Thursday, July 30, 2015

Getting Off The Lecture Circuit

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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Simplest Parenting Strategy

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


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

Say NO in a calm but controlled voice

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

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

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Teens And The Beloved Summer Reading Lists!

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 4 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. 

    PS. If you haven't bought my book yet, this tip is just one of 80 tips you will find in it!!! If you have bought it and liked it, please consider writing a review on Amazon and let other parents know. Thank you!

    Tuesday, July 21, 2015

    You Think You Know Your Kid........

    A true story:

    A dad knew that his daughter had been using askfm, a popular and dangerous site/app that teens use. For those of you who aren't familiar with askfm, here is how it works. You can either go to and sign up or you can download the app. The appeal of this for teens is the ability to post on people's profiles completely anonymously. Here is how it works. I post a profile and ask a question; Do you think I am a good parenting coach?? Some people may write, oh yes your the best or some may post, you suck!!! Whatever is posted I will not know who you are. Sometimes kids ask silly questions and sometimes not. You can post on someone's askfm even if they haven't asked a question. So if I don't like you, I can go to your profile and post all the things I hate about you. As you can see, it is ripe for bullying. Also ripe for complete strangers to post on your profile. That is the story I will tell.

    Back to the dad. He had learned about askfm and knew his 7th grade daughter had a profile on it. He made her go on when he was there and delete her account. Done, right??? No way. Of course his daughter could go right back and put up another profile as soon as her dad left the room, which of course she did. This savvy dad had a suspicion that this might happen, so a week later, he goes on ask fm and looks for his daughter's profile. He finds it!! He decides to teach her lesson. He posts to his daughter 's profile: (remember his name and profile do not appear)"hey, you're cute, where do you go to school?" She writes back with the name of the school. He asks, "oh where is that school?' She tells him the town. She has now made herself easy to be found! Then he asks her if she has an instagram account, and she says yes. Then he says"hey I am a really great photo editor, give me your instagram password and I can do some really cool things with your photos." SHE GIVES HIM HER PASSWORD....A TOTAL STRANGER WHO DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A NAME!!!!!!!!!  And if this wasn't bad enough, this whole askfm conversation took place during the time she was in school. The dad was curious to see if he posted during school hours would she respond. And yup...she did. Good case for shutting off your teen's phone during school, and making sure that if his/her school uses phones or tablets during school that they are monitoring what the kids are during. This girl was in a class, not a study when she responded to this!!!!

    When the dad confronted his daughter, at the least he expected her to be embarrassed, upset, something to show that indeed it was scary how easily she shared her personal info....lesson learned!!! Instead what he heard from his daughter was: "its no big deal, everybody does it!! Why are you such a worry wort!!!"

    I have to admit, I was surprised, I thought what a great way to teach his daughter this lesson. Our teens are immune to fear. We are not getting them to hear the dangers of sharing information with complete and total strangers. This is your job, to regularly educate your kids. Go online, (I found these articles by googling dangers of instagram or dangers of askfm. As part of the PRIVILEGE of having a phone or laptop or tablet, your teen should be responsible for spending time with you REGULARLY to learn about the dangers of over-sharing. They will not learn through one conversation of a "you are not allowed to.....) Learning takes repetition, repetition, repetition!!! And you will have to be their teacher, since there is literally no one else!

    Thursday, July 16, 2015

    Teenagers and Denial: Making The Best Case

    "What, it wasn't me!" "It isn't mine!" "I don't know how it could have gotten there!" I didn't know what time it was, my phone died! I didn't know the parents weren't going to be home! You never said I had to be home at 11!!! "Famous last words of teens. A great way for teens to avoid taking responsibility, and a sure fire way to frustrate parents to the point of apoplexy!

    The truth is your teen is not at all motivated to take responsibility, cause if they did they either wouldn't have done it in the first place, or they would have owned up and paid the price. Also, they absolutely do not care that their shoes are strewn all around the house...except when they can't find them, then of course it becomes your fault: "Where are my shoes? What did you do with them," they scream at their loudest decibel. Because of course, it is one minute before their ride is coming to get them, and they did not think about these shoes, jacket, etc until just that minute, and now that they are missing they obviously can't blame themselves, so you're up!

    My best advice, don't bite!!! There is nothing you need to say, nothing you need to do, it is not your job to keep track of their things. Sometime, they will figure it out, but your lecture of "if you only put your things in their rightful place this would not happen every single god damn day!!"will definitely not change their behavior. Either they'll figure it out themselves or they won't. And eventually they will move out, and you will never have to deal with it again. Make yourself unavailable for the search and rescue. And when their crap is in your way, have a basket for each of your teens in which any stray item that is making you crazy gets thrown. Think of it as your family's lost and found. If they can't find something, they can always take a gander at the lost and found and see what's there. It will be like Christmas every day!

    And for those moments when you know that the excuses are free wheeling and obviously have no bearing on the truth, no need to lecture and yell, a shoulder shrug, a consequence, and I hope things work out for you the next time!

    Tuesday, July 14, 2015

    A Teen Speaks With Authority on Money

    This editorial that appeared in the paper should not only be read by every parent of a teen, but also every teen who is lounging around this summer watching movies, playing video games, and playing on their phone. This teen makes a good case for taking responsibility for one's life. Read the article and then we'll talk.

    If you find yourself becoming your teen's personal ATM, it might mean that your teen has lost awareness for how much and how he/she spends your money. So much of a teens life is magical. Using cell phones, computers, mom and dad's generosity, everything they want is literally in their fingertips. How about saying to your teen; "I am willing to give up to $$$ a month and then it's up to you if you want or need anything over and above." Just because your teen wants to go shopping every weekend that doesn't mean you have to shell out 40 bucks so they have some spending money. They may buy another T-shirt or video game, but because it was just a meaningless buy, no skin off their teeth, it ends up in a pile of other impulsive boredom buys. Do not just mindlessly buy or give your teen money. Make them work for something.  Don't deprive them of that feeling of pride when earned money is what buys them something. Maybe it's a job, maybe it's money for chores, but teaching them that you don't get something for nothing is a valuable lesson.

    Thursday, July 9, 2015

    Another Quicki Tip

    Make a date with your teen to get coffee, get an ice-cream, get a manicure, go to a dinner and movie-mid-week; invite them to meet you at your office and then go for dinner somewhere new and different. In short,  break the daily routine and in some way  show your interest in spending some time with your teen. Many teens have never seen or even know what it is their parents do. That is always a great eye opener to see their parents in a new way. Whatever you do, do something they would love to do, not something you would like them to do with you!

    Tuesday, July 7, 2015

    A Quicki Parenting Tip

    A week of quick tips!

    A quickie:

    Find something that your teen has done over the last week that left you with some good feeling and share it with him or her. It might be relatively small, often its the littlest recognitions that have the biggest and most lasting impact!!!

    Thursday, July 2, 2015

    Teens and Summer Driving: Too Much Texting

     Now that it's summer, your teens are spending way more time in their cars; cruising for the best party, and needing to stay in constant contact with their compadres who may have insider information for what's happening around town, and where the next destination is. Remember, it is never enough to say: "You better not be texting while you're driving." This does not give them a plan. This blog does. Below is a link to a recent survey done on driving teens. It's an eye opener!! The jist is that even though over 90% of teens knew they shouldn't text and drive, they do it anyway!

    Though I have talked about this issue before, it bears repeating.  I have seen a number of people way over 30 years old driving and texting,  but there is not much we can do about that. But I am not ready to give up with teens. They are still young enough and dependent enough on you and your vehicle that you  can hope to have some impact...if you can get them to listen. And that my friends is a big IF. 

    For some reason, and I include myself here, when I hear the chime on my phone signifying a text, I get a little excited. Who is it, what do they want? Even though 99.99999% of the time, it is nothing, somewhere I must think that the information just relayed is somehow going to change my life and that I can't live without knowing it immediately!!!!! Come on admit it, you get that little surge of excitement too. Well that's what your teen is feeling times 1000. As an adult, I get that I am ridiculous so I have trained myself not to look at the text until I have parked the car. I do have some ability to delay gratification. Teens, not so much. They need a little help. 

    After catching one too many students texting during one of my college classes, I stopped the class and asked everyone to take out their phones. Of course many only had to put their non-note taking hand with the phone in it from under the desk and put it on top of the desk. I then went around the room and asked my students to read the last text they had received. These important messages ranged from: "What-up", to a picture sent of a sandwich their friend was having for lunch. Literally out of 26 students there was not one text that was life-changing to say the least. We all had a great laugh listening to the ridiculousness of these silly messages. But there was a big impact. Reading out loud, and hearing that most of the stuff they get in texts is mindless chatter made them take a moment to acknowledge that they would be missing absolutely nothing by shutting off their phone. It gave them the motivation that some of them needed to delay that gratification.

    Helping teens to stay safe while driving takes planning. This can not be just a "you better not be texting or talking on your phone while you're driving, and you will be punished if I find out" kind of a thing. The discussion I had with my students morphed into the driving while texting /talking discussion. This coincided with the new law at least here in Massachusetts that punishes texting while driving with a fine, and a law that prohibits people under the age of 18 years from driving and using a cell phone at all. I asked my students to close their eyes and think about walking to their car. I asked them where their phones were when they opened their car doors. ALL my students looked up at me puzzled, what do you mean? they asked. Where is your phone when you open the door of your car, I repeated. Here is where it got interesting. Their phones are now just another extension of their body that there is no awareness of it. They carry them in their hands at all times, they aren't even aware that they have them. When I said, they are in your hands, they laughed. To them their phones are their hands. When I asked where their phones are when they are driving, they all answered in their non-driving hand, ready to text, make or take a call. And there is the problem. The goal then was to get them to develop a plan and a place to put their phone so as not to be tempted. And that's what we did. The girls said they would shut their phones off, put them in their pocketbooks and put their pocketbook behind the seat. Out of sight out of mind. The guys said shutting the phone off and putting it in the glove compartment. Who knows if they ever followed through, but mine was just an exercise in a psychology class, your teen actually lives with you, and you have more time for practicing. So here is your action plan!

    Sit down with your driving teen:
    1. Have them read their last 5 text messages, either out loud(which of course they won't do, or to themselves) Ask them on a scale of 1-10 how life changing each text was. This can lead a discussion to the texting /driving issue.
    2. Where is your phone when you go to your car?
    3. Where is your phone while your driving? (Don't get critical here, when your teen tells you something you don't like hearing.  The work is to help them acknowledge what they do now and come up with something different)
    4. Using an I get it moment: "I get that you like to keep your phone close cause you worry you're going to miss something if you don't, or your friends are changing plans and you worry you won't find them. I get this will be hard, cause its always hard to break a habit, but I love you and I want you to be safe."
    5. Where can you put your phone when you get in the car so that you can resist the temptation to respond to texts/calls?
    6. OK now lets practice.
    7. Optional follow-up. You can tell your teen that you will be checking the phone bill on line to see when text messaging and calls are going out and coming in to see if they coincide with when you are driving. We will do this together once a week.

    There will be TREMENDOUS resistance to going through this process. So having realistic expectations about how this will go is extremely important. Here is your I get it moment when you get the "this is stupid". "I get you find this whole exercise ridiculous, but just telling you not to use your phone in the car isn't helpful to you unless you have an alternative plan in place. Here is the thing, if you want to drive our car, I need to know that you are on top of this, and have a plan in place. If you choose not to do this, then you won't be able to use our car. Your decision."

    And that is that. There is nothing more important than your teen's safety. And judging by the statistics I cited, they need your help.

    And PS: If you know they are in the car...DO NOT TEXT THEM