Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's That Time Of Year: College Process

The leaves are starting to change, the air is turning crisp and fall like, and that means that we are upon the annual Columbus Day weekend ritual of visiting colleges with your high school junior or senior. If you seem way more excited to visit colleges than your junior or senior, I think I can help you understand why.

For parents the anticipation of their child all grown up and ready to go off to college is both exciting and terrifying. Remembering their own college years, they can't wait for their kids to experience all the wonderful things they did, which may even have included finding the love of their life and marrying them. Hello mom and dad! But there is trepidation as well, two years full of what if's? What if my kid doesn't get the grades, and SAT's that will get him/her into the college I want, I mean they want to go to? What if they don't write their essays on time, or worse, they are bad?  What if they don't get their applications in early? What if we don't have enough money to send them to the school of our I mean their dreams?  What if my best friend's kid has better grades and better SAT's and gets their essays and applications in before mine, and they get into the school I want my son/daughter to get in? And what if........ This is the stuff ulcers are made of.

So you become the college Nazi's. You vill get your essays done this weekend, or you won't go out!!!! You vill go with us to visit colleges on the weekends we want you to go! You vill go to SAT tutoring or you are grounded!  And for all this commitment and time and money you give to your teen in support of this college journey, what do you get in return "leave me alone, I'll do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

 Here are the questions your teen is asking. What if I don't get in anywhere? What if I disappoint my parents? What if my SAT scores suck, I will be humiliated.  How do they handle their anxiety, they avoid, they procrastinate, they miss dates. Why, because once they put themselves on paper in an essay, in an application, on an SAT score, it is out in the world for people to judge. And when they don't get into the school of your, I mean their choice it will be an affirmation of what they knew all along, I am just not good enough! Your teen does care about this process. Way more than they are showing you. So if you are only paying attention to their outward displays of attitude and avoidance you are missing the boat, and may actually be exacerbating the problem.

Use some " I get It moments" to crack the code. You might have this conversation; " I get this whole college thing is really hard. You have a lot on your plate this year, just keeping up with school stuff, your sport/theater/job, your friends, and now on top of all that, you have to deal with all this college stuff. I was wondering whether you feel like we are putting too much pressure on you, and you're worried you might disappoint us?" ( Now wait for their answer) After you get their take on that, assure them: " We have total confidence in you. There are a lot of things in this process no one can control, like who colleges accept, and that really seems like it is a crap shoot anyway. We just want to make sure that you don't unknowingly shoot yourself in the foot, by not doing the things that you are in control of. How can we help you do those things without making you crazy. We are willing to help you in anyway we can, setting up some date guidelines, reminding you that deadlines are coming up, getting you help with the essay stuff, whatever, but we don't won't to spend the next one or two years arguing with you constantly about this. We want you to take ownership. That will be a sign to us, that you are really wanting to and ready for college. If you choose not to wholly participate in this process, that will be sign to us that you might not want or be ready for the independence of college. What do you think, are you up for this, or are you feeling you might want to take a year off after high school to get yourself ready? Whatever you choose is fine with us, but commit to one or the other."

Just thought I would also throw in a few college visit tips. Remember this is your teen's opportunity to jus soak in the atmosphere. This is not the visit where they are worried about what the biology labs look like, or course selection. I know that's what you are interested in, but for these first visits, you really need to zip up, and let it be about them. They are looking at the students and wondering, are there kids here I could imagine being my friends? Does the campus feel like a place I feel comfortable and safe in? Could I sleep in this dorm and imagine myself feeling at home? This is what interests them. So walk along side them, keep a low profile, and if you have questions ask them another time. There will always be the second visit if they like and most importantly, if they get in!!! Many kids avoid the college visits prior to acceptance, because they worry that if they "fall in love" with a school and don't get in, it would feel devastating. So keep that in mind.

On the drive home, try to refrain from sharing your impressions the second you get in the car. Often parents are way more enthusiastic about a school than their teen is, and that shuts them down from talking to you. Give them time to digest. Some teens will start talking right away, others need to process. Remember that visiting colleges makes everything about the college process feel really real and maybe scary, and they might need some time to just sit with it all. So if they immediately put their earbuds in, just let them be. And then, on your way home, stop for a bite to eat, an ice cream, a coffee, and maybe ask a, "so what did you think?" in a calm neutral voice, and see where it goes.

Here is the thing, if your kid wants to go to college, this will work itself out. Maybe it won't be your first choice or their first choice, but if I have learned anything over the last 30 years it is that kids are amazingly adaptable, and whereever they end up becomes the place they want to be, and if it isn't they can always transfer, and you can do this all over again...yay!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Revenge Is Not Always Sweet: Teens and Trust

This article that appeared in the New York Times is an important article for parents of teens. File this under, Teens are so naive!" As happens more often than any of us would like to admit, teens show their love for their boy or girlfriends by sharing sexy photos, some showing more skin than you have seen since their baby baths. But with all things teen, romance rarely lasts very long, and even if it does last as long as their high school years, there rarely is a happy ending. And by that I mean a consensual break-up. No, usually break-ups are fraught with drama, drama, and more drama. With one party or the other accusing the other party of some sort of major misdeed. When that happens, revenge is in the air, and with the internet, revenge can be so sweet. Remember all those sexy photos, that had been promised to stay "just between the two of us?" Well all bets are off, and those photos along with personal information shared by the abandoned lover can and do show up in unexpected ways.

Please share and read this story with your teen, especially if he/she has a significant boy/girlfriend. They will fight you tooth and nail, and say: '__________would never do anything like this. He/she loves me too much." And you can say; you know honey, I get how much you trust and love each other now, and that is a wonderful gift you are giving to each But all bets are off when one of you meets someone else, or gets tired of being in the relationship, or your feelings change. It's hard to know now how powerful those feelings can be when this relationship ends. So I'm just saying, sending each other intimate photos does not equal trust. Not lying to each other, being honest and open that is where true trust comes from.

They will roll their eyes, but this is just another "educational" responsibility you have to teach your teen about safe use of technology.

PS. I will be a Newton North High School tonight participating in a program to help parents teach safe-driving techniques to their teens. It is from 7-9 and is open to the public

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Don't Forget" Is Not A Remembering Strategy

Zits Cartoon for Sep/21/2013

How many times have your said to your teen: Don't forget your math book, sports equipment, lunch, house keys, etc., etc., etc. You may have even done the reminding just before your teen walks out the door, and you are responded to with a " I WON"T!" And so you leave it at that!

Then the phone call comes in from your teen, not a text, but a real honest to goodness human voice: "Hiiiii, it's me....... how's your day going?" Said in the sappiest, sweetest tone your teen your kid can muster. And then the: "I forgot my _________________, can you bring it to school?" And you grimace, and groan, and say: " how many times did I ask you and remind you to make sure you had that to bring to school? "And you start in on the lecture; "If you only did like I told you to get your school stuff ready the night before this would never happen........" And then you cave and interrupt whatever it is your doing and bring the damn_______________ to school. Because you know that if you don't, the teacher will give your teen a "0" for class that day, and that too many zero's can add up to a grade drop for the term, and if the term grade isn't high enough, it will effect their chance of an honor's class or grade point cum or any other consequence that might in some way affect your teen's college chances and therefore the rest of their life.

That train of thinking is called sequential thinking, and that is the kind of thinking that your teen does not do very well. When you did that final yell up the stairs in the morning, your teen heard you, and really did think, oh yeah, gotta remember that book. But then a second later he/she got a text from a friend who asked a really important question like "what are wearing today? or Wassup. And this very important question took them away from the remembering.

If you really want your teen to remember the things they always forget, than you have to help them come up with a strategy for remembering that works for them. Remember that you and your teen are not the same person, you do not have the same brain, and therefore what works for you in the remembering department like making a list for example, may not work for them.

So don't start off this conversation with the "you know what works for me?" Instead you can say; "You know honey, I know it's hard to keep track of what you need to do and remember, you have alot on your mind. (And they do) and I get it's easy to forget things when in that moment you have a ton of other things that take up space in that brain of yours. So here's the thing. I get that just saying "don't forget" does not work. I also am not willing anymore to interrupt my day to take you what you need, or letting "I forgot" being an excuse for not following through on something, like keeping in touch with us when you are out with your friends. Instead, we have to come up with strategy to help you remember."

And here is the real work. TOGETHER you brain storm some ideas. Perhaps if your teen is attached to his phone, he/she can set an alarm just before leaving for school that reminds them to remember such and such. Or maybe you text them just before they leave, even if you are sitting in the same room, or perhaps you have color coded post it notes on the door out to the garage that match up with what they need for the day. Be creative. Look at who your kid is and how their brain works. Thinking through a strategy is giving them a life skill that they can use the rest of their life, saying don't forget lasts only a second.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

You're So Special

There's special, and then there's "special." To you, your kids are special. They're special, because they are yours and you love them. The likelihood though, of them growing up to be "special" is probably somewhat unlikely. Afterall, how many of us are "special?" 

What the hell is she talking about: special VS "special."  I just read this great article about the Gen Y cohort, kids who are now in their 20's entering the job force. But I think it can apply to this new Gen Z cohort who are your kids. It seems that this Gen Y cohort has been made to feel so special by their families and schools and wonder now that they are in the work force why their bosses don't seem to agree with their specialness. "What do you mean I have to do a sh** job before I get a promotion? Don't you know how special I am? No low level jobs for me while I learn and work my way to mastery, I want to start at the top!"

Adults and kids who are "special" have worked their a**es off to achieve this level of special. Yes they may have excelled in some area to start with, but they also put the time and effort in to get the mastery and thus the respect for their "specialness."

Believing in and helping your children reach for their dreams is the job of parents. But making sure they understand the hard work it takes to reach them is equally important. Using contacts and connections to give your kids a leg up is fine as long as they do the "leg work" to make it happen. Otherwise this can be the consequence: "a great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. They often feel entitled to a level of respect and rewards that aren't in line with their actual ability and effort levels, and so they might not get the level of respect and rewards they are expecting

As your teens move into the pre-college years, your job moves into the "consulting phase." Encouraging your teens to reach for the stars is great, reaching up and plucking the stars and giving them to your teen, not so great.  This article I think paints a picture of your teens future and a roadmap for how you can help them now to get there.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Do As I Say AND As I DO

I came across this blog/letter the other day and was very touched by it. In it a dad, who is also a hollywood screenwriter, writes a letter to his kids hoping to teach them a lesson about life. A recent film project he was involved with flopped, and badly. Scathing critic reviews virtually made the film null and void. Lots of money was lost, and many an ego bruised. The dad initially saw himself a victim, and wanted to blame everyone but himself for the failure of this film. But something changed for him, and he realized he needed to stop blaming, and take responsibility for what went wrong.  He realized that he did not want his children to see life's "failures" as always someone else's fault. What learning can there be in that? Failure is part of life, that is how we get better. What can I do differently the next time?

Many people (adults not kids) also see themselves as victims. A lost job is blamed on a bad boss. A bad financial situation blamed on the financial meltdown. A relationship gone sour blamed on the other person's faults. A bad golf game blamed on a bad course or wind. Sometimes it really is a fault not our own, but sometimes it is our fault, and accepting responsibility for our part is the start to making healthy change. Modeling this process for our kids is one of the most important parts of parenting.

When we accept responsibility for our behavior, we show kids that to be human is to be imperfect. We let them know that mistake making is normal, and from this comes growth. Be imperfect for your kids, and allow them to do the same. This dad did!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Social Media And Bullying: Scary Stuff

Last week a 12 year old girl committed suicide after being tortured by a group of 15 girls on social media using KIK, ASK.FM and Instagram. It started over a boy! I'm sure if you talked to these girls, they would say they were only "fooling around" when they posted "Go Kill Yourself" and Why Are You Still Alive?"

Rebecca had told her mom last year about the bullying. The mom had alerted the school, and pulled her daughter out to home school her hoping to break this chain of hate. Mom blocked facebook, but was unaware of all the other sites her daughter was managing to stay on. Bullied teens report that they stay on these sites, even though they may cause unbearable pain because they want to know what kids are saying about them behind their backs.

This fall, mom enrolled Rebecca in a new middle school, and apparently she was making a new start. But bored middle schoolers from her old school, loving drama, continued the abuse. And Rebecca said enough, and jumped to her death.

There is no sugar coating this. There is no silver lining. Teens and technology, without supervision and education is tantamount to a lawless society, think Lord Of The Flies! These are not bad kids, just kids who act without thinking, just normal teens. It is your job to know what sites your teens are using first and foremost. Ask them to show you all their apps both on their computer and their phone. Read them every gory detail of this story. The one I have attached is pretty basic, but as they find out new information more articles are being written. Just google: 12 year old suicide+bullying. Education and training should be part of every teen's contract with their parents for the PRIVILEGE of having and using a computer or phone.

You have got to understand that teens and adults are different. Skip the "how could these girls say such horrible things?" Because that is what teens do. The emotional part of their brain is in overdrive, and a small incident can balloon into catastrophe when groups of teens jump on the bullying bandwagon. Sites like KIK, and ASK.FM give them this power. It is anonymous, it feels powerful, it is addictive!!!! It is your job to understand and not criticize your teens attractions to these sites. 'I get honey that kids love these sites. Its a free for all for saying anything you want. I get how fun it is sometimes to out-outrageous your friends on these sites. But as you can see there are real life consequences. These girls made this girl feel so bad, that death was her only alternative. So from now on you have permission to be on only two social networking sites, both of which you and I will monitor together. Ask.FM and KIK are not allowed."

Parents make sure you delete these apps yourself from your teen's phone/computer/ipad, itouch etc, and make sure that only you can download any apps, free or otherwise on your teen's phone or computer. If your teen becomes angry and abusive, that would be a red flag. He/she doth protest too much, makes me wonder what they don't want you to see. I have had a number of parents recently who have become more involved in their teens phone life. And the comment I keep hearing is" "I was really surprised how easy this was, it seems like my teen is actually relieved that they don't have to deal with this anymore.

Teens care what their friends think about them, in spades!!! So if things are getting a little crazy with sexual language, or bullying some kid one of their friends has a grudge against, they are expected to join in. The consequence of not joining in doesn't feel like much of an option. So blaming it on their crazy parents helps them to save face.

Your kids will be mad, duh!!! So What!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is some signs to watch for in your teen that could mean some kind of bullying is taking place:

  • Ravenously hungry after school and/or races to the bathroom. Some kids who worry about being bullied avoid the cafeteria and the bathrooms where confrontations may occur
  • Nightmares
  • Frequent complaints of not feeling well and not wanting to go to school
  • Frequent trips to the nurse's office

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Teens and Their Cars

I have a few stories I wanted to share for those of you who have teens of driving age. Here's the first story. A mom told me this story about her 16 1/2 year old daughter who got her license in July. It seems she has wonderfully generous grandparents who bought her a car. Not a new one, but a sensible, used, safe car for a new driver. It was time to get the car registered, and inspected. We all know what a huge pain in the a** that is, but it is part of the deal when you own a car, so you suck it up. But a first time, new car owner should not yet be jaded by such an experience, and instead you would think would be excited to take ownership in every way possible for the independence this car will bring.

But, this new generation of teens are not used to being patient. This is the immediate gratification cohort. I want what I want when I want it!!! And so far in their lives, it has worked that way. Want to watch a movie, download it now. Want to talk to a friend, text them now. Want to take a photo and share it, no need to go to a drugstore, develop the prints, and put them in the mail to share with friends and family, nope. take it and send it. You get the idea. Well, just tell that to the registry and the gas station inspection man! They don't know from instant gratification. "You gotta wait in line like the rest of them!" It seems this teen didn't like waiting in lines reported the mom: "I'm tired, this is boring!" complained the teen. Boring!!!!!! Being given a car, having this "gift" of independence, that's boring???? That last comment sounds like it would have come from my mother, adding of course "kids these days." But no, it came from old fuddy duddy me! As your teen takes on the real responsibilities of life, they will be shocked and chagrined that most things in life are hard, take time, determination and that gratification will not be immediate. Best to start them on the road to understanding now!

Second story. Over the weekend I was seated at an outdoor cafe enjoying a lovely lunch. A parking space opened up directly in front of my friend and I on this very busy street, and was immediately filled by a teen who looked like a newish driver. Though I must say he did a good job of parallel parking. He pops out of the car, without even glancing at the meter to see whether he needed to feed it and sped on his way across the street to the Burrito Bar. Not 5 minutes pass before a the meter man walks by the car, with the expired meter, and slaps a lovely bright, neon green parking ticket on the windshield of this kid's car. Several minutes elapse, and the boy comes back to his car, and jumps in, completely oblivious to the bright green ticket on his windshield., and pulls away. I'm telling you, this ticket could not have been any more noticeable had it been screaming, "haha, you got a ticket!" It was a windy day, and I am sure the ticket ended up on the street after driving. Woe to that boy, when the parking ticket, now quadrupled in price for lateness, shows up at his house and opened by his parents. Here is the takeaway, train your teens to check meters and windshields!!!!!!

PS. Friends of mine wrote this book on interrracial adoption, a great resource!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Conversation not Interrogation

Zits Cartoon for Sep/09/2013

Do you have "the list." You know the one: How was your day? How was school? How much homework do you have? Did you talk to your guidance counselor? What did you have for lunch? Who did you eat lunch with? How was practice? Did your coach say anything to you? How much time did you get to play? Did you sign up for any clubs? Did you take the trash out, empty the dishwasher, and put your clothes away? You know, the list?

Even with the list, I'm guessing that at the most you got the usual 3 word answer: "It was fine! or a Yes, or a No, and a leave me alone!" If you bombard your teen as soon as they walk in the door or get in the car I can almost guarantee that you will leave this one-sided conversation feeling frustrated and rejected.

The subjects that are of the most interest to you, have absolutely no interest or importance to your teen. Unfortunately, you are having to go cold turkey after having a child who wanted to tell you every teeny tiny detail of their day. When you kids are in elementary they want so much for you to be part of their day, as teens, the driven to do just the opposite. You have to come up with a new tactical approach.
Perhaps instead of the question bombardment when they walk in the door, you just give them a quick hug, and a "hope your day was OK." Statements are always better then questions. This leaves them with a choice, maybe they do have something they want to share with you, but since they aren't feeling your desperation for conversation they might actually say something like "it sucked" which you can calmly say something like: "anything in particular, or just a sucky day."

Sometimes your teen is just on overload, and all the crap that's happened during the day, good or bad, gets dumped into the sucked pile. Just acknowledging it, and doing something a little special like going out and buying them their favorite starbucks does the trick, and perhaps opens the door to a conversation rather than in inquisition.

So give them some space when they get home; Ask a general question rather than a thousand small ones: "so what's up for tonight?" Make observations. If your teen looks spent, rather than asking what's wrong, you can say" Gee honey, you look really exhausted and wrung out...bad day. Or You seem really happy today, anything in particular going on?"

Keep the desperation/anger/frustration out of your voice and you might actually get some good information, just like the old days!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Like I said: Yelling Doesn't Work

If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, yelling doesn't work. Here's an excerpt from a recent research project that explains why:

"The study followed 976 Pennsylvania 13- and 14-year-olds and their parents for the 7th and 8th grade years, and found that the depression or poor behavior increased in the children who were exposed to harsh verbal discipline. Instead of serving to remedy the issue, verbal discipline tactics seemed to provoke the unwanted behavior."
"Adolescence is a very sensitive period when [kids] are trying to develop their self-identities," study leader Ming-Te Wang told the Wall Street Journal. "When you yell, it hurts their self image. It makes them feel they are not capable, that they are worthless and are useless."
I get it, we all lose it sometimes, and yelling becomes the default reaction when our frustration button has been pressed one too many times. This research is not really talking about the "I can't take it anymore" moments. Some parents are control-freaks. There, I said it. And if you are a control freak than Adolescence will be a huge challenge for you. Because teens are biologically driven during this stage to also be major control-freaks. They are planting those feet firmly on the ground and letting you know that they want to take control over their own lives. Control can be shared, and should be shared. How else does one prepare a teen for the real world when they will be faced with multiple decisions on a daily basis. 
Yelling as a default parenting style may give you the illusion of control, but in fact it is the absence of control. Not only that, but it makes your teens feel bad. And when teens feel bad, they take those feelings out of your house and into their lives. The findings of this study are powerful explanations for some of the acting out and aggressive behavior, depression. anxiety seen in many teens.

When your teens were younger yelling may have worked. They were afraid of you, wanted to please you, and didn't know yet that it will be fun to do just the opposite of what their parents want.  It is the process of defining who they are and how they are different from you. This can sometimes feel disrespectful, and hurtful. Reframe it to normal, and it will feel alot better.

If you want your teen to stop being disrespectful and bratty, you have to blink first! Your teen has learned how to bait you, and being a well-trained seal, you jump for the bait. When you get that pit in your stomach after you have asked your teen to do something, get something and say something, and their response is surly, disrespectful or he/she completely ignores you, don't jump for the fish. Yelling here will not not not not not not not not........ get them to do whatever it is you want!!!!!! GET IT!! Look them straight in the eye, give them a head shake and a shoulder shrug and WALK....A....WAY. Done! When they come to you for a ride, money, help with homework, laundry for school the next day, you give them that same head shake, shoulder shrug, and walk away, with a "I would have, cause I love to do things for you, but we don't seem to be on the same page today about helping each other." And that is it. Do not say another word. Don't get sarcastic, don't have a "tone" in your voice. Stay neutral. Now this doesn't mean you don't speak to your teen for the rest of the day. It just means that the favor-doing, ride-giving, laundress is off-duty for the rest of the day. Just that day. Every day is a new day. And who knows, maybe tomorrow will be a better one.!

I am offering a new coaching service: A Quick Question. Sometimes you don't need a full hour of parent coaching, just a few minutes will do the trick. With A Quick Question you can bank 60 minutes worth of help and use it however and whenever you want. Contact me at for more information.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thoughts On A New Year

As this is the first day of the Jewish New Year, rather than write my usual blog I thought I would share this with you. Rosh Hashanah is "my" holiday. This is the one holiday that I host every year. I love the rituals, the food, and the people who share our table. Last year I wanted to mark this holiday in a new way so I searched for something that would be meaningful for everyone, no matter how old, and no matter where and what was going on in each of our complicated lives. Everyone at the table was moved and so I thought I would share it here. One thing I love about this holiday is that it emphasizes the importance of reflection, or taking stock of our own lives, who and what is really important. No matter what religion or belief each person has, taking the time to think about ourselves is a gift we give to ourselves and those whose lives we touch. So please, take a moment and think about your life.


As we stand at the threshold of a New Year, we pray:

May our dear ones be near to us,
And may our near ones be dear to us.

May our road of life be straight and smooth;
But may it also be marked by hills that challenge,
And by turns which add variety and interest to our journey.

May our ideas have wings, but may they always find anchor
in reality. May our lives be peaceful, but may our minds grapple with ideas, and our hearts wage war with cruelty and deceit.

May our storehouses be full, and our hearts fuller still.
May we learn to find joy in that which we have, rather than regret for that which we have lost.

May we understand that we have been granted the gift of being able to begin anew through repentance and return.
May the blessings of Peace be the inheritance of all of God’s children. Peace born of love, rooted in justice, and therefore everlasting.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Helping Your Teens To Learn Not Just Achieve

As you ready yourself for your teen's academic year, I thought that this article would be an interesting read for you. It talks about cheating behavior in college students and what motivates it. It turns out that the students who cheat the most are not lazy good-for-nothings, but students who define themselves by their scores and grades. We call this extrinsic motivation. They are not motivated to learn because the topic is interesting, or has meaning for them, or might be useful at some point in their life (intrinsic motivation) but for the grade that appears at the top of the page. If the meaning lies in the grade, then a student will do what they have to do to get the grade, even if it means cheating.

As parents, you have a HUGE impact on whether your teen is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to learn. If you only focus on "what did you get on your quiz/exam/paper/project? or when your teen gets a high grade or score, you focus on the number or grade and congratulate them on their achievement "yay you got an A!!"rather than congratulation them on their effort and mastery: "hey honey, you worked really hard on that project, or studied really hard for that test, or you seem really turned on by this material and it shows in the grade, you set them up for grade motivation rather than learning motivation. If you reward your teen for good grades, and punish them for bad grades you set them up for extrinsic motivation for learning. These kinds of students rarely master the material in any meaningful way. Just learning for the test.

How about focusing on and rewarding for effort rather than outcome. When you see your teen really focusing on schoolwork and making an effort, congratulate and reward them for that. "Hey I noticed you're really in gear tonight with your homework, good job! Engage them in conversation about what they are learning, not how they are doing in a particular class. Get a hold of their history or biology textbook,  or see what they're reading in english, and engage in real conversation about the material. Show an interest in the process of learning not just the outcome. Asking questions like: "so what are you learning in history these days?" is not helpful. Reading the same book they're reading in English, and then engaging in a conversation about the characters in the book, that is helpful.

Let your teens know that you are not only interested in what they get, but how they get there! 

I am offering a new coaching service: A Quick Question. Sometimes you don't need a full hour of parent coaching, just a few minutes will do the trick. With A Quick Question you can bank 60 minutes worth of help and use it however and whenever you want. Contact me at for more information.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Get Up!!!!!!!!!!!!

Zits Cartoon for Sep/02/2013

I'm sure it was not a pretty sight this AM. The first alarm clock (you) rising of the new school year. If you have had a teen who has spent the last two months with a reversed sleep cycle, you can expect that this new early morning reveille to be as unpleasant as you anticipated.

The anxiety, excitement and anticipation of a fresh start this year for sure will interfere with an easy new bedtime ritual. Your best bet is to stay calm. They will get up! They want to go to school believe it or not. Not to learn, god forbid, but school is where and when they can access their friends. Think of school as a friendship delivery system. There is definitely motivation to get there, they just want you to be the one to make sure that happens. And that is what you SHOULD NOT do.

Let them know today what you will and won't do to help them with this new morning schedule.

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

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

  • Work with them to come up with a plan. Perhaps you are willing to give them two wake-up calls. But if they choose to ignore those reminders you will NOT continue to shake, scream, or otherwise annoy the hell of them until they get out of bed.
  • Be happy to drive them to school or bus stop at the appointed time. But if they choose to not to get up in time to make the ride, they will be responsible for their own transportation that day. You will not wait around for them to get up and out!
  • Buy any new required clocks or alarms they might need to rouse them out of their deepest sleep.

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