Friday, April 29, 2011

Five Success Stories

I had a great day yesterday. First,  I started by teaching my final two classes of the semester. I loved my students in both of these classes, they laughed at all my jokes (A for laughing) and more importantly (but not by much) they allowed themselves to be taught. The listened, they shared stories, and they made connections between what they were learning and their own life and development, and as they left the room they all thanked me for all I had taught them. There is nothing more gratifying.

From there I went to a program called Resiliency For Life. This is a program within a high school that gives kids who have found high school to be both a burden and a challenge a chance for success. I do parent workshops for this program, and was invited to attend a luncheon at which 5 students had a chance to share with the guests their stories and their struggles. I was so touched by the honesty and candor of these teens. They openly shared their aversion to school, to homework, to following through on responsibilities and their attraction to "having fun" which seemed to be a much stronger draw than school. These are kids who carry a lot of extra baggage. Many have issues with drugs and alcohol, struggles within their families, and with the juvenile justice system. These are the kids you don't expect to succeed, and yet here they are,  the unlikeliest of success stories. The two seniors had been accepted to college, the first ever in their families. And the remaining 3 students had gone from failing grades, and school suspensions to achieving for the first time. There was strong improvement in their grades, and more importantly, motivation to succeed and go on to college.

The students attributed their success to the relationships they have developed with the very dedicated teachers in this program. One student recalled his first "Aha" moment. He had been remiss on handing in homework assignments in a number of classes, and as the program requires, he had to stay after school with the Resiliency staff to complete it. But in his usual avoidance of taking responsibility, he would skip this after school commitment.  On this afternoon, a Resiliency teacher waited outside the room of his last class to escort him to his after school homework session urging him on to follow through and be successful. This student shared with us his realization that if this teacher cared enough about him to track him down, and encourage him to do what he needed to do, that that really meant something. He meant something. It wasn't about punishment, you stay after school or else, but about caring and support. I know you can do this, lets do it together. This was his turning point, and that of his fellow students in the program. These students all attributed their success to the support and belief that staff have in all the students that success and achievement is within their reach. And the most wonderful part of all this was seeing the pride that each and every student felt. This pride they wore as a badge of honor, "look what I can do!" Powerful stuff.

So how does this translate to you, and your teen who may struggle with these issues of avoidance and school apathy. You can be that compassionate adult. The adult that gets how hard this school thing can be sometimes, and that its not about the grades it's about feeling that sense of pride and accomplishment, and "I can do it" that these kids feel. These teachers are all over these kids. The continue to not only remind them of what is expected of them, but they help them with strategies to meet these expectations. Just saying to a kid "have you done your homework" doesn't give them a road map for success. The teacher who met the kid at his classroom door understood that given the choice of walking out the door to hang with friends, or staying after school, of course it's out the door. So this teacher's strategy, don't let him get out the door in the first place. Give him some good snacks, sit with him at the table, give him help and make staying after school something he looks forward to rather than avoids. You can do that too. Figure out what is getting in the way. and find an alternative. And most importantly try not to get discouraged. Kids really want to be successful, just ask these five unlikely students, they just need some help and some understanding.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Sleepover Suicide: Bullying's final outcome

Many of you have probably heard about and watched the painful interview two moms from Minnesota gave to Matt Lauer on the Today show about their two daughters, who on a sleepover, having made a suicide pact, hanged themselves. There is no sugar coating this, no euphemisms for the death of two 14 year olds, no way to make this easier. The moms talked about the bullying these girls endured. These were not the girls who were anywhere near the "popular group". They were best friends. Friends who stuck up for each other, even if it meant fighting off their antagonizers and getting suspended from school. BFF. Kids made fun of their weight, their hair color, and who knows what other buttons of insecurity they pushed in these two girls

The moms talked about the counsel they gave to their daughters. "I told her to be the bigger person", and " if you can just see past tomorrow" you'll be OK. Teens can't see past tomorrow, that is the problem. They live in the moment, and each of their "moments" must have gotten harder and harder. Both these girls suffered from depression, and perhaps there were other issues that played into the feelings they shared that "its all too hard". For some reason, they felt that there was no other alternative. That is the scary part. To feel at 14,  that life's hardships are just too big to be endured is heartbreaking.

This is a story you need to share with your teens. The consequences of bullying seem harmless when you are just part of the group, along for the ride, just trying to fit in by taunting, calling names, putting nasty things on facebook walls, when "everybody else is doing it." But the hard truth of suicide is a harsh lesson that sticks and stones do break bones, and words do harm you! I wrote this in a previous blog and I think it bears repeating here when you talk with your teen about this story. Here is your  I get it moment: "You know honey, I get you could be in a situation where your friends are making fun of other kids, and I know it is hard to take a stand sometimes even though you know its the right thing to do. Kids can be pretty cruel, and I know I would be afraid that that kid would turn on me, so here are some things that might help. Maybe talk to your other friends and together make a pact than when this bully type kid starts in on someone, you all will help. That way no one person feels like they have to take this on alone. There is power in numbers. The bully is counting on the fact that they have the most power. But if you and your friends band together, you are the ones with the control. You can say things like: "You're an idiot, we're out of here.", or "hey man, take it down a notch". Give them a script and an action plan. In those moments of real stress it is hard to do the right thing, I get that!!!

For your son or daughter who is being bullied, you have to empower them with real ammunition. I know the moms of these two girls where being supportive telling them to "be the bigger person" and "just let it go", but that is not an action plan. Kids who are being bullied need to feel they HAVE some control when they are being taunted. Give them the language to fight back. So when you kid is taunted about their weight, or their clothes, or their height, or their acne, or their intelligence, or their personality, even just a short statement said with great confidence: "Really  you think!" or Well, what are you gonna do!" or " I guess I can't do anything right!"  or "You are hard to please!" All of these said with sarcasm and confidence. You don't want to antagonize a bully you just want them to feel like their comments are not as powerfully hurtful as they think they are. Its no fun to bully someone who can laugh it off, and walk away with a shrug.

And most importantly you must monitor and supervise your teens facebook and texting. This is where bullying is happening. If you see on your teen's wall that mean things are being said about him/her, make your teen defriend those kids, and block their numbers from your teens phone. At least this is something they can control, and can't be hurt by things they can't see.

Monitoring and supervising facebook and texting is a parents job. Bottom line, you are responsible for your kids until they can be responsible for themselves, and can control their impulses, and let me tell you a 10-17 year cannot control their impulses. They need constant reminders about what is Ok to put in texts and on facebook and what is not OK. Post these rules in a prominent place above your teens computer: You say:"this is non-negotiable. Either you keep these posted, or you lose your computer!!! Thats how important I think this is. I want to make sure that you consider these issues before you post something that could affect your life and someone else's life because of your actions":

  • Will this post hurt someone's feelings?
  • Will this post feel threatening to anyone?
  • Does this post give too much information about myself?
  • Is there anything in this post that another person could read and misinterpret?
You can't protect your kids from everything, but you can make sure that you are engaged and involved enough to get a read on what is going on in your teen's life. That means doing things your kids don't want you to do. So be it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Boy Wants Sex

Ok, more sex talk. A mom called me the other day upset about the text messages her 13 year old daughter was receiving from a 15 year old boy. Daughter is in the 8th grade, boy is a 9th grader. This mom is extremely proactive in monitoring her daughter's facebook wall posts and text messaging, thank god! The daughter has been informed that mom will be checking her wall regularly, and when she can, she checks her daughter's phone. Mom had been seeing repeated facebook messages, wall posts and text messages from this boy asking for sex, pure and simple.  This 8th grade girl, flattered by the attention of an"older boy" has been giving off mixed signals to the boy. When her mom talks to her after reading one of these texts/messages, the daughter says that she is upset and uncomfortable with this type of attention from the boy, but when push comes to shove, she only tells him in the mildest way possible to stop. Mom has repeatedly told her daughter that if you don't tell him to stop I will call his parents.

I get this girl's ambivalence. If she says stop, and means it, then maybe this boy will stop paying attention to her, and she likes the attention part, just not the pressure about  the sex part. She is in a conundrum. Play along and keep this older boy, or be firm and risk losing him. Tough dilemma for a 13 year old. Clearly this girl is unable to set the limit, and clearly she has too. Here is what I told the mom to say and do. " I get how hard it is to tell this boy to stop sending you these kinds of text messages and facebook posting. I know you do not want me to call his parents, so here is what we can do instead. You and I will sit down now together and write a text for you to send to him. We will send it, and in this text, you will make clear that your parents read your text messages, and if he doesn't stop they are going to call his parents, so stop sending them and posting messages on my wall too. We will then block his number so for now he will be unable to text you. I know you don't like this, but we need to get him to stop harassing you. Also I want you to defriend him from facebook. Again, I know you kind of like this boy, but since its so hard for you to be clear, which I understand, than I have to help you do this. The only other choice is to call his parents, and I know you really don't want to do this. I love you, and I want you to be safe. I am not blaming you, I am not mad at you, I just want to make sure that this boy gets that you are absolutely not interested in a sexual relationship with him.

And, if you are a parent of a boy. He needs some talking to. Harassing girls for sex can get him into trouble. Text messages, facebook messages are all public, and an irate parent who sees these kinds of messages to his daughter will  react, and react harshly. Please explain that to your sons, and most importantly, teach respect for women and the word NO!

And there you have it. This stuff is hard. Hard to have to read sexually provocative messages either to or from your teen, hard because you know your teen feels so much is on the line in the way they respond, and hard because so much of this stuff sneaks by you, and who knows what other kinds of issues your teens are experiencing. Just stay alert, and keep monitoring and supervising. They may hate you today, but thank you tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Studying And Learning VS Texting and Facebook: Who wins? Part 2

Help is on the way!!!! Helping your teen to develop self- control will not be easy. I won't lie to you. But if you can wait ten years for a thank you from your teen now a young adult who finally gets how important it was to be "shown the light", it will be a thank you worth waiting for. You wouldn't let you kids eat junk food 24 hours a day, or watch TV all day, or any number of other things that as an adult you know is detrimental to development, NO, you stand up to those kids and do what you gotta do. For some reason parents are terrified of doing this with texting and facebook. JUST SAY NO. Well actually, not really, but here are a bunch of strategies:
1. Three applications that can be downloaded were discussed in the globe article; Selfcontrol: a mac application that can block access to facebook for up to 24 hours. :Freedom: Disables all internet access on Mac for up to 3 hours. Leechblock: Blocks internet for firefox browsers. The reason these are good, is that it takes the power struggle out of the equation. Being the facebook police is no fun, and teens are amazingly crafty at sneaking. This enables you to sit down together and say the following;" I get how much fun facebook is for you. I know that you are worried that if you are not always checking that you might miss something, but it is important for you to have sometime during the evening when you are not checking. This is not only so you can concentrate better on the work you have to do, but also for the future. Just like I wouldn't let you eat candy till you throw up, I can't let you become addicted to something that in the long run will be harmful to you. I know you don't see it now, but once you are on your own, you need to have some experience and practice at just focusing on one thing, whether it is college, or a job, whatever. I want you to be successful in life, and if you are pissed at me forever, so be it, I''ll deal. Lets discuss together the times you are willing to be shut off."
2. This strategy should be enforced for cell phone as well. All carriers will shut off and turn on the phone according to your needs. There should be cellphone free hours, and absolutely no cellphone use in bed.
3. If you have 5-8th graders, this will be easier. Your kids are still babies!!!!!! You are in charge!!!!! Do I make myself clear!!!!! When your young teen gets a cellphone there should be rules in place, like: you can use your cell phone until 6PM, then I will give it back to you at 8:30 so you can check back in with your friends till 9:30 when the phone will be shut off. This is not just about homework, this is your chance to limit from the beginning your teens dependence on their cellphone. These young teens need to connect with friends, but not for hours on end. If they give you a hard time, you can always say, "I get this sounds hard, but you have a choice here. Either you cooperate with this plan, and choose to have your phone, or you choose to fight me, and I choose to take the phone away. You're in control."
4. For older teens, especially if you have noticed a drop in grades due to lack of focus, you can say:
"we have noticed a steady decline in your effort and your grades. Part of that is connected to your need to stay connected at all times. In order for us to feel confident in your ability to drive and concentrate on your driving , and for us to feel confident in your ability to handle the freedom of college life, and your studies there without us all over you like a rash, we need to come up with a plan with you for improvement. We are willing to help you get your license or allow you use of the car when we see that you can be without facebook and texting for some part of every night. The same thing goes for college and all the work it takes to go through that process. We are willing to do everything we can to support and help you with it all, visiting schools, helping with applications, money, but only if we feel you are showing us your ability to focus on what you need to do to get there. Lets set some goals for this last term. What grades are you willing to work for, and what are you willing to do about limiting facebook and texting during a few hours in the evening. This is important stuff honey, because if you have a hard time saying no to yourself and focusing on homework even for a short time, that does not bode well for driving or college. We do not want to set you up for disappointment or failure."
5. If you have already given your teen some kind of smartphone or IPAD or ITOUCH, take it away. Say you made a mistake, and realized giving you unlimited access to the internet 24 hours a day is a set up for temptation. Most adults can't deal with it either. This is just not the right time to add any more distraction to your life."
6. Check your cellphone logs and make sure your teens are not texting during school. Many kids do and it is yet another distraction they can't resist. Even if they are not using it during class, they are thinking during class what they will text when they get out of class. Shut their phones off during school time.
8. If you have bought your teen their own laptop, make them do their homework on it in the kitchen. Laptops only in room after 9 PM and NEVER in bed, or just shut off your wireless modem before you go to bed. 
7. If all else fails, take away their laptops, or make them work in the kitchen. If they give you the argument that they need the computer for school, then take them to your public library and let them work on the computers there.  

This is not easy. Unfortunately many parents have to backtrack, not anticipating the allure of these devices and the addiction factor. If you want your teen to develop good habits and focus, you have to take the lead on this. The temptation factor is just too strong, and to expect that your teen will on their own be able shut down and shut off, is unrealistic. The research about this stuff is just coming out and it is abundantly clear that we are doing our teens a disservice by not setting better limits. Yes your teens will be mad, yes your teens will say you are the worst parent ever, yes your teen will say "I can't wait to move out of this friggin house." But you know better. Bottom line, your kids love you, regardless, maybe not this minute. Just wait ten years.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Studying And Learning VS Texting and Facebook: Who wins?

Yesterday's Boston Globe had an article describing frustrated college professors who are at their wits end with facebooking, web-surfing, texting inattentive students in their classes. As a college professor, I feel their pain. What was surprising to me is that the professors who were quoted in the paper represented elite universities including Harvard and MIT. My take-away...a very universal problem. Here I was thinking it was just my students. The problem is that students now come to class with laptops telling us that note taking by hand is problematic, and that typing notes works better for them. I get that. Unfortunately all classrooms now are wireless and students can get on the Internet while in class, and I guess while "taking notes" on their laptop. The consequence is that the temptation of getting on facebook, and reading the humorous and random postings of fellow facebookers, or surfing the web is way stronger than listening to either their professor or their classmates. For me, I have seen a direct correlation to the laptop/facebook/internet  grade equation. Many of those students do not do well in my classes. The addiction is so strong that I have had students sitting in the front row, on facebook, texting or googling right in front of me, blissfully unaware of me standing right in front of them.

Here is where you come in. Do not feed your teen's addiction. If you are planning to send your teen off to college, this is the time, right here right now, to help your son/daughter to develop self discipline.  You will be spending enormous amounts of money to educate you kids, and if they don't have an awareness of their use of technology and how it affects their attention and learning, you will be wasting your money. I'm guessing that over the last few years parents of my students have not been happy with the D's and F's I have had to give their kids. As more and more teens are given smartphones and laptops at earlier and earlier ages, their concentration quotient decreases, and by the time they get to college, if something is deemed "boring" they can find instant entertainment elsewhere.

I know this is a problem for you, because more and more of the coaching requests I receive are from parents frustrated by this problem, and feeling helpless to intervene. Last week third term grade report cards were sent home from most middle and high schools. I have had an avalanche of calls, especially from parents of juniors who see college options slipping away as their kid's grades dip. Too much texting, too much facebooking, too many video games, the culprit.

Regardless of the grade issue, your teens need help developing discipline. It does not come naturally, and can be extremely painful, especially for those kids who have been given unlimited access without supervision. They will not be happy. But that's life, really, that's life. And that is perhaps one of the most important lessons you can teach your teen. Remember the Rolling Stone song: " You can't always get what you want." Tomorrow's blog Part 2: Strategic tools for successful learning

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's catch up time

I have decided to take a break this week to rejuvenate. So here is a good time to catch up on some of the older entries. See you Monday.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Summer's Comin...Its Time To Plan

"Idle minds are the devils playground." No truer quote applies when thinking about teens and summer. If you haven't yet gotten into the summer mindset, here is your wake-up call! Everybody needs down time, but 10 weeks of down time for teens can spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e, especially if you are a working parent. If you anticipate leaving your house for work at 8 AM with your sleeping teen snug as a bug in a rug, thinking that all is well, get you head out of the sand. The devil will be over to visit.

Regardless of good intentions, too much time = too much potential for temptation. We're talking sex, drugs/alcohol and general mischief. Once boredom sets in, which it always does after the initial bliss of no structure, look out. The planning should start now. If you have a younger teen, 13-15, this is a bit harder. They are too old for day camp, too young for most jobs, and too inexperienced or  not motivated to find something on their own. Many older teens are unmotivated as well, or lack the confidence to find something on their own. So the first thing is to have realistic expectations of how much your teen will do independently to make something happen. Your job is to make your expectations clear, that is step #1. "I get you are looking forward to the summer, and having free time to hang with friends. We want you to have time for that too, but it's also important for you to have other things going on for you as well, either  a job, or a volunteer/educational/internship experience, or camp, something that gives you a feeling of accomplishment and purpose. How would you like to go about this? What kind of help do you need from us?. Here is the deal, the question isn't, do you want to do something or not? but what is it you would like to do?"

This can be a slow, painful process, as mostly you will get a lot of "I don't knows." If you have some extra money, there are many great programs that cater to particular interests of teens. If they want a job, expecting that they will have any idea of how to go about looking for one is unrealistic. Do this together, making a list of the kinds of places that are of interest to them, and then drive them around to pick up applications, and sit with them as they fill them out. If you just say to your teen, go get some applications, and have you filled our those applications probably not much will happen. I worked in a work/study program for 14 years with teens, and rarely did I find a teen who felt confident enough to follow through on expectations. What looks like laziness is actually low-self esteem.

It is important to let them know that if there don't seem to be any jobs, and volunteering or interning is the fallback, that you will provide them with some kind of stipend. But, and this is important, if they choose to be idle, and do neither, then you will choose  not to provide them with any summer spending money. Sitting around with both nothing to do and no money is not fun, and will get old really really fast. So provide incentive and reward for those idle minds, and keep that devil at bay.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What Is Happening To Our Boys?

Over the last week there have been a number of stories related to incidents at Yale University of sexual harassment. A group of women made up of current Yale students and alumni finally said enough is enough, and filed a harassment suit against Yale for creating a hostile environment for women. It seems that the final straw was an incident where a group of young men from one of Yale's fraternities gathered on the campus to share their opinion about women and sex, yelling delightful slogans that included: " No means yes! Yes means anal! We love you Yale sluts."Lovely. In another example of this type of disrespect, Yale men, using their brilliant minds developed a rating system for a "preseason scouting report: How many beers would it take to have sex with this woman?" They published this report using the book that the college puts out each fall with photos of all incoming freshmen. And these are our best and brightest.

Lest I single Yale out, on yesterday's NPR "On Point", the guests pointed out that this type of behavior from college men is widespread over most college campuses. If you have time, I hope you will listen to this show, whether you have a son or a daughter, it is a eye opener.

The experts on the show discussed the changing sexual dynamic between young men and women, including middle, high school,  and college aged kids. We have gone from a dating culture to a "hook-up" sex culture. One of the experts, a sociologist who had interviewed thousands of young people for her recent book, explained that men love hook-up sex because it requires no commitment, and no expectations. No surprise there. Girls she explained, participate in hook-up sex, understanding the no commitment, no expectation mantra, but underneath their bravado of  "no big deal" is a desire for a real relationship and hope that the boy will see the light,  and not just see them as a sex object. A big set up for disappointment.  In interviewing these girls, the experts said they reported high levels of depression, low self-esteem, and abuse of alcohol and drugs to self-medicate against these uncomfortable feelings.

One of the biggest changes in our culture is that we have lost the progression of sexual activity based on normal adolescent development. It used to start with just a kiss. A simple kiss. I remember sitting with girlfriends after a saturday night date, and the question that was asked was: "Did he kiss you goodnight?" Now the question might be after a middle school trip to the mall: "Did you give him a blow job?" You've come a long way baby. Young teens are engaging in sexual activities they don't really understand, and are not ready for, and that set a stage for earlier and earlier sexual experiences.

So what is driving all this early sexual experience and sexual expectations?  Here is where it gets interesting, and for me surprising. The experts talked about the influence of porn on boys. Did you know that the average age for a boy's first experience with porn is 11.5 years old? Because porn now is so easily accessible through the internet, boys contact with sex may only be through porn. This is their model for what to expect from a woman during sex. This is not taking a peek at a naked woman, after finding their dad's Playboy under the bed, this is watching graphic, possibly violent acts of degradation of woman during sex. "Oh so this is what you do" boys say. The experts reported that boys spent many hours watching porn. They are not embarrassed about it, there is no stigma about it, and they found that on many college campuses, boys sit in common areas in student unions in groups watching porn, as if it were a spectator sport like watching a basketball game. Porn is becoming for boys a "manuel to treat women as dehumanized people." This is really upsetting stuff whether you are a parent of a boy or a girl.

When you give your teens unlimited access to the internet through smartphones and laptops, you increase the likelihood that porn becomes a regular source of sexual information. And for those of you who think porn is just a boy issue, its not. A parent shared this texting conversation she found on her 13 year old daughter's phone. Apparently her daughter and a friend had gone into Spenser Gifts in the mall and purchased a dildo. (did you know about dildo's when you were 13?)
Girl A: Where is the dildo?
Girl B: Going in my vagina
Girl A: I want the dildo
Girl B: Why, gonna f**k me in the butt with it?
OK they did not get this stuff from Gossip Girl. Girls are watching porn too!

Parents this is important stuff. Our kids need help, information, education, and supervision. I know that this is uncomfortable to talk about, but kids need to learn that there are loving and respectful ways of enjoying sexual experiences. Who knew that now we have to talk with our kids about porn and the message it sends to both boys and girls about sex? But we do. We are way past the birds and the bees conversation.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

If Its Spring, It Must Be Party Time

I just finished watching the local 6 PM news and there were two stories tonight about teens finding empty houses to party in over the weekend.  The cops were called and when they arrived at the party hundreds of kids scattered, and they managed to arrest 30 or 40. When the cops got to the house,  the rooms were filled with lit candles in precarious candle holders... a fire waiting to happen. When the kids started running, one of the girls fell and impaled herself on some kind of junk that was lying around the yard. She was airlifted to a city hospital and is in serious condition.  Apparently kids cruise neighborhoods to find homes where occupants seem to either be away, or houses that are up for sale and on the market and most importantly, completely empty. Oy vey, another lesson in the creativity and chutzpah of teens. For those of you who are not familiar with the yiddish word, it's a much nicer way of saying the kids have "balls". Sorry for being crude, but in this particular situation crude seems to fit.

So what is going on here?  Have our teens totally lost their moral compass? Not all of them, just the ones who come up with the initial idea. The idea of breaking and entering into a stranger's home would not be something most teens would find appealing.  But once the word gets out there is a party, all caution is thrown to the wind. Teens are texted an address by someone they know. They are not given particulars like, "party at abandoned house, be cool." An address is given, the boos are pilfered from either their own homes or their friends homes,  they hop into the party mobile and head for the address, no questions asked. Once they get in the house, they might question "whose house is this anyway?" But no one really seems to know or care, and they move on to the business of partying.

As a parent of a driving teen, whatever are you supposed to do? At age 17 the idea of calling a parent to see if they are home is pretty useless, because teens don't generally have much of plan on a Saturday night. They may start at a home where the parents are home, but then they are off, maybe to go to dinner, or "a movie" or what ever story they have chosen to tell their parents during the hourly phone check-in. Its pretty impossible to ever know the exact location of driving teens. The work than is to help your teen anticipate nights like this, play out potential consequences, and work on strategies to help them stay safe.

A conversation using this recent news story might go like this: " I just listened to the news, I heard about two different communities in which kids partied in empty houses. Cops got called, alcohol was found,  huge numbers of kids got arrested, and one girl who fell while running from the cops is seriously injured. I' m guessing that this is a scenario that you might find yourself in. I get how you and your friends might think that this could be an awesome thing, partying in a house that no one lives in. But these kids could have started a fire with all those candles, being too drunk to pay attention, and then when they are caught, a girl is seriously hurt. All in all, doesn't sound like it ended up being all that much fun. Hard to explain to parents, and coaches and potential colleges why and how you now have an arrest record, or at the worst, you lose the use of your leg while running from the police. Honey, this scares me to death. These are situations you are going to have to make your own decisions about. And I know in the moment, they might be hard to make, but there is nothing more important to me than your safety. Please let's think about how you could handle this kind of thing." And until they have thought this through with you, no car on the weekend. You can't be guaranteed your teen will follow through on this plan, but at least it is in his/her head, and some alarm bells might go off, and some attention paid to the situation.

Yes this is scary stuff. Time to get the heads out of the sand, and face what potential dangers there could be lurking. The best you can do is help your teen think, and plead with them that you love them, and absolutely could not bear it if something happened to them. A little guilt never hurt.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Few Parenting Do's and Don'ts

Do not buy your teen an Iphone, Itouch, Blackberry, Droid or any other Smartphone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am begging you here. I can't tell you the number of calls I get from parents who have given their teen this kind of phone, then get mad at their teen for misusing it. I will say this loud and clear. IT IS YOUR FAULT. Temptation is the mantra of adolescence. If they had self-control, if they were not impulsive, if they knew when enough was enough, if they weren't so easily distracted and able to keep their attention on something for longer than 3 minutes, then they would be an adult!!. They do not have the capacity to set limits on themselves especially with a device that does everything for them except make their bed. A parent told me a story the other day that she had an argument with her daughter just before school. To get back at her mother the daughter accessed her facebook account through her blackberry while she was at school to block her mother from reading her wall. Mother had been given the password with the daughter's permission after writing posts with sexual content on her wall that had been reported to the mom. Mom had also noticed that her daughter and her friends who also had smartphones were facebooking all day long at school. This does not in any way enhance the school experience, and gives them one more thing to get their attention away from the concentration needed for the task at hand....learning!

Do not text your teen during the school day except for carpool/pickup/appointment changes.
One of the major tasks of adolescence is to teach your teen to delay gratification. The id (the gimme take me show me part of their brain) is in the highest activation of their life. The want what they want, and they want it now. I have heard so many stories of parents who get into texting wars while their kids are in school when the teen wants an immediate answer for something that actually needs and demands a face to face conversation. Teens have got to learn that just because everything else in their life is designed to provide instant gratification, that you are not a device that provides that service. Let your teen know that you will no longer be "conversing with them at school," where by the way cellphones are usually prohibited from being in use. Unless the text has a 911 in front of it, meaning there is an emergency message you need to read, you will not read and respond to text messages between the hours of 8-2. If there is a change in arrangement for after school you will text during their lunch time. Parents you are responsible for modeling appropriate use of cellphones. We are raising a generation that thinks access to personal conversation whenever whereever is a right. Just ask my college students who I have to constantly remind to put their phones away during class so they can actually learn something!!

Do take care of yourself when your kids are being disrespective and abusive to you.
I was so proud of this mom who told me this story. Her teen daughters had asked her for permission to go to a concert on a Sunday night so far from their community that they were going to need to stay in a hotel room because it would be to late to drive home. These are 9th graders by the way. The mom said no, thank god. Amazingly there were other parents that had said yes. This was a concert that attracts a crowd not safe for young girls on their own, not to mention they would miss school the next day. This decision was a no-brainer. Unfortunately the teen girls didn't think so, and the morning after the fight decided that the payback to the mom was not just being angry and disappointed, but to be extremely disrespectful and mean to her. The mom, who usually drives her teens to school every morning to be nice, since there is also a very convenient bus, put her foot down. She calmly said, since you guys are treating me this way, I guess you'll have to find your own way to school this morning. I don't do nice things for people who treat me badly. Yea for this mom. The girls were shocked. Stammering and studdering,"how are we supposed to get to school?" "I guess you'll have to take a cab."the mother calmly responded. " To which the teens said, "and pay for it ourselves?" to which the mother replied "yup" and walked away. A+++ for this mom.  You do not have to be a victim of your teen's tantrums. You also do not need to tantrum back in return. I think these girls will think twice before they treat their mom this way again...when they need something from her at least. But as in everything in life, practice makes perfect.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The College Decision Deadline..Oh Where Oh Where will I go?

It's that time of year when college seniors, having received either the "thin or thick" envelope, are faced with the decision of which of their accepted colleges to attend. How easy it would be if all that had to be considered was which college do I like more? Unfortunately, due to the financial times we live in, the "which college do I like more?" becomes the least important question and is replaced with,which is the least expensive?  How much will travel to and fro be? and most importantly, how much financial aid did I get?

Your perspective college student may still be stuck on question one. They are looking through the prism of college life and an image they have created in their head of already living in the dorm, lolling about on the campus, and perhaps joining a fraternity or sorority whose house they saw during the college tour. They have a favorite, and are stubbornly sticking to the fantasy they have created for themselves to go to that college and that college only. Much to your chagrin, this is the college that is the most expensive, has given no financial aid, and is the furthest away, making traveling home for spontaneous weekends impossible. Your heart is breaking. On the one hand, you want so much to be able to give your child what he/she wants. You have bought their fantasy, and perhaps over the year participated in discussions that gave your teen the message that you supported this choice for them if they were accepted. But now reality has met fantasy.

Most high school seniors are really clueless about the financial costs of college, unless from the very beginning they have known that they will be financially responsible in some way. But for a majority of kids, college is just something you do and don't really give much thought to the dollars and cents of it. And for parents, many tend to not talk about the money aspect, feeling uncomfortable sharing their financial information with their children. But when those envelopes appear in the mailbox, the reality of what the next four years are going to cost hits.

The fighting begins. You assume your senior will understand the hard facts, be grateful to you for paying for college at all, and though disappointed that they can't go to their favorite school, understand that this is reality, and know that they can be happy somewhere else. Ah, if it were just that easy. No they won't understand, and in this moment are not thinking about you and your financial pressure, or the two sisters coming up behind them that have college in their future and need your financial support. They are selfishly thinking only of themselves. And understandably so, meaning I get why they are seeing the world so selfishly and self-centeredly.

You will probably see the worst side of your teen during these next 5 months. They have a lot on their mind.  They are faced with an ending, a new beginning, leaving home, leaving friends and all that is familiar to them. They are sad, clutching on to their old friends for dear life, not wanting to be separated from them even for a minute, knowing that they will be saying goodbye, some of them for good. Believe it or not, they are sad to be leaving not only home, but to you and the unconditional love and support you give them. Who else would do their laundry at midnight so they could wear their favorite jeans for their project presentation? So rather than being extra-specially nice to you as the end draws near, they are hostile and angry and uncooperative. This being a front for their real feelings. So much easier to leave thinking that your parents are annoying than feeling overwhelming love and sickness at the thought of living without them. All this angst,  and excitement contribute to this self-centeredness, and the inability to think rationally.

Your job is to understand how stressful this time is for them. "I get you have so many things on your mind. Its gonna be hard to leave your friends, and start over. Even though we annoy you, I know you will miss being home, and starting somewhere new is both exciting and scary. We get all that, and know that this all plays into your decision about which school you want to go to. In order to make this decision together we have to get past just the emotional piece of this decision which is how much you love school X and look at the reality of it."

It is at this point that the financial piece comes into play. If distance is an issue, have your senior go online and find the price of travel back and forth to this school. Have them look at how many times they anticipate making this trip and put that dollar amount on the list. In addition add in tuition  and room and board costs, spending money costs, etc. Go through this same procedure for all accepted schools, including any financial aid that has been awarded.  Look at these final amounts together, and put down the dollar amount that you feel you can contribute. Where there is a shortfall at a school, perhaps at the "favorite" school, ask your senior how they propose to meet the difference. This is an important discussion and process to go through with your teen. They don't live in the real world, they live in an emotional world, and need help seeing the forest through the trees. Rather than just saying something is to expensive, or too impractical, include them in the financial nuts and bolt by making them an active participant. Many teens see college and its costs as an entitlement, and don't get the sacrifices most families have to make for their kids to go to college. This whole college ordeal is almost over, and this last piece may be your most important. You are teaching your teen to take ownership over this very important decision. Probably the biggest decision they have ever made. How this decision is made will very much impact the next four years of their life, do it with compassion, understanding and education.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The "Bad Seed" Friend

A mom wrote me the other day with this dilemma. She has a 14 year old daughter whose friendship with a girl a year older had caused her daughter a great deal of trauma last year. They succeeded in helping her separate from this girl. There was a big team effort from the school, the daughter's therapist and a lot of love and caring from this mom and dad. Parents, school and therapist saw a huge change in this 14 year old.  She began to have a happier disposition, a reconnection with old friends, and a lot less anxiety and misery. A win win. 

Mom thought this friendship was a done deal. This school year has been a good one, with little drama now that this friend was out of the picture, not only emotionally, but physically as well, having moved on to an alternative high school for teens with attitude and behavioral issues.  Everybody breathing a sigh of relief. And then... A request from her daughter last weekend to go to a semi-formal dance a few towns away with a friend mom loves, and another girl...the girl from last year that had caused her daughter so much angst. Mom was shocked. She thought this girl was gone and forgotten. But here she is again. Mom had been keeping up with this girl by reading her daughter's facebook, and had been reading about all her drug and alcohol fueled partying escapades which she freely described  to all on facebook.

There was a simple answer to this request from her daughter..NO. Mom understood her daughter's disappointment, understood she wouldn't be happy with her answer, but felt firm in that decision. The daughter, not so understanding. She pulled out the "you're the worst mother ever" line. A sure fire guilt producer. And this mom wrote me wondering whether she was the worst mom ever. I am here to say NO. 

Mom wrote: "She seems to gravitate to these kids because they “accept” her. She does not have a huge group of friends, and is trying to make new ones, but is having trouble. These troubled kids all accept her, because misery loves company. Help!!!!! 

The bottom line is you can not control your teens friendships.  When your teen hangs with kids you don't like, and feel don't bring anything positive to the table, you can often feel helpless in your ability to intervene. But, and this is an important but, you can have influence, which is different than control. These parents, school personnel and therapist definitely had influence in helping this 14 year old see that this friend was a downer, and the daughter was able to separate from her. 

This is hard work for a young teen. There is nothing more flattering to someone to have someone show interest in you, especially the "bad girl". These girls or boys are usually charismatic, fun, risk-taking personalities, who often prey on more passive, insecure types. They can seem especially attractive to those kids because they do all the "friendship work" for them. Making the plans, and orchestrating their social life with all the kinds of things that feel so hard for them. This mom really "gets" her daughter's motivation, and it must feel so exhausting to have to go through this all again. 

Certainly, saying no to situations that you know will be unsafe is a number one priority, like the dance. So maybe you will get the "worst mom/dad award that weekend. so be it. But the bigger job is to continue to help your teen to navigate this relationship and help her to be successful in forming new ones. Some "I get It" help. You can say to your teen: " I get how X can be a fun friend. Tell me what you like about them? And secondly, So what do you think worries me about X?" lecturing your teen about all the ills of this "bad seed" will only make them want to defend this kid. What you want to do is get them to articulate what's attractive about this kid, and to articulate what they think worries you about that. When it comes out of their mouths than they are an active participant in the discussion. They hear the words they are saying, and can take ownership. When you just lecture and talk at them, they shut down, and may be missing important information. 

Helping kids find positive relationships, especially for those kids who lack confidence is really the bigger task. Sometimes it takes a little sleuthing. If you know your teen has an interest in something but is shy about getting involved you can go behind the scenes. For example, say your kid is a good artist and getting involved with scenic design for the spring musical or poster design for the prom  would be a boost to their ego. So you might go to the guidance counselor or art teacher or drama teacher, and see if they might personally approach your teen to help, saying they heard they were a talented artist and could really use their help. This gives your teen access to whole new group of kids. Or perhaps your kid isn't into sports or theater or anything at school, and helping them to find a job or internship where there are other kids would help. The work here for kids who have a hard time in the friendship department is to help them get access to a wider network. Maybe that's a job, or volunteer work, some school activity. But what you need to know is that this kind of teen will not be the one to go find these opportunities. So saying things like" Why don't you sign up for....fill in the blank will fall on deaf ears. Whether its finding new friends, or signing up for activities, they just don't have the confidence. The work is helping them develop the confidence. So do a little behind the scene work. This is a little bit like the "secret life of a parent" here. You want your teen to feel like he is being asked not that his mommy or daddy is doing it for him. 

Navigating friendship comes very easily to some and not so easily to others. Recognizing and understanding that this might be your teen's challenge is important, helping them to feel confident and successful is your goal. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Prom Proofing Your Teen- Part 2

Now that we have dealt with the emotional roller coaster of Prom, its time to talk about the safety issues of prom night. Expectations, expectations, expectations. This is night that has been planned for months, down to the most finite detail. Not least of which is how to sneak, hide, and invent new ways to party so the adults won't catch them. A few years ago it was water bottles. Teens, feigning dehydration, brought in their innocent looking water bottles into the prom party. No need to even hide their drinking, it was "just water". It didn't take long for the chaperones to figure out that ploy as kids vomited all over the dance floor, and passed out.

Moving on, this year, a few students ate some brownies, a lovely gift from mom to snack in the limo. Only these brownies may have come from mom's oven, but not mom's recipe, being full of pot. The kids still throwing up on the dance floor, (must have been some pretty strong pot) were sent by ambulance to a local hospital. Let's just say, there will now be no food or drink allowed into the prom. So much work, such creativity, all in the name of getting high.

The message here is that teens are extremely motivated to find new and different methods of partying before the party. I remember a community drug/alcohol committee I served on many years ago. Around prom time, the committee met with the group that included a number of high school students. When asked about a "sober prom" all the students said that kids would almost rather not go to the prom if they couldn't party before fearing they wouldn't have fun if they weren't drunk. That just made me so sad.

There is work to be done here. Below are some tips on helping your teen have a safe prom night:

"I Get It" Opportunities:

  • I am so excited for you.
  • I know how much fun you are going to have.
  • I know there will be some situations that you have never been in before, lets figure out what they might be and put a plan together. 
Prom proofing your home:
  • Lock up all alcohol and prescription drugs
  • You drop off your teen's backpacks and sleepover bags to houses they will be going to either pre-prom or post-prom. (This helps with the hidden contraband kids pack in their backpacks)
  • If kids come to your house to pre-prom. Supervise. This is when a lot of kids try to imbibe since they can't drink in the limos anymore. 
  • Before kids get back from the prom do a search around yard, bushes, sheds for any alcohol that may have been hidden earlier in the day
  • If kids come to your house to post-prom, be the keeper of the backpacks and bags. Stay up all night if you are having an all night sleepover. One parent I know made it a requirement that all parents whose kids were coming to her house after the prom had to call her personally to let the parents know the rules of the house. No cars, parents were responsible for picking their kids up in the morning. This guarded against any kids sneaking out and possibly driving to get booze or drive drunk. Any teen caught with alcohol would have to be picked up by the parents immediately. 
  • For those parents who think it's ok to let kids drink in your house to celebrate prom night as long as you take their car keys thinking you are now the "responsible parent" Listen up. First of all it is not your right to make a decision about kids that are not your own to drink. That is every parents right and responsibility to make their own rules and expectations about alcohol and drug use for their own kid. Also just because you are giving them "permission" and may have purchased the booze, don' think that means that kids will drink responsibly. That just means kids are going "yippee" we can get trashed! Getting trashed also means getting sick, passing out, getting alcohol poisoning, falling, tripping, get the picture? Also what happens if one of those kids you have given"pemission" to drink has a medical condition you don't know about, and alcohol exacerbates it and there is a medical crisis. And finally, IT IS ILLEGAL TO GIVE MINORS ALCOHOL.
Prepare and help your teen plan for:
  • Getting in a car with someone who is buzzed.
  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Drinking and drugs at a house party
Strategies and scripts for getting out of unsafe situations:
  • Make an "escape plan" using text message code word
Provide scripts:
  • I'm allergic, alcohol makes me sick
  • My boyfriend/girlfriend wouldn't want me to fool around with anyone else
  • My parents drug/alcohol test me
  • Thanks I don't need a ride, I'm going with someone else
  • I feel like crap, I'm going home
If things get out of hand, and a friend is out of control and wants to drive:
  • Get a few friends together and grab the keys from the kid who shouldn't be driving.
  • Text the parent in the house that there is a problem in the basement, or outside
  • Go to the bathroom....for a long time. Text me, and I will meet you around the corner
Proms are fun and are memory makers. Really, don't be scared with everything I just wrote. I just want you to be prepared, and for you to prepare your teen. When you "get" that this night can be full of surprises, and that the awesomeness of it all can make it hard to stay safe, you are being smart. Be excited with your teen, and help them to be safe. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Prom Proofing Your Teen- Part 1

Prom time is here. Get out the  digital cameras, the video cameras and of course the checkbook. Many of you will be tapping into your teen's college fund just to pay for the all the expenses of "prom". First of all the ticket, that can run $50-$100 bucks a person. Then you've got the dress or the tuxedo, the shoes, the limo, the hair, the makeup and the list goes on. But that moment when you're teen is standing in the group shoulder to shoulder picture, looking handsome/beautiful with all their besties is a sight to behold. Parents nudge each other, hug, cry, and savor this moment and this memory.

And then...perhaps you get this phone call from the school only half way through the prom as these parents did this past Saturday night in a suburban town outside Boston. "Please come and pick your child up, there has been an incident at the prom." Your heart is beating,and your palms are sweating as  you race to the fancy hotel where the prom is being held wondering; What happened? Was my son/daughter involved? And then you arrive, and hear the story. It seems several students became violently ill after ingesting brownies laced with pot, and were sent to the hospital. Prom has turned from dancing and partying to ambulances and anger. Your teen gets in the car, muttering "no fair, the principal is an ***hole, it was only a few kids, just punish them, why do we all have to leave?"

 You start the lecture:"This is what happens when kids break the rules, or they had to make sure everyone is safe." Your teen turns on you, defensive and angry, "you don't understand, why don't you just shut up!" and off you are to the races.

Hopefully this won't be happening at your teen's prom, but it is likely that something will happen or not happen for that matter. Proms are full of expectations and fantasies. Maybe it's hoping that now that they look hot and amazing the boy/girl that they really like and has gone to prom with a "friend" just like they did, will finally "get" that they are meant to be together, and they will magically ride off into the limo sunset. Or maybe, your teen is expecting to have the best time ever, and some stupid fight between friends starts over something ridiculous and they end up arguing the whole night, or everyone wanted to get really drunk and ruined the night by acting like animals.  It could be a thousand things, because reality is never as good as fantasy. No need to lecture. You will never say the "right thing" anyway. For those kids who had to leave the prom early on Saturday night, a " this is so disappointing, I am so sorry this turned out this way, I know how much you were looking forward to this." and leave it at that. A few days later, when there are more details about what actually happened, you can process it all. Which you should do....when the time is right.

Disillusionment is a huge part of adolescence. Because this stage is full of "firsts", events like prom are almost doomed from the beginning because expectations never meet reality. I remember so vividly my first junior prom. I went with a guy who was a year older. I was a sophomore going with a junior. That was a huge ego boost. I liked my dress, so that worked out for me, but when I came home from the hair salon I was crazed. I hated my hair! I washed it out immediately and redid it myself, still hating it. My prince charming came to the door in a suit that he had outgrown having not worn it in a year, and honestly he looked ridiculous. We didn't do limo's back then, so we drove in his dad's car. I think we spent an hour in the prom but most of the time making out in the parking lot. Not exactly like Cinderella at the ball.

There is not much you can do about this prom issue except hug, nod your head, and understand. PERIOD!! Please this is not lecture time. However there is the other huge, looming issue of prom that I will discuss in tomorrow's blog on prom safety. Back to the brownie incident. Schools have gotten really good these days at trying to keep proms a sober activity. This has driven teens to be exceptionally creative. Here come the bakers!  Come back tomorrow for Prom proofing your teen..keeping them safe.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The allowance question

I received a request the other day to write about the "to give or not to give an allowance" question that parents start asking themselves as soon as their kids start to understand that money buys you stuff, and kids want stuff, hence kids need money. When kids are young, like preschool through elementary, allowance works really well. It s a great excuse for parents when they don't want to buy anymore "stuff" for their kids just because their kids are asking for it. Now they can say, "well, you can use your allowance that you have saved to buy that toy." At that age, kids actually like the feeling of saving. So giving your kid a small amount of weekly cash to teach them the value of money and saving it is important. Its an accomplishment in and of itself. They like to count it, and constantly update you with their balance. It is a way of defining themselves. I am a person who has $53.31 in my savings account, how much do you have?

Allowance does not work so neatly with adolescence. You wonder what happened to my little banker who was so motivated by that growing bank account full of allowance money, gift money, and money earned from little jobs. Well, simply put, it went into the $150 video game, or $150 pair of jeans, or $150 concert tickets. Money in, money out. Your miserly 10 year old is all grown up, and thinks its stupid to just let that money sit in the bank when you can just use for something cool.

Allowance has different definitions in different families. Some parents feel that their kids should earn their allowance, as in, if you empty the dishwasher every day that will earn you $2.00/week, or if you clean your room, that earns you another $2.00 a week. My problem with this is that these are "jobs" that keep a family running. And from my perspective, you don't pay someone to be part of a family. On the other hand, there may be jobs that you hire out for, painting a room, cleaning a garage, landscaping, etc. I always think its appropriate to offer these jobs in-house. So if you have a teen who needs money for the extras, like expensive jeans, or video games, this gives them an opportunity to earn the money to buy them.

As kids get older, money takes on a new meaning. They do actually need money on a daily basis, lunch, transportation, entertainment and food etc. I don't see this as allowance money, but it is still important for them to learn how to manage the money it takes to live a life. I personally am not an allowance person when it comes to teens. I see a money management approach as much more valuable.  I will now cut and paste here a blog I wrote on money management for teens. I think it bears repeating.

I polled my college freshman yesterday asking what they wished their parents had done differently when they were in middle and high school. Of course "stayed out of my business" ranked #1,  but this one was a bit of a surprise. Many said "I wished they had taught me how to manage money". They find themselves now, as college students constantly in a state of monetary crisis. Because of the financial strain of putting a kid through college, many parents rightly let their kids know that if they want spending money they actually will have to earn it themselves. Most parents being totally tapped out with tuition and room and board, expect that their kid's summer job earnings will become first semester petty cash accounts. For many students this is the first time they have had a finite amount of money. They take out the old debit card expecting that the magic money will appear, just like their magic phones, their magic ipod downloads, and their magic college tuition. It can be a rude awakening the first time a card is rejected with a resounding....NO MORE MONEY! This may be for some kids, the first time they can't talk their way into or out of something. No money is no money. It is the ultimate, no manipulation consequence.  Unless a phone call to mommy and daddy succeeds with getting a wad a cash deposited in their account with the pro-offered, " I promise I'll never ask you again. Yeah right, until the next time.

Most middle and high school kids are on a pay-as-you-go plan. As in "going to the mall, can I have some money?", or "going to the movies, can I have some money?" or "going to hang in town, can I have some money?" or "need lunch money, bus money, pot and alcohol money."(only sorta kidding on this one). With so much going on in every ones life, the passing out of money becomes somewhat of a mindless activity. You ask a perfunctory," what do you need it for? " They retort with " a bunch of us... or I need say OK and open your wallets.

Just telling your now young adult that they are now responsible for their money, is truly a bit unfair, unless you have provided the training on how to do this. As parents we often expect our kids to do the right thing, even though this may be something for which they have no experience. Adolescence is ripe with these dilemmas. Many of the big decisions kids have to make, especially around safety issues, they have never had to make before. And because teens are impulsive, emotional and live in the moment, they often make the wrong decision, especially around money.

So here are some ways that you might take the time to prepare your kids now to manage their money to avoid those panic college calls. Perhaps over the course of the next month you and your kid keep a tally of all the money you give them, this includes, lunch and transportation money, clothes and incidentals, food, entertainment, and general running around money. Many of you have fancy phones that I'm sure "have an app for that". Caution: Do Not Expect Your Teen To Keep Track Of This. This would be an unrealistic expectation. As I have said in previous posts, teens are distracted, forgetful, and are probably not all that motivated to change the way things are. They are very happy with the pay-as-go model. Remember it is college students lamenting after the fact that they "wished" that they had been better prepared.

Once you have this amount, which I am sure will shock you both. Come up with a plan, and here you must include your teen in the process. Decide how you will mete out this cash, weekly or monthly. Perhaps you will decide that the money for them to manage will just be food/entertainment/weekend spending money, not big ticket items like clothes. Whatever it is, deposit into a debit account this agreed upon amount. Teach your kid how to check balances. Remember kids use alot of magical thinking, and they may take out a $20 here and a $20 there and not remember even taking the money out or what they spent it on. THIS IS THE POINT. We get that they are mindless, and this is the time now, in a protected environment to teach mindfulness about money. Maybe every Wednesday night you and your teen go on the website together and check the balance,  helping them to figure out what they will need for the weekend.  This helps kids to keep track. If you do this regularly then you won't get the " but I don't have any money left, and everyone is going to the movies, or I need new sneakers, or a new outfit for the dance."

The most important part of this plan is the consistency and follow through. It will probably take only one time of wanting to go out with friends, and realizing they have already spent their allotted money and you doing a little shoulder shrug, and saying " Oh I am sorry, that must be hard that you've already spent all your money. you're welcome to have your friends here." If you cave, or if you give advances on a regular basis, the message your kids will get is I really don't have to be responsible about this money, because I'll just be able to get more. And again this is the point. In order for any change to take place and become integrated it must be consistent and predictable.  This is where the hard work comes in. But the pay off will be enormous, because the pride your teen eventually feels for being "in charge" and 'in control" is priceless.