preserve the present; family, food, and football. ( I personally hate football, but I get it's importance to some)

I know sometimes for parents this is no easy task. Maybe you have had a hard week with your teen, arguments, hurt feelings, parents feeling ignored and abandoned by their kids. I wanted to share especially for these parents a poem that a parent shared with me. She and her son had been at odds at what felt like forever. She was so saddened by the change in their relationship, and was working really hard to find some common ground with her son in this battlefield. One morning, going into her son's room to grab his laundry, she found this poem on the floor. This was not a school assignment, but an impulsive pouring out of thoughts. He did not hand his mom this poem as an olive branch, but instead, left it out for her to find. It is a tribute to the love a son has for his family. Know this, that what you often see on the outside, is not what is really going on the inside. Thanksgiving day is a day for you to share those feelings with your kids. Take the inside love and wear it on the outside, at least for the day, and maybe they will too. 

Where Am I From

I am from long nights lying on the grass
I am from days packed with sports
I am from burnt rice and undercooked hot dogs
I am from arguing about the stupidest things
I am from Love
I am from listening to my ipod late at night
I am from turning on my fan just for the noise
I am from letting facebook turn 1 hour of work into 3
I am from tiptoeing to the bathroom so my mom thinks I'm still asleep
I am from prayers said with the rest of my family over wine, even though I can’t drink
I am from Love
I am from Life

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why Is My Teen So Mean To Me?

There is a really good reason why teens are mean to their parents. Now with this new teenage brain growing by leaps and bounds, they are literally having thoughts they have never had before. Remember back when you were a teenager the moment when you realized " hey, my parents aren't perfect...awesome!!!!"

Teens have this new thinking ability that allows them to analyze and think more deeply about things. This is why teachers in middle school and high school expect their students to go from the concrete: who-what- where kinds of questions and answers, to the whys? They want them to read between the lines. School is not the only place teens are expected to do this kind of thinking. Their social life, their family life, all of it is now seen and understood under a whole new lens. What do you think gossip is?? It's a new way to think and analyze the people in their life. And you dear parents are part of their life. For the first time, they are seeing you without the rose-colored glasses of childhood, where parents are perfect, and their #1's. Now they see cracks in the armor. "Hey my parents don't practice what they preach, they can be hypocrites." Your teen can see right through the "do as I say, not as I do!"

Not only do they see you more realistically, but they absolutely love to tell you all their new perceptions that they are having about you. They are missing the edit button that will come with adulthood. For now though, if they have a thought about you, no matter how mean sounding, they share it. You may feel that no matter what you do or say, according to your teen it's the wrong thing!!!!

Never fear, this is only temporary. Remember it's a new way of thinking about you. It's a novelty, and it feels really powerful for a teen to be able to see their parents in a whole new way. Having a teen in your home is like having a live in therapist. There is no one who will be more honest with you. If you can hold off on getting defensive, and listen to what they have to say, you might learn something new about yourself that is useful.

The trick here is to not feed into your teen's feeling of power. Basically they are being bullies, and the best way to handle a bully is to take away their power of hurt. So the next time you feel that biting criticism from your teen, rather than expressing hurt or anger, go up to them, give them a great big hug and say: "You are so cute when you're being a brat, I love you!!!" That ought to do the trick!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Worrying Game:Your Son/Daughter's Boyfriend/Girlfriend Is Not Good Enough

A mom wrote me recently with this question:

My daughter has dated the same young man on and off again for about 2 years.  While he is not abusive and seems to genuinely care for my daughter, he is not exactly who I would choose. (low grades, not going to college, past history of drinking)  How do I know if I should  put my foot down and end the relationship?  I've had well intended mothers ask me why I don't.  Does forcing a relationship to end ensure that they stop seeing each other or does it force them into hiding?

If your teen has a boy/girlfriend, you must have figured out by now that it is the kiss of death to actually say what you really think about this person.  It is never the right thing.  Either you can't stand the kid because he/she is not nice enough, not smart enough, not polite enough, dresses in a way that makes you crazy, is a suspected drug/alcohol/sex fiend, likes to party too much, gets bad grades, and has a family right out of the sopranos, or he/she is so nice, so polite, so smart, motivated and responsible, and has a family right out of the Cosby Show. Either way, your opinion of this person and your sharing of it is likely to push your teen in the opposite direction of your actual desire to either break them up or commit them to each other for the the rest of high school so you don't have to go through this parade of boy/girlfriends for the next 4 years.

This boy/girlfriend dilemma is a complicated one for parents. When you see your teen with someone you feel can be a bad influence on them, pulling them into situations you think will be unsafe, emotionally unhealthy, and that potentially could have a detrimental affect on their future, your mama/papa bear claws come out. You share your "insights" about this person with your teen, expecting they will listen, learn, respect your opinion and do the right thing....break up with this bum!  However because your teen is now biologically and emotionally driven to think just the opposite of you, in a show of "well I'm not you", are now more motivated than ever to dig their own claws in to their new love as a show of independence. One of the major tasks of adolescence is what we call "separation". This is literally developing the ability to stand on their own two feet, in preparation for their future life as an adult. There are some things they are willing to admit you know more about, albeit reluctantly, like academic issues, but their friends are completely off-limits to you and your opinions.  This is an area of their life they feel is their birthright and expertise. Be damned with what my parents think?

Here is what you can't and should never do. Never, ever say to your teen;" I don't want you to, you are not allowed to go out with that person! Remember Romeo and Juliet, this is a set up for lying and sneaking behavior. The bottom line is you have no control over who they see. Unless you lock them in their room and home school them (only kidding, don't run out and buy a teaching manual), you no longer have control over their play dates. They see this person at school, after school and on weekends. Again unless you have a nanny cam attached to their person, there is no way of knowing when and if they are hanging around with this object of your disaffection. Also directly giving your assessment of this person to your teen can only serve to shut off communication rather than keep it open. If they know you already can't stand this person, why would they come to you if they actually need your advice or consolation. "I told you so's " do not contribute to open communication.

Here is what you can do: You can use "I Get It" starters. Rather than directly expressing opinion start with something like this: "Honey, I can see why you like Romeo, he's a cutie, and funny, and a little bit wild. I get it, he's a fun guy. Tell me what you like about him. " Give her the opportunity to tell you about some of the things about this person you may not know. Maybe his standoffishness is shyness for example. When you ask open ended questions, you are showing real interest in the people that interest her, and also trying to find out what this relationship really means to her. Try not to be judgemental or critical, this will not serve you well. After she has shared something about Romeo, you can say " I am happy that you are hanging with someone that is making you happy, but what do you think I am worried about in your relationship with him?" Your daughter/son knows what you are worried about, but if they say it rather than you saying it, they will be less likely to get defensive and evasive. After they say all the things you would have said, you can say:"Yes I do worry about those things, what do you think you can do to make me feel OK about them, so that we don't need to fight so much about this? I love you, and I just want you to be safe, and do what you need to do to get on with your life."

Ultimately your kids want your approval. However if you push them into the corner by trying to control their natural impulses to stand on their own two feet they will let you know in a clear and direct manner to "stay out of my life". So the work here is to help them articulate what relationships mean to them. Relationships in adolescence are a training ground for relationships in adulthood, and experience in all kinds of relationships will serve them well in the future. They need your counsel not your control.
PS if you have a question you would like me to answer here on the blog please send it to joani@joanigeltman.com

Thursday, November 12, 2015

I Wish My Parent Would........

A few years back I did a survey with sixty 9th -12th graders. I am reminded it about it this time of year when first term report cards are about to come out, and the holidays are looming.  Here is what your teens would love from you:


·      Ask me to go places with them because I really don’t get to do that a lot.
·      Make me the center of attention because it makes me feel loved.
·      Tell me I’m doing good, because it makes me feel good about myself.
·      Praise me and say they are proud, and I love when they listen,  actually listen, because it makes me feel like they are interested and proud of me.
·      Spend time just watching TV with me, because I never get to spend time with them.
·      Tell me when they are proud of me because it makes me feel good.
·      Say good job, we knew you could do it, because it gives me confidence to succeed in life.
·      Say they are proud of me to others because it shows that they notice the good things, instead of just punishing me for the
·      Are wicked nice to me because it makes me feel like my parents actually care.
·      Say they are proud of me, it makes me feel self fulfilled.
·      Aren’t rushing into conclusions about things because it makes me feel like for one second they aren’t judging me.
·      Take what I say seriously and believe me because it lets me know they trust me as much as I trust them.
·      Hear me out and listen to something I say, because it’s frustrating when they only listen to themselves.
·      Ask me to do things with them because it’s the best.
·      Talk to me, because it shows they care.
·      Tell me that they trust me and that they are proud of me because I like to feel like my parents are happy with me and I don’t want to disappoint them.
·      Tell me they are proud of me, because it makes me feel like I actually did some good for them.
·      Can just talk and hang out and have fun with me because it makes me feel more connected and more equal.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Does Your Teen Have Secret Files On Their Phone.......Maybe!!!!

Read and then we'll talk:

Oh yes a high school sexting ring!!! How salacious does that sound? OK so we have 100+ middle and high school students soliciting and sharing between 300-400 nude photo's of each other, sending them off into the netherland of teen social media, and then hiding these photos that they have either received or taken of themselves in apps called "vaults" away from spying parent's eyes. It seems that there was a contest afoot in this school. Students in the school were assigned points for "hotness."Getting the "hottest" kids to take a nude photo and share garnered the highest points. Kids were propositioning each other left and right and pressuring each other to take and send a nude photo. On some level there must have been some status involved about being repeatedly asked for your photo, cause that would mean you're HOT!!! I guess in high school and middle school life doesn't get better than that. And because these kids are thinking with their emotional brain and not their thinking brain, they forget that once these pics get in the hands of teens, they have no idea where and how they're used. But who cares....THEY'RE HOT!!!!! Luckily a student who didn't value hotness and was tired of being pressured to send a nudie, tipped off the police.

The scariest part of this story is that these kids could have continued on doing this for a long time, since much of their activity was being hidden and unmonitored from parents. I did not know about these vaults, but then again I definitely do not have any naked pictures on my phone I need to hide from nosy people. At the bottom of this post are comprehensive lists of these kinds of apps, but I will share the four most popular that teens use.

There are several that make the icon of these secret storage apps something that would not set off a red flag should you check on what apps you're teen has downloaded. One is a calculator icon that says calculator%, and when you tap on it, an honest to goodness calculator comes up. But if you put in a secret password instead of a math problem, your secret stash of photos come up.  Another shows up as an icon that says "my utilities." That would not send up any red flags for you either, but when you open it, a secret stash.  Best secret folder, gallery lock, photo locker are all apps that do the same thing, but they can be invisible, no icon, and no way of you even knowing they had it.

Secrecy and nude pictures, this is a lethal combination. Unfortunately teens are completely immune and desensitized to thinking that there is anything wrong with sending out nude pictures willie nillie! Unless and until a jealous ex, or ex bestfriend wants to get back at them.. and then those pics will come back to haunt them. Remember that teens think impulsively and are not thinking past the taking and sending part. What can you do? First you should sit down with your teen and talk about this news story, and then you should sit with them and their phone, go through each app, open it and ask them to tell you what it is and how they use it. You should disable their ability to download apps on their phone. Verizon does that through their parental controls, the iphone does it in the phone, and google does it on androids through the google store. Also this website will give you additional options. http://www.bewebsmart.com/parental-controls/comprehensive-list-phones-computers-tablets/

Yes this is a pain in the neck, but this is about the emotional safety of your teen, and that is no small matter. They won't thank you now, probably just the opposite, but they will thank you later!!! Please look at the links below and educate yourself. That is where your power is!


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Social Media Made Me Crazy!

Read and watch and them we'll talk:

It was heartening to read and watch this young woman come to terms with how destructive this social media game can become, and to take steps to turn her experience around and help younger teens avoid falling into the kinds of popularity traps that she did. Having said that, I have mixed feelings about having young teen girls especially, watch this video. My fear is that they will pay more attention to how beautiful those photos/videos are, and how many likes/attention/money/popularity/celebrity she did get for posting them. Older teens, like Essena may have the maturity to see through the addictive qualities of Essena's life and weigh the issues of popularity VS anxiety and depression. Younger teens like her own "12 year old self" might not. So think about that before you show this to your teen. Older teens 16 and up developmentally have the ability to be more self aware and introspective and might heed Essena's message.

Regardless of whether you choose to watch this with your daughter, heed the message she shares!!!
The only way to curb the obsession with popularity is to limit the opportunity to make it one in the first place!!!! If I've said this once, I've said it a million times, your younger teens DO NOT need access to their phones 24/7. Treat the phone/ipad as you would have done with TV when they were four years old. " No you can not watch cartoons all day!!!!  Addictive behaviors develop when the brain chemical dopamine surges when you do something pleasurable, and you seek to replicate that pleasurable feeling over and over again until the brain stops producing the dopamine and lets the outside stimuli do the work. Getting that "high" takes more and more effort. Hence the need to obsessively check instagram for likes. As Essena described quite accurately, 100,000 likes wasn't enough, she needed 200,000 for that "high," or taking 100 selfies to get just that perfect shot!!

Please use parental controls either directly on your teen's phone/ipad or go to this website for information. No phone during school; a few hours after school; and an hour in the evening. Anymore than that, and you will be aiding and abetting the possible kind of addiction you see this articulate 19 year describe.http://www.bewebsmart.com/parental-controls/comprehensive-list-phones-computers-tablets/