Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Year In Review: A Great Holiday Gift For Your Teen

Living with a teenager can be glorious (yes it can) and hellish. The ups and downs can be nausea producing like the scariest roller coaster you can think of. Unfortunately, because the negatives are often louder, and I mean that both metaphorically and literally, think slammed doors, and screaming fights, the smaller, more subtle successes go unnoticed or fade into the background. I'm not talking here about good grades on a report card, or a turn as the star of the school musical or a great play on the soccer field, but a nice moment with a grandparent or sibling or with you. Maybe a time when your teen was challenged in a new way either academically, or with friends and the frustration gave way to a meaningful resolution. Often these very special moments are drowned out by the multitude of daily life crisis, that your teen doesn't have the opportunity to integrate them into their developing personal identity:Not " I am someone who can rise to a challenge!" but rather  "I get so frustrated and can't do it!" They cannot see the forest through the trees, and they need an objective 3rd party to remind them. Now this is not always easy for parents to do, because maybe your patience has been sorely tested, and those nice moments have slipped by you as well, as you deal with your daily frustrations with your teen.

Here is a tonic for that frustration. How about starting a new New Year's tradition. There are Year In Review segments everywhere you look, best books of 2015, best movies of 2015, etc. How about your teen's best moments of 2015. Sit down with an old fashion pen and paper and write your teen a letter that comes straight from the heart. Emphasis the small moments that you either observed or were party to when your teen surprised you, delighted you and reminded you about what a special and unique person he/she is.  This will serve two purposes, first to let your teen know that no matter what, no matter how difficult life gets during these teen years, you love and admire them. You are the most important person in your teen's life, and especially if they feel they have disappointed you this past year, a letter like this can totally turn things around. Who doesn't love to be told they are special and wonderful. Write the letter, and leave it on their pillow some night, don't ask or expect anything in return. Because the moment they sit with your words and feel your love in the privacy of their own room will be the best gift you could give. Have a wonderful holiday week, see you after the 1st.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Your Kids Love You, They Really Do!

I loved loved loved this video. In it, parents describe all the ways they think they have failed their children. "the I'm not a good enough parent" syndrome. I meet a lot of parents who come up to me after a seminar, and say:  "Oops, I guess I've already screwed up my kids, I've done everything wrong!!! They couldn't be more wrong. Yes maybe the consequence they used when their teen did something wrong wasn't that effective. Or maybe you lost it and got over the top mad when you should have tried to keep your temper in check, or maybe your teen disappointed you yet again and you said something that signaled your disappointment in a very strong way that set them off and they felt misunderstood. Of course WE ALL behave in ways sometimes that we regret and wish we had acted differently, especially as parents, But the good news is, your kids will be fine as long as they feel completely loved and accepted, and that the stuff you think you "did wrong" is countered with all the years and years of hugs, and I'm proud of you, and you're awesome stuff!!!!

Teen often bring out the worst in us. There is a parenting adjustment that needs to happen, knowing that the way you parent your teens when they were young just won't work anymore. Frustration at what feels like a lack of power, can turn parents into screaming banshees. But you haven't always been that way, and you won't always be that way. So give yourself a break and watch this video. It will make you feel really really really really good!!!!!
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/31/the-video-every-mom-must-watch_n_4181007.html?1383226374&icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D399391

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Two New Apps Teen Use But Shouldn't!!

Thank you to sleuthing parents who have shared with me new apps their teens are using, and probably shouldn't be! The first is called Brighten. In theory it sounds just lovely, but in the hands of impulsive and aggressive teens, can be dangerous. This app was developed by two sweet people who loved the idea of people anonymously sharing a compliment with deserving people. Why it has to be anonymous makes no sense to me. If you think your friend is a nice person, can't you just tell them that in person? Well, apparently having a slew of nice things said about you publicly and anonymously is better. Here is how it works. You set up a profile page, like you would do on any app. And that's it. From there anyone can look up your profile and name and anonymously post a compliment. And why a compliment? Because that's the rule!!! But not an enforced rule, just a "please be nice to someone on this app, pretty please" This sounds exactly like any other of the apps that use anonymous posting like ASKFM.  Here is review from the app school by one teen who is using it:

"My friends and I got brighten, we were loving it at first. All of the girls were sending love back to each other, it was amazing and it really did make every single girl feel so good about herself, but as more people started to join and guys found out about it, the title turned into UNbrighten. There are so many rumors going around now on it and nobody reports it and so these poor targets are getting attacked anonymously non-stop And the people who try to show love get reported. There is SO much ranting and roasting going on."

Delightful!!!! I have several problems with this app. First, the anonymous thing allows teen to take absolutely no responsibility for their posts. Hence another outlet for the drama of teen life. Here is yet another vehicle for bullying. And secondly, which I think is really important is this need by teens for constant reinforcement and affirmation that they are "liked and loved" no matter how false and superficial it is. Real self-esteem comes from rising to challenges, working hard on something and feeling a sense of accomplishment, and being a kind and good person. Teaching your children the value of feeling good for one's self and feeling self-pride is primary. Of course we all love to be told that we are valuable, and lovable. But it is most effective when it comes from someone with an authentic motive.

The second app that sounds like another teen stomping ground, and I mean ego stomping is called after school. Here is the description form the app store: "After school is an anonymous and private message board for your school. Post confessions, funny experiences, compliments and more. We have a zero-tolerance policy and please remember to be positive."

Here is how this one works. When a teen signs up, they must link it to their Facebook account so before the app goes live on their phone, after school can verify that they are indeed a student at such and such high school or middle school, cause they have put that in their Facebook account profile. What this means in parent speak, is STAY OUT PARENTS!!! THIS IS A PRIVATE CLUB. Yup that's right, if you try to sign up to stay abreast of what's getting posted on this site you will be refused. Because when they go to your Facebook profile they will see that though you may dress like a teen hipster, you are still a middle-aged nosey parent! so no access!! I have linked an article below that describes this app in more detail and how it can be used for "no good"
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/millions-of-teens-are-using-a-new-app-to-post-anonymous-thoughts-and-most-parents-have-no-idea/2015/12/08/1532a98c-9907-11e5-8917-653b65c809eb_story.html

As I have said a million times, you should be the CEO of app downloading. This way when you find out about these apps that your teen would normally download without a thought in the world, you can have some control. I am talking here about teens 6th grade through maybe sophomore year. After that, it's more about teaching them to make these decisions for themselves. But middle school kids do need your help on this. Once again here is how you can do this: On an iPhone: go to settings, then general, then restrictions on your teen's phone. it will ask for you to come up with a password, keep this PRIVATE. This will allow you to enter the section of the phone where you can disable their ability to download apps. If they want a new app they will have to come to you, make a case for wy they need this app, then you will have to decide if it's worthwhile. Please do your homework when they request to download. Go online and research the app, then if you give your permission than  you will have to do the downloading. This is a sh*tload of work for a parent, I know!! I am sorry, but these new apps are not taking into account the psychology of a teen, that is my job and yours!!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Why Doesn't My Teen Ever Think About Me And What I Need???

What is it with these teens anyway? How can they be so self-absorbed, and selfish? How many times have you found yourself saying to your teen: "I ask so little of you, you can't even do this one thing, after all the things I do for you, even just this one thing you can't do?????"

You are right when you say that it doesn't make sense. Cause it doesn't. How hard is it to put the lightbulb in the socket, or put the pot roast in the oven? Obviously not hard. It may be that it is your delivery system of expectations that isn't working. Notes, too easy to ignore, in-person requests, to easy to dismiss..."I'll do it!!!!!!!" But of course they don't. Why? Cause there is really no real motivation to do it. They don't really care about the pot roast, until of course it's dinnertime and they are STAARVING, and they get pissed at you for not having dinner ready!! "Hello, am I crazy, did I not ask you to turn on the pot roast so dinner would be ready!! Crazy making.

Find a delivery system that will work. Is it a text? Is it an alarm on their phone? Is it a denial of a ride request, money for the weekend, new outfit. As in "gee honey, I'd love to do, take, buy X for you, let me know when you put that lightbulb in your bathroom. But I will tell you what doesn't work, and that is the yelling, and the lecturing that they only think of themselves. The truth, they do only think about themselves....for now. Your son or daughter does not have a character flaw, you have not spoiled them (unless you have), they are in this moment of time, and they do need your help, just not the yelling kind.

PS Have you thought that maybe A SURVIVAL GUIDE TO PARENTING TEENS, TALKING TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT SEXTING DRINKING DRUGS AND OTHER THINGS THAT FREAK YOU, might make a great holiday gift. IT WOULD!!!!!
http://www.amazon.com/Survival-Guide-Parenting-Teens-Drinking/dp/0814433669/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449694013&sr=1-1&keywords=joani+geltman

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Solutions To Two Of The Most Annoying Teen Behaviors

Laundry:
This might be one of the major hurdles that parents and teens just can't get past. Forget drugs. alcohol, sex, cellphones, computers; why can't they just put their damn laundry away?????? It is this question that has plagued parents since the concept of clean clothes was born. The answer is that kids don't give a s**t about their laundry. They just like the magical laundry fairy to deliver their clean laundry all folded up nicely to their room. They don't really think about the real person who has done it,  or that putting away this beautiful folded laundry would make the laundry fairy happier than almost anything else. The Laundry fairy, however, is being driven quietly insane by this basket of nicely folded laundry that is emptied out on the floor as their teen scrounges through it looking for their favorite white tee shirt, leaving the beautifully folded laundry in a heap either hanging off, inside or outside of the laundry basket. What's a laundry fairy to do?

There are two easy possible solutions:

 First just do it yourself. It will take 5 minutes of your time, and it will be one less thing to argue with your teen about. Consider it a gift of parenthood. Also, and not of minor importance, it gives you access to your teens drawers where you might potentially find contraband of some sort or another that gives you insight into your teen's life!

Second, if your teen won't put this beautifully folded laundry away, then STOP FOLDING IT! Do the laundry as always, and bring to your teen a basket of clean but unfolded laundry. If they aren't happy with this new adjustment, you can calmly say: " Since it didn't seem important to you to put your laundry away to keep it unwrinkled, I figured it didn't need to be folded at all. If you feel differently, I would be happy to fold your laundry when you decide that putting it in your drawers keeps your clothes they way you like them. Just let me know what you decide."

Dirty Dishes and food wrappers
This is another one of those issues that drives parents absolutely crazy. "Why can't my teen bring his dirty dishes, glasses, food wrappers etc up to the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher????" Why, because they absolutely could not give a s**t!! It doesn't bother them, and as soon as they are finished with whatever foodstuffs they have consumed, it is out of sight out of mind!

Here is a solution: Buy cheap paper plates and cups. New rule, any food consumed out of the kitchen is to be eaten or drunk from the paper products now available on kitchen counters everywhere. This includes bedrooms, family rooms, and basements. Your job is to provide ample trash receptacles in every location, strategically placed next to coaches, chairs, cushions or other lounging areas. The more wastebasket availability the better. Don't just leave it at that. Have a training session. Bring some snacks to your trash toting teen using said paper products, and when they have finished eating, practice putting the trash in the available trash receptacles. 

Sometimes it's better to problem solve than nag. If they can't, won't, don't, bring the dishes upstairs, then figure out other ways for them to consume. Many parents worry that if they don't "teach" their kids how to clean up after themselves than as adults they won't know how to do it. This is not true!!! If you have provided a good model from the get-go on a keeping a well-ordered home then that is the model that will be present for them when it is time for them to have their own home. Trust me I know this from my own experience with my daughter and all the young adults I have watched grow up. They all are wonderful keepers of their homes, but as teens they were just like yours!



Thursday, December 3, 2015

Why Is It Important To You For Your Teen To Get Good Grades?


This is a really good question for you to ask yourselves. Because often it is more important to parents than it is to your kids. Is it because you know that they CAN get good grades, and therefore they should? Is it because you were an exceptional student, and a strong academic record is something that you value in yourself and therefore want to see in your kids? Is it because it's nice to be able to say out loud and to the people you know; " My kid is an all-honor student." Is it because you know that the key to a successful life is going to an elite college, and to do that your teen needs to be an exceptional student. Or is it because this is a real goal your teen has stated is important to him/her and not just to please you. These are all very important questions to answer, especially the last one.

Below is an in-depth article in The Atlantic Magazine about the culture of academic excellence at two Palo Alto High Schools that may have inpacted cluster suicides of their high school students. As you might imagine this has thrown this community into overdrive to seek answers to why these teens wanted to die. One of the main premises is that the stress of the community and parents for academic excellence has thrown their teens into high anxiety, depression and hopelessness for their constant need to keep up the competitive edge to make it into the good schools and to have a successful life. My take is that this stress does and can affect students greatly, but that suicide is an extreme reaction for a teen who most likely had many other contributing factors for making this decision. It is a big leap to say that academic stress=suicide.

However I have spent a lot of time reading this article and the comments that hundreds of students wrote in reaction to this article. And what is clear to me is that learning and the curiosity for knowledge, for knowledge sake is missing from many teens lives. The excitement your 3rd grader felt from studying about birds and then going out into your yard beaming from his/hers' ability to label and understand what it meant for this bird to be living in your yard has all but disappeared. That makes me sad. If your teen truly loves calculus and is turned on by equations and loves the challenge of problem sets, then by all means this kid belongs in honors calculus. But if your teen just happens to have an aptitude for math, but takes absolutely no joy in it at all, will never use it again in his/her life, and is just doing it to get into a good college....... well I think you know what I would say to that!

School is obviously so important, and having high expectations for your children is reasonable if they are capable of meeting them. But life is about balance. Is your teen overwhelmed with the need for perfection in school, on the field, on stage, in your home? Is there a recognition of who and what turns this kid on? And most importantly, are there realistic expectations in place so that your teen has a seat at the table to say what it is that is or is not important to him/her?

Many kids blossom when they get to college. They take random courses and find out about passions and interests they never knew they had. They don't have to know-it-all in high school!!! Many many people who are successful in life are not the kids who were the all A students, just look at me, I was a pretty solid C, and I'm pretty damn happy with my life!

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/12/the-silicon-valley-suicides/413140/

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:


I LOVE WHEN MY PARENT (S):

·      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:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/07/us/colorado-students-caught-trading-nude-photos-by-the-hundreds.html?hpw&rref=us&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well

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!
https://www.gaggle.net/top-social-networking-sites-and-apps-kids-use/

http://mashable.com/2014/09/29/sexting-photo-apps/#YDgsqmtojsqi

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Social Media Made Me Crazy!

Read and watch and them we'll talk:
http://time.com/4096988/teen-instagram-star-essena-oneill-quitting-social-media/

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/

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

If Only They Worked A Little Harder!!!


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 my favorite character on Gossip Girl? 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!!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

"It Wasn't Me!! I Didn't Do Anything!"

Here is a straight from the headlines story that all parents should use to talk with their teens. Erin is a 17 year old senior in high school, honor roll student and captain of her Volleyball team. On a Saturday night, Erin got a call from a friend who was drunk at a party and knew that she couldn't drive home. She asked Erin to come and get her. Erin arrived at the party to pick up her friend, just as the police had come after getting a call about this out of control party. Erin was arrested along with the other party guests. Police confirmed that Erin was "alcohol free" but regardless she was stripped of her volleyball captainship and was suspended from play for 5 games. This was devastating for Erin. She had only been helping out a friend. Unfortunately, the town in which Erin lives has a very strict, zero tolerance alcohol and drug policy especially for athletes. Being in the presence of drugs and alcohol is equal to being in possession of illegal substances, hence the severe consequences for Erin. Erin and her parents are suing the town.

This blog is not about fairness and what the town should or shouldn't do. It is a cautionary tale for parents to share with their kids. Sometimes the world is not "fair." For Erin, she was helping out a friend, clearly a responsible act, and her friend, knew it wasn't safe to drive, clearly a responsible act. Both teens were acting responsively, that much is clear. But Erin was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and she is now paying dearly for her act of friendship. Fair or not fair, isn't really helpful right now. Talk about this story with your teen. Make sure you both understand your school policies about drugs and alcohol. Let them know that you are always always always a good starting point when a decision has to made. If a situation like this presents itself for your teen, tell them you should be their first call, whether your teen is the drunk friend in this story, or the responsible friend. Promise to validate their act of responsibility, not punish it, and help them to figure out a strategy that is safe for everyone!!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Isn't It My Turn To Be The "Good Cop?"

When kids are young arguments between parents tend toward eating and TV habits, and bedtimes and manners. Ah, the good ole days say parents of teenagers. If only we were just arguing about too much junk food. Arguments for parents of teens get much more personal. "You never say no, or all you ever do is say no, or why am I always the bad guy, or don't you remember when you were a teen, or kids will be kids, can't you just lighten up?" Worries about your teens safety, future,  and their success in life are present in every decision and negotiation you go through with your teen. Differences in personality and style with your parenting partner can become especially apparent in parenting your teen.

Most of us have very vivid memories of our own teenage years and the parents who got us through them. Some memories skew toward the awful. "My parents were so rigid, and punitive, I never want to be that way with my teen, or "I got away with everything, my parents were clueless, its amazing I am still alive, I will be much more on top of stuff with my teenager." You can see the inherent problem here. If you and your partner were parented from opposite ends of the parenting spectrum, and now are parenting from those perspectives, your teen will be in hog heaven. There is nothing easier for a teen than having parents who are extreme opposites. Because their brain now allows them to analyze their parents and how they parent, (your own private couples counselor) they can now figure out who is the best parent to go to for which things. Want to go to a concert and stay out late, go to the parent who is excited you love music and feels concerts are a rights of passage. Definitely do not ask the parent who would never let you go out on a school night, thinks concerts are only for drug addicts, and whose only experience with concerts is the Symphony.

This is problematic, not only because your kid is learning how manipulate his parenting duo, but also because it is a set-up for one parent to have a satisfying and fun relationship with their teen while the other parent ends up with the anger, and the lack of connection as the "bad cop parent."No fair! If there are two parents present in the family, it is important for this teen to have a model of cooperation. If a teen learns to manipulate a situation to his advantage on the home front, this then becomes a roadmap for manipulation in other relationships as well,  with friends, with co-workers when they start a career, and any future partnership or marriage of their own. Teens learn how to manage the world from the people who are closest to them, and that my friends are their parents.

The only way to deal with this is to at least have an agreement that neither parent will impulsively give their teen the immediate answer to a request. Teens are extremely talented in the art of negotiation and are not good at delaying gratification, that doesn't mean that you have to feed into that. Both parents have to get into the habit of saying, "your mom/dad and I will get back to you on that." When your kid pressures you for an answer, nothing really you have to say here, but give a shrug of your shoulders, a smile, and a we'll get back to you, and thats that. If is something that is time sensitive, and the other parent is not at home, thats why cellphones and texting were created. Obviously this strategy is for decisions you know are open to question, not the run of the mill, can I go hang at Joey's house. Do not ever disagree as a marital unit in front of your teen!!!! Take it outside, into the bathroom, in the car. Kids love seeing you two fight over this kind of stuff, and it can make one or the other parent seem ineffective and powerless. So please do your own negotiating privately, especially when you have to take defeat. You and your parenting partner may come from two very different places, but respect for each other always always always needs to be modeled. Even saying to your teen after a decision has been made: "you know I get why your mom/dad was so worried about having you do this. But we talked about it and here is why we came to this decision. You are communicating parenting understanding,not necessarily agreement, but respect for differing opinions. Believe me, this will come in very handy when you need your teen to understand you!!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Arguing 101

Thank god for television, comic strips, news, and AOL or where oh where would I come up with all these blog ideas. I was watching a rerun of 30 Rock, it's hard not to since they seem to be on every channel. It seems "Jenna" (it doesn't matter if you don't know the show or the characters) was having a hard time dealing with her very manipulative, user mother. "Jack" who has experience dealing with his own manipulative user mother was advising "Jenna" on a foolproof strategy in dealing with her mother's outlandish requests of her. As soon as I heard it, I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget. Three perfect steps to "winning" an argument.

SAY NO
STAY LOW
LET IT GO

Perfection! So your teen comes to you with a request to do, go, or buy something. I think that covers all the bases. This is the kind of request for which there is no compromise. Its either too expensive, too unsafe, or too unrealistic. Your teen, unfortunately does not agree.  You state your case in a kind and clear manner, hoping to ward off an argument. Sometimes that works, but if your teen is extremely invested in a YES, I'm guessing you get put on the defensive after being accused by your teen for being overprotective, overbearing, too strict, and the worst parent ever. It's tough not to get hooked. After all you have to protect yourself. But here is the thing, once your teen has heard the word NO, and you mean no, it doesn't matter how loud or how long you argue to the contrary, you will not win. PERIOD! And it will only deteriorate into a place you really don't want to go with your teen. So here is the "Jack Doneghy" strategy.

Say NO in a calm but controlled voice

Stay low, as in keep your voice in a low, soft, controlled register. Once you hit the high notes, you've lost. This means NO SCREAMING NO YELLING

Let It Go: There really is nothing else to say after you have said no. Given that you have explained your rationale for the no.You might end with an "I get it moment. " I get you're angry with me, and don't understand and don't want to hear this answer. I'm sorry, I know how disappointed you are."  and you are done. Do not re-engage.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Motivation For Your Teen To "Clean Up" Their Posts On Social Networking

Great article from the Boston Globe. (see link below) The "fly on the wall" metaphor has taken on new meaning with the accessibility of complete and total strangers to anything you put out in the nether world of social media. And some of these total strangers are potential employers, college admissions officers, potential internship places, and the list goes on. This was an astounding statistic quoted in this article:"Nearly 80% of employers research job applicants and 70% have rejected candidates because of their online profile." Let the parent lectures begin!!!

As I mentioned a few blogs ago, your teens allow complete strangers to follow them on their favorite app du jour! If you want to test that out, come up with a phony name and ask to become one of your teen's instagram followers. I'm guessing you'll get your "in" in a second or two! If your teen is starting to think about a job or internship they need to beware. Or how about looking to become a camp counselor? Perhaps that camp director is social media savvy, and goes on your teen's instagram or twitter account (again, you know how selective they are about friending people) or on tumblr, and If your teen has been posting obscenity laden quips, drunken exploits or sexy pics, you better tell them that might not look so good to a camp director, who is looking for a wholesome camp counselor. Or, how about that highly competitive internship, looking for Mr or Ms responsible? I don't think they want to read that "man I got wasted and ....."

Perhaps your teen is waiting to hear from colleges. This is a tough college market. And sometimes that decision might come down to what admission officers have found during their social media sleuthing!

This is definitely not something that is on your teen's radar. Someone has to put it there, and it is you!!! Though this article focuses on college graduates, it definitely applies to, summer jobs, college admissions, it's all the same deal. As Crosby Stills Nash and Young sing...."Teach, your children well."

You might have them read this article, and say: You  know honey,I get that posting outrageous stuff on your facebook, inststagram, etc is fun, and reading all your friends crazy stuff is also fun, but the reality is that it makes your life an open book to college admissions people, potential jobs and internship employers. I wouldn't want something silly like the stuff you put out there in internet world to get in the way of doing what you want. I think it's time to do some "housecleaning." As you go through all your postings, think like a potential boss, or admission counselor, and ask the question: "What impression am I getting about this student, employee from their sites?" You woudn't want them to say:"wow this kid seems to party alot, that would probably affect their ability to work, or they use alot of foul language and sexually explicit language, they don't show much respect for woman or men, I wouldn't want them interacting with my staff." Help your teens to ask the right questions and send them on their way with a Mr Clean power eraser!


http://www.boston.com/jobs/2013/02/14/college-seniors-list-this-spring-complete-degree-credits-clean-online-profile/Nb0WYOg4ZpzlC00KclKitO/story.html

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Good Kind Of Risk-Taking


I was listening to the radio this morning and the subject was good VS bad risks. One of the guests shared a story she saw on her local newspaper's police log. (come on, you know you love to read it) On it was a post about a potential child endangerment call. What was the potential danger, two 9 year old kids were riding their bikes in the neighborhood, and a concerned neighbor thought their potential risk and danger being out in the neighborhood was worthy of a 911 call.  Oy Vey!!! We are barraged daily with horrific news stories about child predators, school shootings, and facebook friends gone bad. These are crazy making for parents. It makes us want to hold tight to our kids and keep them as safe as we can. Sometimes that holding tight for safety has mixed messages. Often parents say no to giving their teens the independence to safely navigate the world that will soon become their life when they leave home for college. But they give them access to drugs and alcohol in the house and technology that can potentially create addiction, contact with questionable people and way way too much access to cell phones, media and distractions with no supervision. But when their teen asks to take public transportation to go into "the city" parents quake in their shoes and say no.

I am always so shocked when I ask teens to describe their "world" to me. It is a world of being chauffeured by parents to friends houses, activities and parties because many teens now show little interest in getting their license. It is a world of houses and hangouts that never change from week to week. Rarely do I hear teens talk about getting on the "T" to go to "the city." I have talked to a lot of college students who go to schools on suburban campuses who never leave their campus to investigate the wealth of culture and energy that a "city" can provide, even when colleges provide shuttles to the closest public transportation. Somewhere along the way we have scared our teens.

Taking risks, safe ones mean doing something new and challenging. It means figuring out directions, destinations, and making decisions without knowing the outcome. When is the last time your teen came to you for permission to do something like that. When my daughter was a senior in high school her group of friends wanted to go on a vacation after graduation together. My daughter asked if she could go. My answer was if you have the money and the will, go for it. I remember many of the parents wanted and did take over the planning of the trip for these girls, suggesting destinations, getting them the best price, finding the best airline etc. There was even a "parent meeting" to discuss the trip. Always the rebel, I refused to go. What is the point of an adventure, or can you even call it an adventure, if mommy and daddy do all the planning.What lessons are learned?

I remember my own post-high school graduation vacation I took with my 8 best friends. The planning was actually more fun than the week we had in Hyannis. Looking for the cottage, doing comparative pricing, and deciding which cape destination had the potential for the most boys took months of planning. And when we opened the door that June day to our very own cottage rental we felt euphoric. We had planned and talked and argued for months, and now here we were.

Encourage your teen to take safe risks, to venture out of their comfort zone without your help. The confidence and competence they will feel and take away is worth it....for both of you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Seriously....Why Did You Lie??

A parent wrote me recently with this question. I'm guessing it will be a familiar quandary.

Lying.  My daughter has been taking some expensive classes each weekend and my husband and I just discovered that she's skipped 2 of them. She said she really hates the classes but of course we're still dealing with the deceit and her whereabouts for the time she was supposed to be in class.  Since the classes were expensive we were thinking about having her pay for anything she wants for the rest of the year (Senior Prom dress, AP exams, dance competition fees, new track cleats, it really goes on and on) and/or moving the date she takes her driving test to the summer since she has betrayed our trust.  My husband wants to come down really hard here to illustrate how hurt we are by her lying and how unacceptable lying is to us.  Do you have any thoughts?

Kids are funny, aren't they? They are in constant request and promise mode. If you will buy me/pay for me to/take me... I promise I will do xyz, pleeeese!!! I dont' know what class exactly this daughter was taking, but I am sure the motivation came from another friend, or a fantasy she had about what class would be like. Unfortunately, teens base many of their decisions on fantasy and emotion. They imagine that if they join this team, take this modeling class or specialized training program all sorts of amazing things will happen for them. What they aren't imagining or anticipating is that there will be actual work involved and required seriousness by the instructor/coach. Maybe her best friend was doing it and she wanted to make sure that she wasn't missing out on something. Turns out, it wasn't fun, wasn't what she expected, got in the way of other opportunities, take your pick, and now what? She knows that if she tells her parents whe wants to quit, she will have to hear about "quitters" and money, and commitment and so on and so on. And her parents will be right, and that is the worst for any teen... a parent that is right. So what does any self-respecting teen do in this situation..LIE

Ah, if only they could get away with it. And this girl did for at least two of the classes. I know the parents are worried about what their daughter was doing instead, I'm guessing not much, hiding out at a friends' probably. So what to do, what to do. First I would want to know why the avoidance to talk to  parents beforehand. Lying is an avoidance technique, and if your teen is lying to avoid you than he/she is either worried about disappointing you or worried that you will just get mad and not listen. 

It is really important to understand what motivated the lying. Are you scary? Do you go right to the angry place? If so, your teen has little motivation to be honest. Unfortunately what they don't get is that lying makes everything that much worse; the disappointment, and the anger. In the above situation, I would actually calculate the amount of $$ of the missed classes and deduct that from future spending on non-essentials. That is an objective, non-emotional, right to the point, consequence. 

But as important is a calm conversation about what got in the way of her just coming to her parents and saying she didn't like the class. Parents this is an important time to share ownership of the lying. By literally saying, "what could we do differently to make it easier for you to come to us, so that you wouldn't feel you had to lie instead." Decision making is not a teens strong suit. They are impulsive, emotional and persuasive. It is really hard for a parent not to get drawn into their enthusiasm. I think one way to counter this unrealistic enthusism is to have your teen take shared ownership of a decision. For example, the next time this girl asks her parents to do something like this, with a possibility that down the line the teen might change her mind, is to have them share financial responsibility from the get go. If she doesn't have money saved, then an agreement to work it off doing projects of your choosing. This way if things go south, your teen has an investment in making it work. 

As for lying, I know how frustrating and disappointing this can be. But this doesn't change the essence of who your teen is. They care alot about what you think, and rather than feel your disappointment they will go to great lengths to avoid it. It doesn't make them bad, or ungrateful, just part of the normal trajectory of teen behavior. You won't like it, and you need to absolutely address it, but look at it as a problem to be solved rather than a characterization of who your teen is. 

There are different kinds of lies. Lies of avoidance like this story and lies for getting away with doing something you will say no to, and lies of shame. Teens are extremely motivated to do what they want to do, and go where they want to go, without parental interference. Even the "good" kids. Providing motivation for truth-telling is your greatest weapon!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How "Being 13" May Shock You

I can honestly say I was nauseous as I was watching the CNN special called "Being 13" It's one thing to think theoretically how social networking is affecting teens, but it's a whole other thing to hear, up close and personal, the way kids use it, what they say on it, and the effects it has on their emotional well-being. The researchers captured 150,000 posts from 13 year old teens who by the way, gave the researchers permission to snag these posts for analysis. In the same way that teens don't get the consequences of posting sexual or profanity laced posts, these kids had no idea that some of these texts would be broadcast coast to coast, and that they might be identified.

Here are some of the comments from the 200 teens surveyed asked what would happen if they couldn't use their social networks:

  • I'd feel like I'm going to die
  • I would feel empty inside
  • I would rather not eat for a week than get my phone taken away
  • 57% said that they would rather be grounded than lose their phone
Let's discuss this last one, since to me it is one of the most disturbing!! Rather than hanging out in real time, live and in-person with their friends, 1 out of 2 teens would rather be punished with grounding  than lose their phone. In essence they are saying that their on-line world is more important that their real world!!!

Here is their online world: 
  • when taking a selfie, some kids take 100 pics before they take one that is "on-lineable"(that is my term) This may include multiple changes of outfits, multiple makeup applications and multiple changes of facial expressions and body positioning! This is very time consuming parents!!!
  • Most teens are checking their phones over 100 times a day!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Most teens have no idea who is following them on instagram and twitter. They are giving hundreds of strangers access to their personal life!!!! Terrifying
  • Most kids online persona is completely different that who they are in person
Lets talk about this last one. The teens interviewed said that they would never say or do in person what they say and do on-line. One boy was confronted on this by Anderson Cooper. An adorable boy, dressed in a jacket and tie, polite and intelligent is asked by AC whether he is the same online and in-person. He responds that yes, absolutely, he is "real and himself both in real time and on line. Here is where teen magical thinking comes in. This poor boy who had given permission for the researchers to snag his posts, is now presented and confronted by a huge screen full of profanity, violent and sexual posts that he had posted. And a snide AC says "hey I thought you said you were the same in person and on line, is this how you are in person. BUSTED!!! Like a trapped animal this poor teen tries to talk his way out of it, and humiliated is almost speechless. The other teens, laugh nervously, thanking god I'm sure, that their like-minded posts were not shown. As humiliating as that moment was for this teen, watching his father, part of the parent group being interviewed, being shown these posts of his son was equally as squirm producing. AC first asks the dad does he think his son is capable of writing texts that are sexual, violent and profane. He says truthfully, that his son is a good kid, they have talked about appropriate posting etc, and that he trusts him. The camera stays on this poor dad's face as he reads his son's on-line life. Torture!

When the teens were asked about posts that were designed to be hurtful and mean, they responded that all kids do it, and if someone says something mean to you, you have to be mean back. One girl who was interviewed and had been regularly bullied on ASKFM by anonymous posters was asked why she bothered to read such horrible stuff. She said she'd rather know what was being said about her. Now I want to tell you that kids are writing mean and horrible things are not writing them to kids they barely know, they are mostly writing it and receiving it from their closest friends, who apparently can be vicious one minute and completely loving the next.  Go figure!!

I could go on for hours here, but I don't want lose you before I can give you some strategies. First, the researchers found that when parents engaged with their teens about this whole social networking extravaganza, their teens were less likely to become depressed or anxious. So at the least rather than judging and criticizing them for being so addicted to this, drink a little bit of the kool-aid and understand with them how important you know this is to them. That at least should be your starting place. You should absolutely know what apps your teens are using regularly and become a follower. Not to punish them, but so you can at least have conversations when you see posts that are overtly mean, sexual, or violent, even if they don't come from your teen. At least follow one of their friends, they won't know or care who you are anyway.  (remember half of their followers are strangers) It also wouldn't be a bad thing to go on your kids apps and ask them about followers you aren't familiar with, and ask them to tell you how they know them. They probably won't unfriend them but at the least you are getting them to think about having complete strangers being so privy to their lives.

Now about the language your teens use on-line. For years I have recommended to parents that rather than use the words inappropriate language, say the  real words out loud. As I mentioned in the beginning these kids said they would never say in person what they say on-line. That's because they haven't heard it said out loud!!! So say I don't want you offering or receiving "dick pics" (how kids say penis pictures). No sucking dick requests or offers. You can't make your teen not use swears and sexy language, hearing words come out of your mouth like a truck driver might at least sensitize them to how they sound and more importantly how they feel. Though all teens know how hurt and insecure it makes them feel when they get a mean post, or they are not tagged in a photo(apparently a fate worse than death), or excluded from a group text, they seem to feel no hesitation to pay the abuse forward. What's up with that????

You can't monitor every post but you can limit opportunity, and as far as I can see that is the most you can do. If you have kids who are 10-15 you absolutely should be in control of how much access your kids get to social networking, they do not need 24/7 availability. An hour after school and an hour before they go to bed, and of course no cell phones in bed!!!!!!! Here is a website where you can get some help with parental controls. USE IT!/http://www.bewebsmart.com/parental-controls/comprehensive-list-phones-computers-tablets/. These are products that allow you to shut off social networking sites on your teen's phones, ipads, and laptops and then turn them on when you want to. This helps give your teen breaks from this obsessive and addictive behavior. Your teen will not be happy, they will yell and carry on, but when they get used to whatever schedule you agree on for use, they will be relieved. I have had many parents call me after instituting these breaks and report that their teens actually thanked them. Teen don't obsess about all this because they want to, they obsess because they have too!!!

Your teens need some peace of mind!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Consequences Of Parenting Too Hard

This provocative article "ripped from the headlines" caught my eye: Overparented and underhappy. To summarize, the article cites a study done with  college students who were asked how much they agreed with with the following statements: "My parents supervised my every move growing up. It was very important to my parents that I never fail in life" The study found that the students who agreed most with these statements, also felt less psychological well-being and needed more medication for psychological well-being.

The work of parenting is to raise children into adults who are; resilient and able to recover from life's challenges; are able to sort through options so that they can make decisions that are healthy and growth promoting; and can build strong, loving relationships that can sustain them through the ups and downs of life. This is a tall order.

This study supports what my college students share with me. Many feel unprepared for life on their own as they start college. The first day of classes this semester I asked them what they thought their biggest challenges were going to be as they started this new journey as independent college students. Almost all of them said that they were worried they would not be able to get their work done without mom and dad telling them to do it, afraid that their phones, their computers and that the distractions of friends around 24/7 would take precedence over getting to class, getting to sleep and getting to work.

It's not that college students overwhelmed as freshman is a new phenomenon. I remember feeling the same way. Its just that I didn't have as many distractions as students do today. Hall phones, and TV in the student lounge took care of that piece. But I still had the kids in the dorm, walks into Harvard Square for coffee and muffins to distract me. I think the most important piece for me was that my mom had given me increasingly more responsibility for my own life as I worked my way through the experience of high school, and ultimately I knew that I was responsible for me by the time I left for college.  I was ready to take that  on, I wasn't afraid of it, and I was excited for it.

I think this study underscores this point. Parents who take on the responsibility of making their decisions for their kids rather than with their kids risk raising young adults who feel terrified of making their own decisions. Parents who rescue their kids from failure, risk raising young adults terrified of going into unfamiliar territory and instead rely on the familiar even if it makes them unhappy.

Of course we want our kids to be happy, healthy and successful. But making decisions for them, protecting them from failure, and not making them responsible for their behavior in the long run is not protecting at all.

So when it comes time to making rules about social networking and social life, or decisions about what classes to take or activities to join or where to get a job, or consequences for their actions, make them a part of the discussion. Instead of  saying: "if you don't do X , or I think you should, start with a "what do you think should happen if you don't....?, and what do you think you should do.....? Put the ball in their court, it might take longer, you might get more frustrated, your teen might get more frustrated, but the confidence they will begin building will make them a stronger, happier more confident adult.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

How Do I Get My Teen To Do What I Want Them To Do?

If you want your teen to do something, anything, then do it yourself. I am not talking here about cleaning their room, or resistance to emptying the dishwasher. I am talking about all those things you tell your teen to do or not to do like drink and drive, text/talk on your phone and drive, get out and get some exercise, read a book for fun, do some community service, mow the lawn etc etc etc.

Yesterday while driving on a major highway I was tailgated by a an enormous Hummer, driven by a  person anxious to get around me. I was already going 70 mph by the way. After I pulled over to the next lane, I readied myself to give this person a dirty look as they passed me and what I saw floored me. In the passenger seat was a teenaged girl texting away, but in the drivers seat was her mom, elbows on the steering wheel, head down, texting furiously away on her cellphone driving at least 80 mph!! I was aghast. Forget about giving a dirty look, I wanted to call the police, the highway patrol, Child Protective Services. The danger this mom was putting all of us in and especially her own child was mind boggling. What on earth could be that important!! This teen, probably only months away from getting her learner's permit, is learning a valuable lesson. Texting and driving....no problem, just learn to drive with your elbows. This trick not included in conventional driving schools, only at selected mom and pop locations.

If you don't want your teen to text/talk on their cell phone while driving, then start with not doing it yourself, at least when your kids are in the car. Don't wait for your kids to be teens before you start modeling this very important and safety enhancing behavior. If your kids grow up with you driving and talking and texting while they are in the car with you, that will become their norm of how one drives a car. I am sure at nursery schools everywhere,  3 year olds are sitting in their little play cars holding plastic phones to their ears as they pretend to be mommy or daddy driving the car. Get the picture! Be deliberate about this. Say to your kids/teens when you all are in the car, "hey honey can you make sure my phone is off, I don't want to be distracted by the phone while I am driving." You need them to hear you take this intentional step for safety.

No drinking and driving. This is another popular missive given to teens everywhere by parents worried about their teens safety as they hit the roads with their friends on weekend nights. Yet at dinner out with the family at restaurants, at friends homes, or at parties, teens watch you throw a few back before you get in the car to drive everyone home. If you don't want your teen to drink and drive, then show them. At dinner, say to yourself or your partner, out loud, and in front of your kids: "who's/I'm the designated driver tonight, and whoever that is waits for their glass of Chardonney until they are safely home.

If you worry your teen never gets off the phone/computer/video game/TV,  do a self-check. Do you? Do they ever see you cozied up on the couch with a blanket and a book, TV off, phone off and charging in another room, computer screen blank. Creating an image of what it looks like for someone to just be...is a powerful one.

Do you bug your kids to do chores, as they watch a myriad of hired helpers do most of the work in your house: house cleaners, landscapers, snow plowers, handymen, peapod. Just saying.....

Do you strongly suggest to your teens to get on the community service train? It looks good on college apps, and will make you a better person. Do they see you do more than write a check to support your favorite charity?

Children learn best not by telling them what to do, but by showing them. You are the most powerful model in their life. If you want them to lead a safe, productive, full and loving life, show them how it's done.