Thursday, September 18, 2014

No One Likes Homework!!!


Zits Cartoon for Sep/17/2014

I know this must sound familiar! That ridiculous math problem that even someone with a PHD from MIT couldn't figure out. That really happened by the way. When my daughter was in middle school the powers that be decided to try out a new math curriculum. Let me just say that not only did this curriculum bring the kids to tears, but all the parents as well. We would bump into each other at our local supermarket, and discuss the previous night's homework as if it were our own. "Do you believe last nights assignment, I want to kill the person who designed this damn curriculum," we would say to each other. And truly there was an MIT mathematician parent in the class, and even he reported throwing the textbook across the room. Let's just say we weren't the best role models for our kids.

Sometimes your teen's homework is frustrating, perplexing and just plain hard. If your teen has a low frustration tolerance, giving up seems like the smartest strategy. Or if you have a teen who has breezed through elementary and middle school, and now the work is finally challenging, they are caught off guard, "ooh, maybe I'm not as smart as I thought I was." Or maybe the assignment is just plain boring. Whatever the case, they might actually come to you for a solution, like just giving them the answer. In the above example, I think all of us parents agreed that this curriculum was completely turning the kids off to math, and setting them up for total math anxiety. We were powerless to change the curriculum, but you can bet your bottom dollar that we gave some very honest feedback to the math department head. But that didn't help in the short term when our kids were crying and saying they were stupid. What we could do though was acknowledge for the kids that this was tough stuff, and to do the best they could, and truly it wasn't that they weren't smart enough. A lot of kids got pretty mediocre math grades that year, but most of us just let it go. Really, what's the big deal, 7th grade grades are not figured in for college!

When your teen comes to you for help, your first job is to diagnose the problem. Try to refrain from jumping into problem solve, or conversely criticize them for giving up too soon. Start with this instead: " I get this assignment is really frustrating for you. Tell me where you're stuck?" Maybe they just need you to break down the assignment into smaller more manageable pieces. Teens often can't see the forest through the trees, and because they are inpatient and want to breeze through the subjects they really hate, they get overwhelmed from the beginning. You can help by having them break down the assignment into steps, and get them to spend 15 minutes on the first step and then take a break. When they have success with one step, it gives them motivation to begin the next one. They need a ton of encouragement and understanding. " I know this stuff doesn't come easy to you, but I know you can get it." If you jump in and do the work, they take away two things. One, Yay, I can get mom or dad to do my work, and I am off the hook, and two, maybe mom and dad don't think I can do it, and so they don't want me to screw up with the teacher, so they want to do it for me.
I know of a young woman, now a graduate student, whose dad wanted to get her into his Alma mater, so in high school he basically wrote all her papers, college essays etc. He continued in college to edit, and I use that term loosely her papers.  Now as a grad student in a program that is making her a carbon copy of him, she is unable to complete the work without him. This is an extreme example, but you can see the problem here.

Your teen needs your confidence that he/she can succeed, and is not lazy just frustrated. You are  available for support and consultation but the ownership of the work always belongs with him/her. Having realistic expectation is a must. Your teen will have areas of strength, areas of weakness, and areas that he/she is just not that interested in. And that is just fine! No kid is good at everything!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Your Teen's Future: Whose Future Is It?


A parent called me the other day with worry about her son who is a junior in high school. She is worried about his lack of self-direction, and cannot imagine how he will ever be able to even think about the college application process and all it entails when he becomes a senior, when he can't even get himself out of bed in the morning, or work independently to get any of his homework completed, especially any kind of research or writing assignments.

I asked what role she and her husband play with regard to their son. What kind of strategies did they employ to keep him motivated and on task? And then the plot thickened. It seems the dad is heavily invested in his son's future. Dad has a strong relationship with his college Alma Mater and would be heartbroken if his son did not continue to carry the torch for his beloved college. His older daughter is currently a student there. In pursuit of this goal, the father has become CEO of his son's life.

Here are a few examples: His son is on the varsity football team of his high school. He is a good player, not a phenomenal player. Dad attends all his games armed with a video camera, as many parents do, so that 20 years hence they can show their grandkids how cute their dad was in a football uniform. Not this dad. He videos each game so that he and his son can engage in a play-by-play of all his plays to see what this kid did right or wrong. Imagine how this teen feels when he has had a bad game or fumbled the ball one too may times. Not only does he have to answer to his teammates, and his coach, but then he has to go home and face "the man".

Another example: This teen has ADHD and is on medication to help with concentration and attention. When this teen has a paper to do, or an assignment with some heft to it, the father is all over him. Requesting draft after draft, editing, and reediting his son's assignment, both often up till the wee hours of the morning when the paper is due. Needless to say this teen becomes overwrought and overwhelmed by his dad's expectations of him. But the mom reports that this teen is so afraid of his dad's disappointment in him, that he has yet to speak up for himself and tell his father to f**k off!!! Which would be my therapeutic intervention.  No wonder this kid has a hard time getting up in the morning. Facing another day of trying to measure up must be exhausting for him. No wonder it takes him so long to complete an assignment, it never feels good enough.

This is an important story. Many parents have a "grand plan" for their kids. How wonderful it would be if everything went according to plan. But your kids bring their own strengths and weaknesses, passions and personalities to the table. And they don't always match with what you see for their future. This dad's Alma Mater could not be a worse match for his son. Maybe the kid is good enough in football to get him in, but academically this kid would be lost at sea, feeling inadequate and never quite good enough. A professional football career is clearly not in the cards, so a failing academic experience could injure him much more profoundly psychologically in the long term than a full out tackle.

This mom is right, this teen is so over-managed that he is developing few skills in becoming an independently motivated and self-directed person. He doesn't need to because his dad is doing it for him.

Please parents, do not set your teen up for failure. Be realistic about who your child is. Help them to set realistic goals for themselves, and allow them to become the person they are meant to be. Adolescence is all about identity development. Who am I? How am I the same as or different from my parents, my friends, or Katniss from The Hunger Games? The term Identity Foreclosure is a term we in the healing arts use to describe situations like this boy and his dad described above. This dad has foreclosed on his son's ability to develop his own sense of who he is and who he wants to become. He is so busy becoming what  dad wants, that he may be losing his "real" self in the process. Refinance! Open up the possibility of true ownership!!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The College Process or Why Won't My Kid Do His Damn Applications!

It's fall and if you have a junior or a senior you are thinking, obsessing, and feuding with your teen to get on the stick!!! Tip 24 in my book Senioritis-Parentitis addresses this issue. The link below is a blog that excerpted this tip and published it. If you enjoy this one, there are 79 more in my book A Survival Guide To Parenting Teens, Talking To Your Kid About Sexting, Drinking, Drugs, and Other Things That Freak you out.
http://familyfocusblog.com/parenting-teens-navigating-college-process/#undefined

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Teens and Pot

Here is a guest blog I did for Teenlife on Teens and Pot. Enjoy

https://www.teenlife.com/blogs/articles/educating-your-teen-about-power-pot


PS If any of you have read my new book: A Survival Guide To Parenting Teens: Talking To Your Kids About Sexting, Drinking, Drugs, and Other things That Freak you..Thank you! If you like the book and feel like writing a review on Amazon I would be grateful. Let me know when you post it by emailing me at joani@joanigeltman.com, give me your address and I will send you my first book: I Get It: Three Magic Words For Parents Of Teens as a thank you gift. Here is the link:


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Little TLC Goes A Long Way...Never Too Old

Zits Cartoon for Sep/04/2014

Sometimes life is just tough!! Teens work so hard at not needing you that it can come as a complete shock when they do! And when they do, and can let go of their " I can do it all by myself" you will be the first in line. And when that moment comes, you might not even have to say one word. Not a what's wrong? not a "here's what I think you should do" and definitely not an "I told you so!" Just open arms and open laps and the comfort that only a mom or dad can give.

Problem solving is what we do. But we do comfort even better. Don't confuse the two. You will know if your teen needs your help, because they will ask for it. And if they don't ask, probably better to just let it be. Understanding a teen's emotional life is a challenge. Just when you think you have a handle on what pushes their buttons, a new button appears and catches you completely off-guard. This new person that is emerging is like a surprise birthday party, sometimes you love it and sometimes you wished they had just send a card!

 If any of you have read my new book: A Survival Guide To Parenting Teens: Talking To Your Kids About Sexting, Drinking, Drugs, and Other things That Freak you..Thank you! If you like the book and feel like writing a review on Amazon I would be grateful. Let me know when you post it by emailing me at joani@joanigeltman.com, give me your address and I will send you my first book: I Get It: Three Magic Words For Parents Of Teens as a thank you gift. Here is the link:




Thursday, September 4, 2014

Some Of Joani's Life Lessons

Part of the fun of publishing a new book is that I get to do all kinds of fun interviews that make me think. Here is an interview I did for the website: Good enough Mother. How might you answer these questions?
http://www.goodenoughmother.com/2014/09/life-lessons-joani-geltman/

Remember if you write a review on Amazon for my book A Survival Guide To Parenting Teens, Talking To Your Kids About Sexting, Drinking, Drugs and Other Things That Freak You Out, I will send you a free copy of my first book: I Get It; Three Magic Word For Parents Of Teens. Just email me at joani@joanigeltman.com

Also I would love to come and do a book event at your home, your kid's school, for your book group, your business, Temple or Church. Lets Talk!