Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Year In Review: A Great Holiday Gift For Your Teen

Living with a teenager can be glorious (yes it can) and hellish. The ups and downs can be nausea producing like the scariest roller coaster you can think of. Unfortunately, because the negatives are often louder, and I mean that both metaphorically and literally, think slammed doors, and screaming fights, the smaller, more subtle successes go unnoticed or fade into the background. I'm not talking here about good grades on a report card, or a turn as the star of the school musical or a great play on the soccer field, but a nice moment with a grandparent or sibling or with you. Maybe a time when your teen was challenged in a new way either academically, or with friends and the frustration gave way to a meaningful resolution. Often these very special moments are drowned out by the multitude of daily life crisis, that your teen doesn't have the opportunity to integrate them into their developing personal identity:Not " I am someone who can rise to a challenge!" but rather  "I get so frustrated and can't do it!" They cannot see the forest through the trees, and they need an objective 3rd party to remind them. Now this is not always easy for parents to do, because maybe your patience has been sorely tested, and those nice moments have slipped by you as well, as you deal with your daily frustrations with your teen.

Here is a tonic for that frustration. How about starting a new New Year's tradition. There are Year In Review segments everywhere you look, best books of 2015, best movies of 2015, etc. How about your teen's best moments of 2015. Sit down with an old fashion pen and paper and write your teen a letter that comes straight from the heart. Emphasis the small moments that you either observed or were party to when your teen surprised you, delighted you and reminded you about what a special and unique person he/she is.  This will serve two purposes, first to let your teen know that no matter what, no matter how difficult life gets during these teen years, you love and admire them. You are the most important person in your teen's life, and especially if they feel they have disappointed you this past year, a letter like this can totally turn things around. Who doesn't love to be told they are special and wonderful. Write the letter, and leave it on their pillow some night, don't ask or expect anything in return. Because the moment they sit with your words and feel your love in the privacy of their own room will be the best gift you could give. Have a wonderful holiday week, see you after the 1st.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Your Kids Love You, They Really Do!

I loved loved loved this video. In it, parents describe all the ways they think they have failed their children. "the I'm not a good enough parent" syndrome. I meet a lot of parents who come up to me after a seminar, and say:  "Oops, I guess I've already screwed up my kids, I've done everything wrong!!! They couldn't be more wrong. Yes maybe the consequence they used when their teen did something wrong wasn't that effective. Or maybe you lost it and got over the top mad when you should have tried to keep your temper in check, or maybe your teen disappointed you yet again and you said something that signaled your disappointment in a very strong way that set them off and they felt misunderstood. Of course WE ALL behave in ways sometimes that we regret and wish we had acted differently, especially as parents, But the good news is, your kids will be fine as long as they feel completely loved and accepted, and that the stuff you think you "did wrong" is countered with all the years and years of hugs, and I'm proud of you, and you're awesome stuff!!!!

Teen often bring out the worst in us. There is a parenting adjustment that needs to happen, knowing that the way you parent your teens when they were young just won't work anymore. Frustration at what feels like a lack of power, can turn parents into screaming banshees. But you haven't always been that way, and you won't always be that way. So give yourself a break and watch this video. It will make you feel really really really really good!!!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Two New Apps Teen Use But Shouldn't!!

Thank you to sleuthing parents who have shared with me new apps their teens are using, and probably shouldn't be! The first is called Brighten. In theory it sounds just lovely, but in the hands of impulsive and aggressive teens, can be dangerous. This app was developed by two sweet people who loved the idea of people anonymously sharing a compliment with deserving people. Why it has to be anonymous makes no sense to me. If you think your friend is a nice person, can't you just tell them that in person? Well, apparently having a slew of nice things said about you publicly and anonymously is better. Here is how it works. You set up a profile page, like you would do on any app. And that's it. From there anyone can look up your profile and name and anonymously post a compliment. And why a compliment? Because that's the rule!!! But not an enforced rule, just a "please be nice to someone on this app, pretty please" This sounds exactly like any other of the apps that use anonymous posting like ASKFM.  Here is review from the app school by one teen who is using it:

"My friends and I got brighten, we were loving it at first. All of the girls were sending love back to each other, it was amazing and it really did make every single girl feel so good about herself, but as more people started to join and guys found out about it, the title turned into UNbrighten. There are so many rumors going around now on it and nobody reports it and so these poor targets are getting attacked anonymously non-stop And the people who try to show love get reported. There is SO much ranting and roasting going on."

Delightful!!!! I have several problems with this app. First, the anonymous thing allows teen to take absolutely no responsibility for their posts. Hence another outlet for the drama of teen life. Here is yet another vehicle for bullying. And secondly, which I think is really important is this need by teens for constant reinforcement and affirmation that they are "liked and loved" no matter how false and superficial it is. Real self-esteem comes from rising to challenges, working hard on something and feeling a sense of accomplishment, and being a kind and good person. Teaching your children the value of feeling good for one's self and feeling self-pride is primary. Of course we all love to be told that we are valuable, and lovable. But it is most effective when it comes from someone with an authentic motive.

The second app that sounds like another teen stomping ground, and I mean ego stomping is called after school. Here is the description form the app store: "After school is an anonymous and private message board for your school. Post confessions, funny experiences, compliments and more. We have a zero-tolerance policy and please remember to be positive."

Here is how this one works. When a teen signs up, they must link it to their Facebook account so before the app goes live on their phone, after school can verify that they are indeed a student at such and such high school or middle school, cause they have put that in their Facebook account profile. What this means in parent speak, is STAY OUT PARENTS!!! THIS IS A PRIVATE CLUB. Yup that's right, if you try to sign up to stay abreast of what's getting posted on this site you will be refused. Because when they go to your Facebook profile they will see that though you may dress like a teen hipster, you are still a middle-aged nosey parent! so no access!! I have linked an article below that describes this app in more detail and how it can be used for "no good"

As I have said a million times, you should be the CEO of app downloading. This way when you find out about these apps that your teen would normally download without a thought in the world, you can have some control. I am talking here about teens 6th grade through maybe sophomore year. After that, it's more about teaching them to make these decisions for themselves. But middle school kids do need your help on this. Once again here is how you can do this: On an iPhone: go to settings, then general, then restrictions on your teen's phone. it will ask for you to come up with a password, keep this PRIVATE. This will allow you to enter the section of the phone where you can disable their ability to download apps. If they want a new app they will have to come to you, make a case for wy they need this app, then you will have to decide if it's worthwhile. Please do your homework when they request to download. Go online and research the app, then if you give your permission than  you will have to do the downloading. This is a sh*tload of work for a parent, I know!! I am sorry, but these new apps are not taking into account the psychology of a teen, that is my job and yours!!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Why Doesn't My Teen Ever Think About Me And What I Need???

What is it with these teens anyway? How can they be so self-absorbed, and selfish? How many times have you found yourself saying to your teen: "I ask so little of you, you can't even do this one thing, after all the things I do for you, even just this one thing you can't do?????"

You are right when you say that it doesn't make sense. Cause it doesn't. How hard is it to put the lightbulb in the socket, or put the pot roast in the oven? Obviously not hard. It may be that it is your delivery system of expectations that isn't working. Notes, too easy to ignore, in-person requests, to easy to dismiss..."I'll do it!!!!!!!" But of course they don't. Why? Cause there is really no real motivation to do it. They don't really care about the pot roast, until of course it's dinnertime and they are STAARVING, and they get pissed at you for not having dinner ready!! "Hello, am I crazy, did I not ask you to turn on the pot roast so dinner would be ready!! Crazy making.

Find a delivery system that will work. Is it a text? Is it an alarm on their phone? Is it a denial of a ride request, money for the weekend, new outfit. As in "gee honey, I'd love to do, take, buy X for you, let me know when you put that lightbulb in your bathroom. But I will tell you what doesn't work, and that is the yelling, and the lecturing that they only think of themselves. The truth, they do only think about themselves....for now. Your son or daughter does not have a character flaw, you have not spoiled them (unless you have), they are in this moment of time, and they do need your help, just not the yelling kind.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Solutions To Two Of The Most Annoying Teen Behaviors

This might be one of the major hurdles that parents and teens just can't get past. Forget drugs. alcohol, sex, cellphones, computers; why can't they just put their damn laundry away?????? It is this question that has plagued parents since the concept of clean clothes was born. The answer is that kids don't give a s**t about their laundry. They just like the magical laundry fairy to deliver their clean laundry all folded up nicely to their room. They don't really think about the real person who has done it,  or that putting away this beautiful folded laundry would make the laundry fairy happier than almost anything else. The Laundry fairy, however, is being driven quietly insane by this basket of nicely folded laundry that is emptied out on the floor as their teen scrounges through it looking for their favorite white tee shirt, leaving the beautifully folded laundry in a heap either hanging off, inside or outside of the laundry basket. What's a laundry fairy to do?

There are two easy possible solutions:

 First just do it yourself. It will take 5 minutes of your time, and it will be one less thing to argue with your teen about. Consider it a gift of parenthood. Also, and not of minor importance, it gives you access to your teens drawers where you might potentially find contraband of some sort or another that gives you insight into your teen's life!

Second, if your teen won't put this beautifully folded laundry away, then STOP FOLDING IT! Do the laundry as always, and bring to your teen a basket of clean but unfolded laundry. If they aren't happy with this new adjustment, you can calmly say: " Since it didn't seem important to you to put your laundry away to keep it unwrinkled, I figured it didn't need to be folded at all. If you feel differently, I would be happy to fold your laundry when you decide that putting it in your drawers keeps your clothes they way you like them. Just let me know what you decide."

Dirty Dishes and food wrappers
This is another one of those issues that drives parents absolutely crazy. "Why can't my teen bring his dirty dishes, glasses, food wrappers etc up to the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher????" Why, because they absolutely could not give a s**t!! It doesn't bother them, and as soon as they are finished with whatever foodstuffs they have consumed, it is out of sight out of mind!

Here is a solution: Buy cheap paper plates and cups. New rule, any food consumed out of the kitchen is to be eaten or drunk from the paper products now available on kitchen counters everywhere. This includes bedrooms, family rooms, and basements. Your job is to provide ample trash receptacles in every location, strategically placed next to coaches, chairs, cushions or other lounging areas. The more wastebasket availability the better. Don't just leave it at that. Have a training session. Bring some snacks to your trash toting teen using said paper products, and when they have finished eating, practice putting the trash in the available trash receptacles. 

Sometimes it's better to problem solve than nag. If they can't, won't, don't, bring the dishes upstairs, then figure out other ways for them to consume. Many parents worry that if they don't "teach" their kids how to clean up after themselves than as adults they won't know how to do it. This is not true!!! If you have provided a good model from the get-go on a keeping a well-ordered home then that is the model that will be present for them when it is time for them to have their own home. Trust me I know this from my own experience with my daughter and all the young adults I have watched grow up. They all are wonderful keepers of their homes, but as teens they were just like yours!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How Could You Do This To Us???

I love reading the AOL home page. It's kind of like reading The Enquirer while standing in line at the supermarket, but in private! This video/news posted on AOL story was about two parents.  Frustrated with their 15 year old daughter's complete and utter disregard for their rules, they decided to write this sign and make her stand beside it on a busy road in their community for all to see. It read: I sneak boys in at 3 AM and disrespect my parents and grandparents. One adult driver, passing by the girl, stopped his car and got out to talk to the girl. When interviewed by the reporter wondering what made him stop and talk to the girl, replied that he  "saw that this young girl looked so sad and upset and I was worried that this humiliation might make her do something to hurt herself."

Good for this guy, cause he has this exactly right. Shaming and humiliation is not a constructive disciplinary technique. It is abusive, and by the way rarely produces long term change. Clearly, sneaking a boy into her room at 3 AM is a HUGE concern, and I'm guessing not the first time. But I am also guessing that if this is how these parents are choosing to punish their daughter, their parenting style in general may be somewhat extreme and authoritarian. Probably not a lot of talking going on in this family.

At some point in your teen's life they will do something extreme that crosses your line. Every family is different, and the standard for crossing the line is different for every family.  Responding to this transgression with " How could you do this to me/us?" will get you nowhere. The fact is, your teen did not "do this to you." Your feelings, and wondering what the consequences would be do not even come into play with your teen. For that teen who snuck the boy into her room, what her parents or grandparents would do if she got caught was no where in her horny, impulsive teenage brain. And that is really the issue. Raising a teen means understanding that their egocentricity and narcissism is a part of their personality...for now.  It is not a character flaw, but a developmental hurdle that has to be planned for. Your teen acts on emotion and impulse, not thoughtful and careful consideration.
When parents use shame and humiliation as a consequence for this kind of behavior, they are shutting down communication, not opening it up at this very important juncture.

Clearly there need to be consequences for this girl. Both sets of parents need to sit down with the kids and talk not yell about what happened. Rather than banning this boy from the house which might send them out in secret, I would invite him into their house to hang with supervision. I would make sure there was no late night use of cellphones, which is how this  3 AM rendezvous must have been set up. I can imagine a late night sexting/texting communication that ended in a "I need to have sex with you right now" and up the wall into her bedroom he came!

Humiliation and shame can do long term harm to a person, and to their sense of self. Teens are extremely vulnerable as they are in the very beginning stages of assembling their identity. They are just getting the roots in place, and if those roots are stepped on rather than nurtured, there can be grave consequences.