Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Beetwix And The Tween

A good friend of mine had some out of town family visiting last weekend. One of her guests was a 12 year old tween-ager. She related this story to me: This 12 year old appeared with her dad at the door covered from forehead to chin in heavy make-up. Her eye makeup was 'smokey" gone bad. Too much blush, too much lipstick, too much eyeshadow, too much of everything. Her outfit was "tween sheek."She had on mini shorts that showed butt crack and barely covered her tush. Her top was skin tight topped off with a ton of cleavage. Clearly a girl "a wishin and a hopin" she was older.

Ok got the visual? So you might have expected that this tween would have had a teen attitude as an accessory to her look, but here was the surprise. My friend, hoping to have some time to talk to her dad, asked if she wanted to watch a movie. She reminded this girl of a previous visit, when she was 9, when she spent her entire visit, coloring, and doing art projects. The girl, shyly asks my friend if she had any of those art materials around, that she could use. For the next three hours, this girl colored in coloring books, drew with markers, and glued feathers and sparkles to her hearts content. Now we had a girl yearning to be young.

When my friend told me this story it was a good reminder of these tween age kids. They really are stuck in the middle, trying to imitate the "big kids" but in their hearts, still the little ones.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Reading 2

Zits Cartoon for Jul/29/2013

I think this is a wonderful companion piece to my last blog. It makes me laugh but it actually does make me sad. Wandering through book stores has always been one of my greatest life pleasures. I remember many weekend nights browsing the book stores in the Harvard Square of my youth, sitting on the floor with friends between aisles and discussing our latest literary finds. Do teens do that anymore? Kindles and Nooks are good, but don't do much for the real feel of browsing. If your teen needs to actually buy their books at a book store, don't do it for them. Walk them in...sit on the floor in an aisle of books, and spend a little time browsing.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Who Likes Summer Reading Lists? Not Your Teen

It's almost the middle of the summer and, and crumbled up summer reading lists are being found and resurrected by parents everywhere. Most kids have spent the summer avoiding your queries about the reading by saying, "I'll do it, I have the whole summer, just leave me alone!!!" Well the whole summer is now down to 2 weeks and the books have been bought, Kindled or Nooked depending on the summer bribe. "If I buy you a Kindle/Nook, will you do the reading?" Your kid, panting like a dog who sees a new treat coming his/her way has promised that yes yes yes I will do the reading if you buy me off, I mean buy me a Kindle/Nook. But listen, it doesn't matter what form the book is in, it is still reading and might/could be way less exciting than say sitting on the couch texting/facebooking/videogaming/tv or movie watching or studying one's navel.

So here are a few strategies to get the reading done before school starts before you have to resort to the threats of no phone, no computer no life until you finish your reading.
  • Sit with your kid and add up the number of pages that need to be read by the start of school. Get out the old calculator and number of pages from each book and add together. Divide that number by the number of days left before school and you now have a PPD (pages per day) your kid needs to complete. When you break it down this way, it is far less intimidating. Most kids avoid the summer reading because it seems daunting. Maybe they have 3 or 4 books to read, and the image they have is just hours and hours of reading to complete it, so pretending it doesn't exist is much easier. Having to read 20 pages a day may not seem as bad.
  •   Set aside a reading time. Not on your schedule but a time of day that your kid feels is do-able. Get your book, take your kid to Starbucks, get him/her a Mochachino and read together for 30 minutes or an hour. Pair the reading with something pleasurable.
    • If your kid continues to be resistant to follow-through, pair reading with favors. For example, if the PPD has not been completed and your kid asks for a ride, some money, clean laundry etc you can say: "I would love to help you out, but I noticed you haven't done your PPD today, and I don't really feel like complying with your request until you do. I get this reading stuff is hard for you, but it's just something you gotta do.
    • Get the reading list books on tape. Some kids might be more motivated if they were hearing them rather than reading them. Put them on in the car while you are driving. Put it on an old CD player and let them listen with earphones, bring it to the beach and they can tan and "read" at the same time.   
     Get creative.  Just hucking your kid to do the reading is not going to get the job done. You have to "understand" their resistance, rather than criticize it, and help them to develop a plan that makes the impossible seem possible. 

    Wednesday, July 24, 2013

    The Latest New Parenting Trend

    I can't take credit for this amazing new parent technique, but I absolutely must share it with you. It is called the CTFD techniques which stands for: Calm The F**K Down

    Here are some applications for the technique:

    • For the umpteenth time you have asked your teen to clean up their room...CTFD.  So what if your teens room get a 10 on the filthy room scale. If there are no bugs, or flying insects, you're good! Is your teen a good person who happens to be a slob..CTFD

    • For the umpteenth time you have badgered your teen to sit down and start their summer reading for the fall. CTFD I will give you some strategies to help you with that tomorrow.

    • For the umpteenth time you have reminded your teen to do whatever one chore they are responsible for. You cannot believe what a lazy sloth your teen has turned into this summer. CTFD Just do it yourself and save yourself from frustration. Is your teen otherwise a good person?

    • You get the drift. Relax, its summer, soon enough you will have to badger like its nobodies business. Put yourself on vacation.

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    What Did You Say?

    Zits Cartoon for Jul/22/2013

    Favorite teen stock answers:

    • I said I'll do it!!!!!!!!!!!!
    • In a minute!!!!!!!!!!!!
    • I don't have any homework!!!
    • It was fine!!!!!!!!!!!
    • I'm fine!!!!!!!!!!
    • I'm busy!!!!!!!!!!!
    • I don't know!!!
    • When I'm ready!!!!!!!
    • Nothing!!!!!!!!!
    • When I feel like it!!!
    These are just a few that come to mind, I'm sure you have a million more you can add to that list. Please do in the comment section. Clearly answers like this are meant to do one thing, stop you from asking more questions!

    You might get more satisfaction by starting with a statement rather than a question. Rather than asking how much homework do you have? You might say, wow, you brought a ton of books home tonight, you must have a ton of homework?

    Rather than asking what are doing tonight? You might say, wow, the texts have been flying, there must be a lot of planning going on for tonight, what do people want to do?

    Rather than asking, when are you going to bring your laundry up to your room? You might say, lot of beautiful, clean-smelling newly washed clothes sitting in the laundry room, just waiting to be brought up to your room, what you say, you go get it so you'll have something to wear tonight.

    You still might get the same stock answer, but starting with a statement, keeps them from giving you a knee jerk reaction once they hear a sentence that starts with Who, what, where or how, and maybe you'll be surprised. 

    Thursday, July 18, 2013

    When Do I Get 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!!

    Wednesday, July 17, 2013

    A Dad's Legacy

    A very dear friend died this past weekend, and today was his memorial service. His two grown daughters spoke at the service with devotion, eloquence, and such abundant love, and I was left thinking about what ultimately are the most important things we give to our children. And that is quite simply, love. These two young women spoke not about his accomplishments, of which there were many, but about his ability to be there for them always, even though he had an extremely demanding and successful career. His ability to hear in their voice that something was up, and be there to listen. His ability to see them from across a room, and know just by a look in their face, that something was up, and he was there to listen. They talked about his joy in just being with them, whether chatting, or playing board games, and or sharing his passions of books, and food, and France.

    Other family members and a close friend all spoke of his extraordinary ability for being empathic and for taking time every single day to call and check in, "how are you"even if it was for only a minute.

    His daughters spoke of how what their dad taught them about loving is now being passed down to their own young children. And how important the gifts of time and understanding are to give to their kids.

    What would your kids say about you?

    Tuesday, July 16, 2013

    Hello..Anyone Home...Why Doesn't My Teen Listen?

    Zits Cartoon for Jul/15/2013

    I love this graphic! It just makes everything so clear. It's not that your teen is ignoring you, or actively not listening to you, it's that the competing interests in their brain drown out whatever conversation you are wanting to have. Unless of course,  whatever you have to say has something that positively impacts their life. So either speak really really loud, or keep that in mind when your teen has tuned you out. Joke them out of it, not yell them out it!

    On a completely different subject. I went to see the movie The Way Way Back. I am giving it an A+++++. Go with your kids if you can. It is funny, sentimental, and has so many openings for post-movie conversation. 

    Stay cool, both temperature wise (it is so hot) and with your teen. 

    Thursday, July 11, 2013

    Good Summer Movies To Watch With Your Teen

    One of the best parts of summer is....time. There is just more of it. During the school year there is no extra time. Pretty much every minute is accounted for including weekends. In the summer there are weird pockets of time that you might actually find you and your teen in the house, at the same time, with nothing much to do. Take advantage of them. Maybe its at 11 AM when they are just rising from a late night, but are free till 4 or 5 when they are going to hook back up with their buddies. Or maybe all their friends are away for the same weekend, and they are hanging around the house. Here are some movies that are on demand or on netflix that are fun to watch, and might even generate some fun conversation.

    First Position: I just watched this last night. Its a documentary about a world class ballet competition. Young dancers compete for scholarships for elite ballet companies. They follow 4 teens as they prepare for this competition. I LOVED it. Great examples of kids with passions and how they live their life. If you have a dancing teen, this is a must watch.

    American Teen:  this is an amazing documentary that follows a group of high school seniors for their whole last year at a large midwestern high school. Every teen will find themselves represented, the social butterfly, the jock, the artsy kid, and the kid who doesn't fit in. Great film. My college students go crazy for this film every semester.

    The Perks Of Being A Wallflower: Feature film about a group of kids who aren't part of a "popular crowd" but form an anti-popular crowd. Great story about friendship, and relationships. I love it!

    Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Can't Buy Me Love: These are fun 80's teen movies that your kids have probably not seen, but are so much fun to watch. The hair may be big, and the shoulder pads huge but the teen issues are still the same. Would be really fun to introduce these to your kids

    Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist: full disclosure, my daughter is one of the stars. She plays the drunk best friend caroline. This is a really sweet movie with Michael Cera. Kat Dennings and my daughter about friendship, relationships and has great music. though my daughter does play a drunk teen, it is not glorified at all. You'll see what I mean if you watch the movie.


    Wednesday, July 10, 2013

    The Incident Of The Sleepover Streaker

    Summer is in full bloom, and those of you who have teens at home are probably in sleepover hell. With a less demanding schedule, and mornings to sleep in, teens love the sleepovers. Here is a story about one of those sleepovers.

    I love the parent who told me this story. She and her husband are involved and engaged parents of three children, all teens. The moral of this particular story is that good kids of good parents from good communities do stupid things. So for parents who think, not my kid, not my kid's friends, this is for you.

    These parents host a sleepover for five 12-year-old boys. Already she is a saint in my book. She and her husband stay up as long as humanly possible given how exhausted they are, go off to bed, hoping and praying the boys at the worst will be looking up porn on the Internet. While the parents were snug and asleep a few floors away a different scenario was brewing. This story was relayed to the parent the next day by a gutsy college student they have living with them. Apparently a dare was put on the table that someone strip down naked and streak down a very main drag of this suburban community.  It was 1:30 AM. The reward for the volunteer streaker would be a pay day of $5 per boy, yielding a grand total of $20! I guess a good thing is that kids still see value in $20 these days. The boy who stepped up to the plate was the sleepover host. So all the boys sneak out of the house, which actually is not that hard since all you need to do is open the door and walk out. They meander over to the main road, and let the streaker loose. And that was that. No sirens, no drama, no front page story about a scandalous episode of teenage streaking, just a bunch of kids walking the streets late at night four of them clothed, one naked.

    So what's the problem? No one was hurt, nothing bad happened, and a story that will live on through many high school reunions was born. Exactly, that night nothing happened. Whew!!! Hear the parental sigh of relief, because of course as adults we are thinking about everything that could have happened. At the least a potential arrest by the local police and subsequent embarrassing notice in the local newspaper's weekly police beat;  or at the worst a crazy driver, or a group of kids out driving late, or a child predator just happens along at the streaking hour and grabs the kid. Or and this is an important one, if these kids had not gotten caught, they would have learned an important lesson. Its easy to get away with stuff during sleepovers! Today it was streaking, but once the "wow, that was easy" sets in, the sky is the limit.  Because we know that teens are impulsive, risk-seeking, and fun-loving, as they get older and the drive for fun gets stronger, the ante goes up to sneaking and drinking, sneaking and sex, sneaking and leaving to party, and so on, and the danger and safety factor also increases.

    Of course, when mom and dad uncovered this sleepover streaker caper, they were furious, and incredulous, screaming the parent mantra of "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?" And here in lies the problem, THEY WERE NOT THINKING! What we call sequential thinking , the ability to think in steps and consequences does not come naturally to teens. That frontal cortex that is responsible for that work is not fully built. So in the war between the emotional center of the brain (which is in very high activation in the teen years and is screaming "this will be awesome") and the thinking center of the brain (maybe something bad will happen) ...awesome wins out.

    Here is the takeaway from this story. First and most obvious is supervision during sleepovers.  Staying up till midnight, and thinking the worst is over, is just naive. Go to bed when you need to, but make sure you set your alarm for  90 minute intervals, and step into the fray that is the sleepover. You tell the kids in advance:"Hey guys, I just want to let you know that I am an insomniac, can't sleep, up and down the stairs all night long, trying to tire myself out, I hope I won't disturb you. Believe me they will get the message. And that gives your kid an out when another kid(of course not your kid)  starts to hatch a plan. He/she can simply say, we can't my mom or my dad are up all the time and they'll catch us.

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    You're Wearing What????

    Zits Cartoon for Jul/03/2013

    When I was a teen and going through my hippie phase, I dressed like you might imagine, torn, ratty jeans and hiking boots and long indian dresses and sandals, but I did always wear a bra burning for me! Anyway, my mother would have done anything to get me to go shopping with her at Filenes(our local department store) and buy me clothes. I would have none of it. And to her credit, she never refused to "take me out in public" in my chosen garb, not even to our temple high holy day services, or attending a Saturday evening concert with her at the Boston Symphony. There I was wearing my beloved jeans or long dresses. She made a very conscious decision that having my company outweighed whatever embarrassment she might have felt or judgement she imagined her friends had of her child. And she had to deal with this times two. My older brother had hair down to his waist and a straggly beard.  His alternative style was accepted as well. We were still really nice kids. Our clothes did not change that, and my mother got that!

    Perhaps you have a teen that is "expressing" themselves in a way that makes you crazy. Here's my bottom line. If its not disrespectful or be it. But if a tee shirt sports druggie talk, swears or other disrespect language, take a stand. They may choose to wear it with their friends, but because this article of clothing could offend..not with you! If you have teen daughter who is wearing sexually provocative clothing. It's also appropriate for you to step in. That kind of clothing could potentially send off signals to boys and men that your daughter might not intend, and get them into situations they may not be able to handle. 

    Other than these two bottom lines, it's your teen's prerogative to develop their own personal style. They are trying on different persona's all in the search for an identity. And it probably is not your style. But that's good, cause they aren't you!!!!Don't worry, it will change next week!

    Wednesday, July 3, 2013


    I read an article recently;"Calling Mr. mom". I am paraphrasing and winnowing this down to the essential, but basically, though women now make up 50% of the work force, keeping the home fires burning is still essentially woman's work. Here's another interesting statistic. Even though many companies now offer family flex time, only 26% of men take advantage of it, 76% of woman do. OK so this is not really new news, but it still puzzles me.

    When I give my seminar: Adolescent Psychology-The Parent Version, whether I have 300 people or 30 people in the audience, 95% of them are women. "I wish my husband had been here to hear this" is a mantra that I hear repeatedly from the moms in the room. At my last seminar of this season, I noticed a couple seated not far from where I was talking and pacing. Yea a dad!!!!!! Except that while the woman took copious notes, the man, who I assumed was her husband spent the entire 2 hours (no break) playing on his Iphone.  Maybe he too was taking notes, but the fact that he never once looked up  at the slides or seemed to be listening at all seemed pretty clear. Several rows away, another couple sat, again the woman/mom was  hanging on my every word, and the man seated next to her was sound asleep.

     So here is my message. Parenting teens is a challenge. It does take a new set up skills to maintain this changing relationship. The balance of power is shifting, and "because I said so" falls mostly on deaf ears with your teens. They are interested in challenging, analyzing, discussing, and arguing. Believe it or not this is a great thing. This means that your teen is "thinking for themselves", and as their world and decisions get more complex they will have the skills to make sense of it.  This is all normal and desirable behavior. But if it only gets interpreted as disrespectful, teens may feel that thinking things through with you is a waste of time, and instead, sneak, lie and generally avoid conversation and confrontation.

    Many dads I work with especially have alot of trouble with this new adjustment in power and control. They felt much more comfortable with the "I am the grown-up,  here are the rules" style that works so well with younger children. Men and woman do often parent differently, but both genders have to make adjustments as their kids get older. When I survey my college students on who they felt closer and talked to more during middle and high school, they almost unanimously say their moms.

     Dads, your kids want to talk to you, they just aren't sure that you want to talk to them. They love you and need your input. So now that's it's summer, take advantage of this more flexible time. Take them out to a mid-week movie, or for coffee,  invite them to come in and have lunch ordinner with you at the office. I can't tell you how many teens I've talked to who have no idea really what their dad does??? This time with them is as important as sitting with them and helping with their homework, probably more.  The conversations and relationship building that occurs during these incidental moments of life are priceless, don't miss out!!

    Tuesday, July 2, 2013

    Teens and Chores: Should they or Shouldn't They?

    A Parent writes:
    During a discussion at book club, lawn maintenance came up. Two moms were 
    shocked that some of those of us with teenage boys use landscapers. I defended I 
    didn't have necessary equipment and desire a tidy yard not sure they could 
    deliver or i want to battle about. Then they went on to discuss chore charts 
    their kids seem to enjoy (really?). Got me to thinking about if I'm adequately 
    tasking my teens. Dishwasher, garbage and their own laundry are routine must 
    dos.  Other tasks are on a help as I need it basis, and they generally do them 
    without guff or fees (vacuum, clean a room, trim bushes, etc).  though these 
    other moms included washing/changing sheets, weekly clean their own bathroom, 
    cutting and edging lawn twice weekly for $20/week allowance. I'm a stay at home 
    mom and my oldest child works part time and youngest is active in sports, but 
    they both have plenty of couch time. My mom was super laid back on chores, maybe 
    I am a little too laid back too?

    Ok, a couple of things. First why did the moms comment on families with teenage boys who didn't mow the family lawn. Can't girls mow? Boys can cook, and clean, and girls can mow! This might be a good time to do a gender stereotyping check. If indeed you have both genders represented in your children, what kind of messages do you send to each of them about what they should, can, and are expected to do in your family. Are jobs divvied up by gender? Boys do the trash, girls do the dishwasher! Food for thought. Because there is nothing that makes boys better trash emptiers, or girls better dishwasher emptiers. Mix it up a little!

    Now on to the chores. You certainly do not want to raise entitled children who expect that everything they need will magically appear whenever they need it. These entitled children go on to become entitled adults and life partners. However, having said that, I am not a chore list kind of person, unless you have a teen who literally does nothing except go to school and come home and park themselves in front of a computer, video or TV screen. These teens absolutely be given daily responsibilities, if only to get them off their ass! But, if you have teens that have busy, full and interesting lives, they have long days. Up and out by 7 or 7:30 and sometimes not home till 5 or 6, and then maybe out again for an evening rehearsal/practice/job. And of course, there is also the homework thing. Do those kids need to be "taught" about responsibility. I don't think so! They are living it! This isn't to say that if you need their help for something specific that you shouldn't expect them to help out. That is just a baseline of how people treat each other. But to expect that these busy kids are going to be good at regularly doing their chores once they hit adolescence might be unrealistic. If you have a family that has always worked this way. You started having your kids do a particular chore from childhood, and now as teens they are used to integrating it into their daily routine, that's fantastic. But often, parents feel that when their teens hit adolescence, they need to get them on the chore track to teach them to be better adults, and start with a whole new set of expectations right at the time when life is getting ramped up for this kid; friends taking on a whole new meaning, school and future taking on a whole new meeting, finding a passion and achieving mastery. These are really important, and take lots of time and psychic energy.

    Should you expect your teen to help out when you need help...absolutely! Do teens need a regular list chores, only if you need them too. Chores are only character building, if there is nothing else character building going on in your teen's life.

    I love the idea of a financial incentive. Many times there are house projects that need to get done, cleaning basements and attics, family ironing, lawn mowing. If your teen needs some extra money, to go somewhere like a concert or buy themselves something new like a video game or expensive jeans, these projects are excellent ways of meeting both your needs.

    Every family is different. There is no one size fits all here. Families value different things, and that's a good thing!