Thursday, March 27, 2014

When Your Teen Was Two!

I just feel a need for a little lightness. Watching this video makes me smile. There is just not that much difference between your teen and his/her two year old self. Remember your fiercely independent, demanding, and self-involved toddler!

Adolescence is truly a reenactment of the terrible twos. The developmental issues are almost exactly the same. Two and three year olds have figured out that they are literally separate human beings,with the ability to think for themselves, and move around their world on their own, all brand new ideas. And with this realization comes a new found feeling of power and control. See just like your teen.

So when your teen's bossiness and narcissism grates on your nerves, just picture them in their car seat, being all cute and bossy, and remember that it is just a stage!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Do You Have Different Standards For Your Sons Than Your Daughters

This is a fascinating article about differing gender expectations. Did you know in google searches parents googled: is my son gifted? vs most googles for daughters; is my daughter fat? And the truth apparently is that girls, at least in the early years have a better vocabulary and seem "smarter" than boys. Do we want our boys to be smart and our girls to be pretty? Food for thought. Read the article, it might make you look at your own gender stereotypes, it made me look at mine!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How To Get Your Teen To Talk

Zits Cartoon for Mar/23/2014

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!

Thursday, March 20, 2014


I am beside myself with excitement. Verizon and I hope the other cell phone companies have finally come up with parent friendly services to keep your teens safe on smartphones! Below is a link to the verizon site. This service does cost $5 extra per month but this is money well spent. You will be able to:

  • Program your teen's phone to shut off and turn back on a schedule. My recommendations, off during school, on for 4-5 hours, off for a couple of hours during homework time of just for your teen to have a break, then on for a few hours, and off off off at bedtime. Just think, no more give me your phone or I'll take it away fights.
  • Limit the apps that are allowed on your teen's phone and be the sole final decision-maker for downloads
  • Limit search engines searches to age appropriate ones. This will block porn sites, a must for boys, and some of those icky sites like chatroullette, and omegle that are like watching live sex shows.
  • Limit the amount of data downloads like movies, TV or games. When the pre-set data download is reached the phone will not download any further.
There are many other options, some of which I think are too invasive but there are lots of choices. Basically, signing up for this service sends the following message to your teen. I get how important having a smartphone is to you, and we are happy that you have it. But like getting your license there are levels of responsibility. First the written test, then the permit, then a limited license, and then the ability to be a driver with full rights and responsibilities. To me, smartphones should be structured in the same way. As your teen matures, and shows the ability to delay gratification and impulsivity, more responsibility for the phone will come. Kids in elementary and middle school should be very monitored and given few apps and hours of use. Halt the addiction before it gets the better of them, and keep them away from dangerous sites that can impair young minds. (that is my old fuddy duddiness talking)*

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Teens Love Being Teens, It's The Parents Who Have A Hard Time

Grab a cup of coffee, click on the link below the photo and sit down for this great read!

The Collateral Damage of a Teenager

What adolescence does to adolescents is nowhere near as brutal as what it does to their parents.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I am all for keeping teens busy in the summer. Too much time, and no structure is definitely a dangerous combination. But how much, and what and where this summer structure takes place has taken on epic proportions as parents and teens feint and parry in the game of college competition.

The article below is a must read if you have been spending both time and money researching, investigating, and deciding what the impact of one program or another, one internship or another, or one super-sized academic summer program or another, will have on your teen's college acceptances. According to the colleges......not much.

This is not to say that a summer spent building latrines in a small village of Indonesia isn't worthwhile, but if you and your teen's goal in toilet building is that it will provide fodder for the requisite college essay, than read on.

As you will read in this article below, colleges are not stupid. If they see an application padded with "meaningful" experiences it might raise more questions than it answers. If your teen is interested in latrine building because for example they are passionate about sewage and engineering, and every summer is packed with experiences related to this passion, then OK than latrine building seems like a valuable experience for "that kid." Sending your teen off on any experience because it causes them to see the world in a new way, see themselves in a new way, and gain some much needed independence, are all worthy goals. But that should be the conversation and the motivation; personal growth, not how it will translate to a college admission's imagining of your teen.

Intrinsic motivation is what gives those feelings of self satisfaction, and what in life motivates you to take on new challenges. Extrinsic motivation, doing something because it gets you somewhere or something makes these experiences become shallow exercises in creating persona, and rarely have lasting impact. In order to grow, experiences have to be real and meaningful in an internal way. Make sure that whatever your teen chooses for a summertime experience, it is because it has meaning for them....not for you. A summer job at McDonald's can be as meaningful as a summer building latrines in Indonesia. They both teach responsibility, self-reliance, independence and taking care of people other than themselves. Isn't that really what is most important?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Volcano That Lives In Your Teen's Brain

Many times in this blog I have talked about the difference between and adult brain and a teen brain. This is not a conceptual difference but truly a biological one. This teen brain is responsible for the crazy and ridiculous, and the drama and explosiveness that are the modis operandi of your teen's behavior. This article gives you the real science. An important read:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

You Scratch My Back, I'll Scratch Yours!

Zits Cartoon for Mar/10/2014

Teens will never ever want to do chores. They will never be enthusiastic, they will never do it without badgering and cajoling, and they will rarely put your need for help ahead of their own need to do whatever, even if like Jeremy, it's nothing but sitting on the coach and engaging in that mindless activity of phone worship.

Don't let your feelings get hurt, it really is not personal. They just do not see the importance of trivial matters like eating off of clean dishes, or getting a car out of the garage during a snow storm. These are matters that will be taken care of for them as they always have been. Like all good narcissists, albeit temporary ones, they think of themselves first. As long as you understand this and have a better strategy than telling them to get their lazy asses off the coach, you will be fine.

Here is the strategy. Decide how many times you will do the nag, I suggest twice, then don't say another word. If whatever the thing is driving you crazy or is time sensitive, do it yourself, or if not time sensitive, don't do it at all. Then, when your teen asks for something he needs for you to do, you calmly say, "you know honey, I would have, but since you chose to not help me with XYZ, I am not willing to help you out today. Or, "I'd love to help you out, let me know when you've done X."Be strong, because this may be something like getting to a rehearsal or practice that they depend on you for transportation. Guess what, they will just have to figure it out. Don't lecture, don't expound, don't say "you should have thought about that when I asked you to do X" Just a shoulder shrug, and a "I'm sure you'll figure it out. " As I have said many times before, actions speak way louder than words!

Are You A Lecturer?

Zits Cartoon for Mar/05/2014

Are you a lecturer quiz?

1. Y N Do you feel like you absolutely know what is best for your teen?

2. Y N Do you regularly expound on this to your teen?

3. Y N When your teen comes to you with a problem in his/her life to you jump into problem solver mode?

4. Y N Do you find it hard to take questions from your "listening audience"

5. Y N Do you like to be right?

I am guessing that we all got 100% on this quiz. Only this 100% probably won't get you an applause and a congrats from your teen. Problem solving comes very naturally to parents. We see our kids making mistakes, we see our kids in pain, we see our kids about to do something that is unsafe and it feels natural to want to protect them from all of it. Unfortunately your teens do not want your protection, they actually want the opposite of your protection. Which is weird, because they come to their parents with their problems, and as soon we go to give them our worldly advice, they respond with a rejection and a "you never listen!" And that is the crux of the matter. Your teens come to you because you love them, and know them better than anyone else. Their fantasy is they will tell you something and you will just listen. That's it, just listen. Here is the miscommunication. You think that when they come to you, they want you to tell them what they should do. But really they just want you to listen, maybe show some empathy, "oh honey, that must be so hard, or I'm sorry that must be so frustrating." But instead they get a "here's what I think you should do....!" And their eyes go dark.

Giving your teen the gift of listening is maybe your greatest gift to them. Unless they actually say the words, what do you think I should do?Go for a good nod, a hug, and some words of comfort. They are probably doing the work of figuring it out, and just need someone to bounce the words off and reflect back. Don't we all? This work of figuring it all out is what gives them the confidence they will need as they move into adulthood. If you do that work for them, they will never be prepared for they future that most assuredly is ahead for them.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Yik Yak A Scary New App

Here I am talking about yet another new social networking app that is a potentially dangerous one for teens


1. Hesitant to be online or unexpectedly stops or avoids using the computer
2. Nervous when an Instant Message, text or Email appears (Watch your child’s response)
3. Visibly upset, angry, or depressed after using the computer or cell phone
4. Hides or clears the computer screen or cell when you enter or doesn’t want to talk about online activity
5. Starts using the computer when you’re not in the room (a change in pattern)
6. Keeps going back and forth to check screen in shorter spurts
7. Withdraws from friends, wants to avoid school or peer activities or uneasy about going outside in general, pulls away from family members
8. Suddenly sullen, evasive withdrawn, marked change in personality or behavior
9. Trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, excessively moody or crying, seems depressed
10. Suspicious phone calls, e-mails and packages arrives at your home
11. Possible drop in academic performance or falls behind in schoolwork

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Another Reason To Limit Cell Phone Use

Here is an interesting study about college students and the effects of too much cell phone use. The short story; lower GPA's and anxiety.  This makes so much sense to me, distraction and obsession, put those two things together and you have a recipe for the college experience to be a disaster. I never really thought about cell phone use as an obsessive compulsive behavior, but truly it is. Think about it, people who have OCD have a ritualized behavior that is a coping mechanism for dealing with anxiety.  There is nothing more ritualized as the repeated hand twist checking for texts, over and over and over again, with barely a moment of rest, coping with the constant worry of missing something. If you are consumed with the worry that you might be missing something, than you never really experience the present. In college that means that sitting in class worrying more about the next text rather than the next quiz, or trying to study with one hand and one eye on the phone waiting for the next big news rather than both eyes focused on the "real text." There is still only one way to be successful in school, and that is the old fashion way, by being "present" during classtime and studying without distraction.

The anxiety issue to me is equally worrisome. The constant need to be checking in and connecting is an avoidance behavior for being alone with your own thoughts. The way to work through issues is to think about them. But if you keep yourself distracted from thinking and feeling, that there is no thinking through. The number of college students who self report being on medication for anxiety is astounding to me. This is not a good prognosis for coping with the increasing stress and responsibility for being an adult.

What can you do now to prepare your high school student for the college experience, get them into cellphone rehab now! Enforce a two hour no cellphone use a day, and no cellphones to bed. And model model model. Get off your phone!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Another Sexting Teaching Moment

Last week, a news story broke about a "sexting ring" that had been discovered in a local high school. At first count, 10 students were involved, but there are expected to be many more than that once the investigation gets underway. A parent, monitoring their teen's phone came across a nude picture of a girl from the high school, that had been sent to this boy. The parent called the school and at least 10 cell phones were confiscated to see who else had been privy to this photo. Luckily the police in the community are not looking to press charges, although they absolutely could. Disseminating pornography is a serious offense, but they realize that prosecution would affect these teens lives forever, and helping them to understand how and why this is unhealthy and unsafe will have a much greater effect in helping these kids to "see the light."

It was so interesting listening to the kids from this high school being interviewed on the local news. They said things like: "yeh, everybody does it, they just got caught," and "it's embarrassing for our town, but all kids are doing it, they just got caught here." Sexting is more mainstream than most parents think. With apps like snap chat, snap video, and now even newer apps like telegram, wickr and confide, teens have multiple platforms to feed their impulsivity and hunger for attention and excitement.

Most of these sites promote the idea that anything sent through these apps lasts only a few moments and is automatically deleted. Although in theory this is true, any self-respecting and tech savvy teen knows that if you act quickly enough you can take a screen shot of these sexy photos and save it for posterity, or at least until you send the pic to 100 of your closest friends.

Girls are often motivated to send these naked photos, because their crush asked them too, or because a boy flatters a girl eager for attention with a "come on, send me a picture, you're so hot, and with a promise of "no one else will see it I promise." So the girl closes her bedroom door, gets naked and sends a selfie. Sometimes girls are harassed into sending a boy a naked picture because of threats from the boy. "If you don't send me a naked picture, I'll tell everyone you're a slut." This doesn't leave a girl with too many options.

Watch this video for some tips I give on talking to your teen about sexting.