Wednesday, January 22, 2020

POP QUIZ: What Do You Think Your Teen Would Say About What Is Most Important To You!

Pop quiz!!!! If you asked your teen right now whether he/she thought you valued academic 
accomplishment over caring deeds as a parent, what do you think he/she would say. If you guessed caring deeds, you might be wrong. In a recent survey at Harvard, they sampled 10,000 teens from 33 schools across the country, asking them to rank order what they thought was most important in their life. Results were that 80% said academic achievement was #1, with personal happiness coming in second, and caring deeds a distant third! When asked why, here is what they answered: 

"Much of that pressure, teens reported, comes from their parents and teachers who praise them for educational successes and make it clear that school work needs to be a number one priority."

This is teen selective hearing at it's best. I am sure that most parents teach their kids that doing for others, and being kind and caring is the most important quality one can have as a person. But because that is not part of the daily conversation as kids get older, what your teen hears daily and hourly probably once they get home from school is: "How much homework do you have? How did you do on your test today? You better get that project started if you want to get a good grade! You better pick those grades up if you want to get into XYZ college. " When is the last time a "how was school" conversation started with a so what good deed did you do today to help someone out."

When our kids are young we spend a lot of time asking them to be kind and caring, probably because school is not yet taking up the emotional and cognitive space that learning how to be a good friend, how to be a good member of the family, etc is. Building the foundation for being a caring and good person starts in childhood. But in like a lion comes the stage of self-centered adolescence. Chores, community service, or calling a grandma that lives on the other side of the country become things they feel they have to do, and resent your asking. 

Some of these findings I do think represent the normal narcissism of the teenage years. BUT, I do think that teens perception that parents put academic accomplishment as a list topper. So what can you do. First how is caring modeled in your family? What do they see you doing to show this quality?  Besides being there for your immediate family, what ways do you communicate caring about others? When you are at a restaurant with your teens, or doing errands with them how do you treat those service workers. Are you easily annoyed or impatient with them, or do you regularly show your appreciation for their jobs. Are  you engaged with neighbors, and help out other families even when it might be inconvenient. Do you acknowledge when you are treated kindly by others, especially when you least expect it. These are all ways that kids get the message, this is important stuff. Living a good life is living a balanced life. There is nothing wrong with having high academic expectations, and wanting them to be successful. As you long as you balance that message!!

Just for fun do the pop quiz with your teen.  You might be surprised by their answer!
http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2014/07/18/teens-rank-achievement-more-important-than-being-caring/endvfNlU2FYSh3xWjDYyJN/story.html

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Family Life...Lessons

I bet you think I am gonna give some high falutin, feelly touchy advice on the lessons family share with each other. Nope, not this time. I'm going to give you a family life, lesson, not a family life lesson. OK so recently my hubby and I are enjoying our coffee and newspaper when out of the blue I hear a rush of water in the kitchen that sounded like we lived at Niagara Falls. I run into the kitchen and see cascades of water coming from multiple areas of the ceiling, and ceiling tiling falling at my feet. HONEYYYYY, I scream, not having any idea what this is, and what is happening. My knight in shining armor peeks in the kitchen and bolts for the basement door. Seconds later, silence, the water shut off at it's source...whereever that is.

Apparently because of a really cold morning, the water pipes over the kitchen had burst. As we waited for the plumber to come, we both listed all our thank gods. Thank god we were home, or otherwise, that water would have completely flooded our house with no one to witness it's ferocity. Thank god my husband is a contractor, and knew exactly what had happened, and knew exactly where the water shut off was. I on the hand, was the hysterical woman with no idea what to do. It got me thinking about how ignorant I am of how things work in my house. Had I been alone, well Noah's Arc here I come.

How about you? How about your teenagers who are often home alone? Do you, do they know where the fuse box is should the lights go out due to a blown fuse? Would you or teens know where to shut off water should something like a burst pipe happen at your house? When my plumber came, I asked him, what one would do if this happened and you didn't have a contractor husband to save you. His suggestion..call the fire department. Honestly, I don't think I ever would have thought of that.

So here is my family life, lesson. Take a tour of your house with your teens, with a tour guide if you need one. My husband just took me on one. I now know where the water shut off is, the fuse box and other electrical points of interest. Someday you or your kids might be home when something happens that you and they are completely unprepared for. Give yourself and your teens that feeling of confidence that you can handle a crisis like this. It can happen to anyone...just ask me. Remember, knowledge is power!

Also while you're at it, do your kids know how to pay a bill, make a drs. appointment, take the T, figure out how to get somewhere that is not in their town or neighborhood, manage money, and the list goes on. All kids know how to take out the trash and put a dish in the dishwasher, they just don't like to do it. But letting Mommy and Daddy do all the managing of their lives will leave them very unprepared for the future. My advice, skip the dishwasher, and focus on helping them to be independent, confident adults!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Free To Be Me....Please!!

One of the major tasks of Adolescence is to develop a personal identity; what are my values, my interests, my passions, what are the qualities I look for in friends and lovers, what is my sexual identity, what are my goals? etc.  Part of this process is also to look closely at the people who raised them, and analyze how they are both different and the same from them. I always say that having a teen in the house is like having your own personal therapist. With this new brain of theirs, they are able to really look at you without the cloud of perfection that hovered over you in their childhood. Why the hell do these kids have to grow up?????? They are now free to share with you their thoughts and ideas about you! Unfortunately much of what they share is the stuff we already don't like about ourselves. Having them be so honest can be very uncomfortable. But if you can listen without hurt or defensiveness, you might learn something new and potentially useful about yourself. More importantly it is part of the process of figuring out who they are.

As teens start thinking for themselves, they might start to go down paths that parents aren't comfortable with. I'm not talking about unsafe or risky behavior, but life choices about what they like to do, where they might want to go to college, and ultimately what they want to do with their life. Most parents have dreams for their kids. In healthy families, parents keep those dreams to themselves waiting to see what path their children seem most interested in, even if it means parents giving up their own dreams for their kids. In some families, parent's dreams for their kids is more of a requirement than an option. We call that Identity foreclosure, when the option of choosing one's own identity is taken away from them. The following paragraphs are answers to a question on the final exam I gave last week, asking students to choose the identity type that most describes their experience with this process. These students have answered identity foreclosure.

Food for thought:

"My parents forced me to go to all elite catholic schools form kindergarten to college. I  was never allowed to get anything below a B or I would be in serious trouble. I am now not a catholic."

"My parents picked nursing school for me. they said they would only pay for college if I went for nursing. My mom graduated from a nursing program and really wanted me to go."

"My parents control most if not all decisions made in my life. If they think that this is the best decision for my future they will push me toward that path without acknowledging my concerns."

"Everyone in my family is in the medical field and my parents urged me to become a nurse. I was pushed to pursue this.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Parenting Resolutions 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.

PS: Did you know that I do parent coaching on the phone, in the car, at your desk, in your kitchen??? Is there a kid issue that has just been driving you crazy, and you would like some tips to deal already? Lets make a phone date and deal!!! Usually one session can do the trick! email me at joani@joanigeltman.com or call 781-910-1770 to set up a chat time

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Twelve Days Of 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 to 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."

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Quick Parenting Quiz

A Parenting Quiz

  1. When your teen walks in the door after school, do you ask these three questions? How much homework do you have? How did you do on your quiz? Did you talk to your teacher about...?
  2. Do you spend your weeknights walking in and out of your teen's room asking? When are you going to put this laundry away? Have you finished your homework? Did you take the trash out?
  3. Do you spend your post school hours telling your teen multiple times to: Get off instagram and do your homework! Stop texting and do your homework! Get off that video game and do your homework!
  4. At least one time per week, do you find something that your teen has done that you can compliment?
How did you do? If you had 4 yes's congratulations!!! If you answered with 3 no's and a yes congratulations!!!! if you answered no to the last question, lets talk!

Obviously when parents come to me for coaching they are usually struggling with the first three questions. How can I get my teen to do what I want them to do? Why doesn't my teen listen to me? Why doesn't my teen tell me anything?  I have found that there is a direct correlation to the non-listening, non-action taking of teens to the amount of positive feedback they are given by their parents, there isn't much given.  Most parents are so worried that if they don't stay on top of everything their teen needs to do to be successful, then they will be at a disadvantage when  it come to the important thing, like getting into college for instance. This approach to parenting can be extremely time consuming, exhausting and mostly unrewarding. Putting yourself in the role of CEO of your child's life, automatically puts you in that secluded corner office worrying about the success of your "company" and out of touch with your "employees".

I was watching a news story recently about the online company Zappos. The CEO of that company
did not have a corner office, in fact, he didn't have an office at all. He "lived" in the same cubicle as the rest of his staff, right in the middle of the action. The work-life atmosphere at Zappo's is designed to promote hard-work while providing their employees with food, fun and lots and lots of kudo's for jobs well done. They have found that it is the food, fun and kudos that make their employees want to work their asses off for the company. Nobody minds the long hours and the cubicles because they feel understood and appreciated.

I think this is a model that can translate well to parenting. You probably aren't having much fun anymore with your teen, as they stay as far away from you as possible, worried that every time they see you it means you are on them about something. Kind of like that worry you feel when you see the "boss coming." Uh oh, now what did I do wrong, you might think. Gotta turn this around. Try making your nightly rounds without questions or comments. Maybe bring up an unexpected treat or snack you know is a favorite of your teen's and saying: "Thought you might like this treat..love u" and walk out the door.

I talked with a parent recently who is all over her teen, worried that he just wasn't "working" hard enough. His attitude towards her was becoming toxic as a result. The good news was this kid was a really good kid. But she had forgotten that in her worry that he wasn't on top of everything academically that he should have been, ie missing homework assignments that were resulting in lowering of his grades, avoidance of college essay and application writing, that she was not paying attention to the good stuff he was doing. He was not drinking or taking drugs, though most of his friends were. He was managing a part-time job. He was saving money, not squandering it away like most of his friends. Lots of good stuff.

I sent her home to put a little "fun, food and kudos" back into their life together. At a dinner out at his favorite fast food restaurant, rather than asking a million questions and lecturing him about his "future", the mom told him how proud she was of the decisions he made in his life that must be hard, like not drinking when he was with his friends, like how seriously he took his sport, like how conscientious he was about his job even though it meant getting up wicked early on a Saturday morning. She told him she was going to back off with all his college stuff as she had confidence in his ability to follow though if this was something HE really wanted for himself. I think this boy thought he had died and gone to heaven. As soon as she understood and appreciated what good stuff he was doing, he then accepted responsibility for what he wasn't doing, and they had one of the most honest, and fulfilling conversations they had ever had.

This Zappo's CEO is on to something. If you want to get the most out of your relationship with your teen you have to keep it balanced. Stay on and interested in those things you know are important but never ever forget the fun,  the food and  the kudos!





Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Wake Up You Sleepy Head!

There are those teenagers who never need a wake up call, god love em! But for most parents mornings are traumatic. The pit in your stomach feeling of here we go again. the abuse, the yelling, the cajoling, the threatening, none of which really works. Here's the thing, your kids will eventually get up. They know that, and you know that. But as long as your are a willing partner and enabler, they will depend on you to make sure that happens! Works for them!!! But starting your day this way every day, does not work for you!!

Let them know today what you will and won't do to help them with the new morning wake-up

YOU WILL NOT:
1. Spend the first hour of the morning making it your mission to get them up.
2. Listen to their usual morning abuse as you continue to update them about how much time they have left before the bus/ride/walk to school is approaching.
3. Give them a lateness excuse because they just couldn't get their ass out of bed.
4. Give them a ride if they choose to stay in bed and miss their bus/ride/walk to school

YOU WILL:
1. Let them know that you understand that this transition to early AM's is really hard. You understand that they do not want to get up this early, and that they hate it.
2. Share with them what you are not willing to do with respect to getting up on time.(use above list)
3. Share with them what you are willing to do:

  • Work with them to come up with a plan. Perhaps you are willing to give them two wake-up calls. But if they choose to ignore those reminders you will NOT continue to shake, scream, or otherwise annoy the hell of them until they get out of bed.
  • Be happy to drive them to school or bus stop at the appointed time. But if they choose to not to get up in time to make the ride, they will be responsible for their own transportation that day. DO NO LET THEM CALL UBER UNLESS THE ACCOUNT USES THEIR DEBIT CARD AND MONEY!!! (SEE NOTE BELOW)You will not wait around for them to get up and out!
  • Buy any new required clocks or alarms they might need to rouse them out of their deepest sleep
NOTE: I have recently been made aware that teens are using UBER as their own private limousine service. Thanks mom and dad for making it so easy for me to be entitled and lazy!! I know driving kids hither and yon is a pain in the ass, but that is just part of the parenting job description. Allowing your kids to get rides on demand feeds their already entitled little egos that "I want what I want when I want it!!!" DON'T DO IT. Trust me you will regret it. I will write further about this in a blog next week.

Your teens have got to learn to be responsible for getting up on-time. My college freshman tell me that this is their biggest challenge when they get to college. Most of them report that they sleep through most of their first classes because they never developed their own plan for wake-up, instead relying on their annoying parents to do it for them. This is your practice time. It takes years to develop good AM rituals that work. This will take some trial and error. But please stick with it. You both deserve a better start to your day.