Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Back Seat Parenting: Get Out Of The Car!

 I was working out at my Gym over the weekend, huffing and puffing my way through some sit-ups while a small group training class was taking place around me. In this group of 5 was a dad and his teenage son. Oh, I thought, how lovely that the're sharing this time together doing something they both love to do. Well it turns out, I think it was just the dad who loves working out. I only surmised this after ogling his very ripped and toned body!!! Hey I'm only human! The son it turns out, not ripped and toned. Tall and skinny and clearly suffering through this workout at the behest of his dad. The trainer was a great guy; enthusiastic, supportive and doing his best to be this boy's cheerleader. The dad on the hand, grunting and groaning through his own lifts with some major wight poundage, still managed to yell out to his son going through his own workout; " use your abs!!!! and "lift don't swing those weights." As you can imagine, this boy/man now beat red in the face, rolled his eyes, and glared menacingly at his dad. The bubble over his head saying: "You know who I'd like to swing these weights at?????"

You are all good at something. And you hope, wish, and pray that maybe your kids will be good at the same things you're good at. Isn't that the circle of life? Maybe it all works out that way, but usually not, and especially not when your kids are teenagers. The last thing they want, is to be any which way at all like you!

Perhaps writing is your thing, and you are an editor extraordinaire; your teen's in-house managing editor. But believe me, your teen is shaking in his Adidas when you walk in the room asking to see his latest writing assignment. Feeling inadequate, measured against your experience and writing finesse, he has only written a few sentences, and you balk at his procrastination. Or perhaps you are a math wizard, and your teen's frustration tolerance for challenging math homework rivals a two year old's tantrums. And your frustration over their lack of understanding drives you mad.

Maybe you are a tennis(insert any sport you love) enthusiast, and have had your teen in tennis clinics since they were old enough to hold a racket. You have dreamed of these teenage years when you can get on the court together and play ball! You have so much to offer and teach, and believe me you do!! "take a full swing, throw the ball higher when you serve, run goddamn it, you could have gotten that volley!" Sounds like fun to me.

Get the point? The quickest way to squash enthusiasm in your teen is by offering your unsolicited "feedback."You have got to tread lightly in the coaching department. If they have actual coaches than let them do the work, and be the supportive cheerleader. Let their teachers do their job, and understand with your teen their frustration and their worry about being good enough, rather than adding to their worry about being good enough..for you. Adolescence is a time of life when defining themselves, their strengths, their weaknesses is a huge challenge. They are feeling enough of their own-self imposed pressure and expectations. Living up to yours should not be more important than living up to their own.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Do You Know About The App YUBO? You Should!!

If I were single,  25 years old, and looking to meet a cute guy who lived or worked near me for a spontaneous drink and let's see where the night takes us..... I might use the dating app Tinder. At 25 I hope I would be able to discern a creep from a cutie, know to protect my privacy by not giving out any personal information and be prepared for a quick escape plan should I need it! A teenager not so much.

There's a new app in town, or at least a newly named app YUBO formally YELLOW. This is the icon:


Does your teen have this app on his/her phone?? DELETE IT!! It is Tinder for the teen set. You know, swipe left if you like me, swipe right if you don't. If we both like each other the future is ours for the swiping!! You know what, the future is the best thing your teen has going for them. A future as a young adult when they have the experience and judgment to handle the boundary free journey that these dating apps take you on and challenge you to stay safe on. But as a teenager, there is no such experience yet, and there is no mature judgment because they are still in the "firsts" of what it means to get to know another person with romantic or sexual goals in mind. There may have been no real life lessons yet about the good, the bad and the ugly about dating. The "awesomeness of someone   thinking you are "hot" or "cute"is just too much to turn down! This can be an enticing app for those teens who love attention, and what teen doesn't. Talk about validation!!! If you have been the shy guy or girl, or feel that the kids in your school are just not your people, this app can be especially desirable, giving a teen the opportunity to try out a whole new persona, knowing this person doesn't know them as the awkward or quiet kid from their history class. It can be a heady fresh start!!

A major danger of this app is that it connects to instagram and snapchat once the two parties have both "chosen" each other, which gives access to all kinds of personal information. As you can imagine this over sharing of information to strangers is not safe, and of course you can bet that there are many predators out there salivating at the thought of these naive and trusting kids.

A parent recently wrote to me about this app and correctly thought it was definitely not a good thing.  Her husband, though,  thought it was a great way for their son to "practice" talking to girls! But as you can imagine, much drama can ensue!!! There is temptation for these "faux" relationships to get intense and intimate and since parents have no idea they are even going on, they are powerless to supervise and set appropriate boundaries around the relationship. And honestly, our world is superficial enough, do we need to start kids at 13 swiping and choosing potential crushes based completely and solely on looks and photoshopped photos! What kind of message does that send?

Ok, so you can obviously tell that I think this app is a no no! If your teen has already downloaded, take them to this site: protectyoungeyes.com and scroll down to the YUBO app review. This way it is an expert telling them it's bad not their parent! At this point, a simple "this is not a safe app, I get you are disappointed but it is my job to keep you safe until you have the experience to do that for yourself." End of story, you don't have to say anything more. I have said this before, your teen's phone should have parental controls on it so that they literally have to come to you to unlock the ability to download apps. When this is in place you won't have to go to the delete place. Taking something away from your teen that they are already attached to absolutely sucks...for you!!! Let's preempt that fight by you being in control of what goes on their phone in the first place!!

PS: I have a favor. I am working with a spectacular new partner who is a motivational speaker for teens and we are putting together a joint podcast. As we develop this project I would love to talk with parents about our concept and how we can best meet their needs. If you would be willing to do a 15 minute phone chat with me or fill out a short survey I would be eternally grateful, and would offer a 15 min coaching session as a thank you. You can email me at joani@joanigeltman.com,  or PM me on facebook. I look forward to hearing from many of you....please???

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Parenting In The New Year!

Happy New Year! On your way to the gym, and after you have only eaten healthy food in order to lose 10 pounds, and when you have cleaned out your closets and gotten rid of all your non-essentials, and when you have finished your salad, no dressing for lunch, and then walked for 30 minutes instead of having a hostess cupcake(does anyone eat hostess cupcakes anymore), and then did everything on your "to-do" list at work or at home before your kids come home, and made sure that you accomplished everything on your new years resolution list, then take a deep breath and say thank god this day is over.

The problem with New Years resolutions is that we make too many of them, and then never really follow through on any of them. The same thing also happens with parenting. I might meet with parents for an hour, and in that time we come up with a game plan that includes a number of strategies to improve whatever situation brought them in to see me. I always caution them to pick one issue, and one strategy, stick with making that one change, integrating it into their parenting bag of tricks before they take on something else. Imagine trying to teach you dog how to sit, come, and roll over all in the same training session. Eventually they just look at you, with that adorable cocked head, and know you are absolutely crazy. Teens are the same way. If a new regime takes over, and you start changing all the rules at the same time, your teen will look at you with that adorable cocked head, and say,"What are you crazy?"

Perhaps over this vacation, you have had time to reflect on your relationship with your teen, or thought about some areas you think you need to help your teen with. Maybe you want to be less negative and focus less on what they don't do and more on what they can do. Maybe you are worried about homework focus and cell-phone use, or their organization and time-management issues, or their attitude and how they talk to you. I am sure there are a million things that could go on this list. Pick one and only one, and then think of a simple strategy to address it, and then follow through on it, consistently!

Teens hate change. They resist it, and will fight you every step of the way. This is not really their fault. So much of adolescence is about change; changing bodies, changing moods, changing relationships, changing expectations. They are so overwhelmed by all these changes, which for the most part are out of their control, that they tend to hang on to those things that have become almost ritualistic whether they are good for them or not. So before you institute any changes in rules, or expectations first make sure you acknowledge with them that change is hard. You can say: "I've been thinking about ________________, and it seems like we need to work on this. I know you are used to ________________, and doing it a different way will be an adjustment, I get it. Lets figure out a way together to make it work.  Including them in the strategy building helps them to take ownership of it. Nobody likes to be told what to do, especially teens. The key here is not the choosing of whether or not there will be some change but how it will make it easier for them to be successful at adjusting to it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Twelve Days Of Christmas Vacation!!



On the twelfth day of vacation my teenager gave to me
the back to school of "leave me alone, I'm getting up"

11 moans of vacation is too short

10 straight hours of sleeping

9 texts of "can I stay out a little longer"

8 different plans for New Years Eve

7 hours of playing video games

6 kids sleeping in the basement

5 minutes of peace

4 hugs and thank you's for great gifts and dinners

3 ride requests

2 loads of laundry

and mornings free of "get up you're going to be late."

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Vaping and Juuling!!! 'Not My Kid" Is Not a Option

Read this article with your teen!!!! Read this article with your teen! Read this article with your teen!!!
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/health/vaping-juul-teens-addiction-nicotine.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

How is this happening? I thought your kids had dodged the bullet with the whole smoking issue that plagued my generation. We all worked so hard to teach the next generation of the ills of smoking and it worked!!!! Just like teaching a new generation to wear seatbelts and that worked!!! Now we have to work really hard again to teach our kids that vaping and juuling is bad!!!

This is a really really tough one. No smelling cigarette breath or smokey clothes. No hidden packs of cigs in their coats or backpacks. This juul thing is a tiny, harmless looking piece of hardware that looks like a zip drive which you may think holds your kids final project for chemistry!

This is going to have to be one of these conversations that you have to have regularly with your teen, ignoring the eye-rolling and sarcastic grunts and annoyance that will be directed towards you.
Did you know that kids are ordering their juuls and vape pens on Amazon and then having them  delivered to the Amazon lockers at Whole Foods away from parents prying eyes! Oh yes they are!!!

You may have to monitor how your teens are spending their money. These smoking devices don't come cheap (see article). Someone has to pay for them. Beware of giving your kids cash, get them a debit card and if it seems like they are going through a lot of cash withdrawals start asking for receipts and limit the amount of cash they can withdraw.

The conversations you have with your teen must always start with" I Love You and this julling and vaping thing is scaring the hell out of me!!! I know you don't think it's dangerous, and the fruit taste and vape is cool but honey this is massively addictive!! (see article) I get many of your friends may already be addicted, and who knows maybe you are too, please please let us help you to strategize how to be with your friends and choose not to take a hit. I get that that will be really hard. But lets' work on it together."

You must read out loud this article with your teen. The story of this young man is compelling and I think in the short term they will be interested. But this is going to be one of those conversations that happens over and over again. The bug you put in their ear about this has to be constant so that when they are in situations when juuling and vaping is present they will hear your very loud voice in their head. It's the only way!!!

If you have friends with teens, chances are they have tried juuling and vaping, please share this blog and help them help their kids!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Do You Expect Too Much: An "A" Student Does Not Translate To Success!

I read this letter in my morning paper in the Ask Amy Column:
Dear Amy: I am a sophomore in high school. Last semester was terribly stressful. I have many amazing friends who care about schoolwork and grades. We often study together at lunch. However, chemistry was really a struggle.
My father does not accept grades below a solid B. I ended up with a B in the class, but I did not do well on the final. I understand that I should have done more to save my grades during the semester, such as go to tutoring.
Every day when I come home from school he screams at me for my grades. This semester, I will try harder to get good grades and concentrate, especially on chemistry. I don't know how to fix this problem, because I get super anxious and start having trouble breathing. One time I started crying in class.
Any advice on how to be more independent about my grades? I want dad to care about how I do in school, but I don't want a bad relationship with him.
— Trying

Could this be your teen? When you see that B without a plus next to it, do you hyperventilate and worry that your teen is screwing his/her chances for college, or do you think in your head, they just didn't work hard enough. 

Here's the truth, most people are not only NOT good in everything, but they are also NOT interested in everything.   If your teen is a nice kid, works hard, is engaged and involved with friends and school, has a few subjects that really turn them on, and is not only NOT an all A, B+  student and might occasionally even get a C every now and then, they are absolutely NOT a slacker! 

In an Op Ed in the New York Times over the weekend titled: " What Straight A Students Get Wrong", the author states that "academic excellence is not a strong predictor of career excellence." See link at the bottom.
it turns out being a well-rounded kid is a much better predictor of success later in life. And lets face it "later in life" is really most of our lives!!

When teens feel this kind of grade pressure from a parent it actually can lead to the opposite affect. When a teen feels anxious and pressured to please, that anxiety can actually interfere with learning. So a grade that doesn't meet with your expectations can actually be your fault!!!  So lighten up if your teen is like this girl. If your teen puts in effort, is conscientious, and engaged, change up your expectations. Getting an honor roll report card does absolutely NOT correlate with success as an adult. Being engaged fully in ALL that life has to offer does!
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/08/opinion/college-gpa-career-success.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

PS Joani's Parenting Tips will now post only once a week on Tuesdays! Enjoy

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If You Have a Son in Sports This Is Mandatory Reading!

A week ago two news stories broke about  high school football teams in Maryland where disturbing hazing incidents took place. The incident at Damascus High School was particularly heinous. The alleged hazing involved wrestling 9th grade players to the floor, while older fellow players, beat kicked and digitally penetrated their anuses with a broom stick. Sorry if you are reading this with your morning coffee. Disgusting, humiliating. This is not hazing, this is sexual assault. The boys said, oh, it's been going on for generations, as if that makes it all OK. Of course, no adults seemed to know anything about it!. Could the message these newbie football players have been given was to "man-up" during these initiation rights!.

I know boys will be boys, but really! The school superintendent have expelled these students and 4 out of the 5 will be charged with serious crimes..They are investigating not only this incident but the culture of athletic and activities of the entire system.

I feel bad for everyone. I feel terrible for the victims who were underclassman, who must have been elated to make the team,  and looked forward to playing for their high school team. Now that has all been tainted. I feel bad for the older boys who were responsible for the assault. I truly believe that they really didn't think there was anything that wrong with what they were doing. According to Michael Thompson, a psychologist specializing in the psychology of boys and who has written extensively about the culture of cruelty present in "boy culture", explains that is how you show you're a man! These are learned behaviors, not something you are born ready to do.  Who is teaching them that this OK.

Recently I showed my college students the documentary made by Michael Thompson called Raising Cain. It is available on youtube and I advise those of you with sons watch it with them, and then discuss this recent news story. (see link below) My students were given the option to write a reflection paper on this film connecting to their own experience. With permission of the student, I share this story:

From a young age playing hockey, we got the message that toughness and hard work will beat talent and skill. This was drilled into our heads at every practice for years. We cared more about hitting other players more than we cared about scoring goals. When people would get hurt, the coaches and teammates gave them little to no sympathy. For example, when I as 12 I blocked a shot during a game and fractured my foot. When I got back to the bench, I held it in as best as I could for a 12 year old. When the coach saw me wincing he asked what happened. I replied that I thought I broke my foot. His response was "suck it up", the foot's a long way from the heart...don't be a pansy." So I finished the game and afterwards played the following games since my coach and mom thought it was a bruise. The following week I went to get x-rays and found out it was fractured. My coach did not apologize and was actually proud of me for "playing through the pain."

I played with the same ice hockey team for almost 10 years. we were a very close knit group to say the least. However looking back now I can see that we enjoyed our own "culture of cruelty." When a player was scared to get hit and the rest of the team found out, it was an assault of name-calling from players and even coaches. Perhaps the fact that coaches often chimed in and in some cases led the charge made us think it was OK. 

What are the messages that coaches, staff  and maybe even the parents whose kids are on the team giving these kids?  Somewhere along the line, these kids are just not getting the message that hazing is serious business. Hazing, in this case, was not only physically damaging, but it sure as hell is psychologically damaging. When someone, especially a teenager, who is literally at the most psychologically vulnerable time of their life is humiliated in front of their peers, it can do real harm. I get that teenagers don't get this and don't understand this. But the adults do need to get it.

If you have a son or daughter who is on a sports team or a cheer leading squad it is your job to talk about this issue with them. You might tell them about this incident, and then say: " I get that upperclassmen/women feel sometimes that it is their right to "induct" new team member into the team through some traditional rights of passage. Unfortunately those "rights of passage" are illegal if they humiliate or put someone's safety at risk.  This is serious stuff, and I know you might be in a situation someday where you will be the subject of or be asked to be the perpetrator of hazing. Lets figure out what you can do, should you ever find yourself in this situation."

Though all schools now have very strict rules and regulations about hazing, I don't think the communicating part to the kids is happening. This is where you come in. Never expect that someone else will take care of it. Take care of it yourself!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/hazing-incident-reported-at-another-maryland-high-school-officials-say/2018/11/11/c2a0daf6-e15e-11e8-8f5f-a55347f48762_story.html?utm_term=.0c0dbce90fd5

FYI: I wanted to let you all know that I will now be posting once a week on Tuesdays!! Thank you to all my readers I will continue to write about those pressing and not so pressing issues of raising teens in today's world!!