Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mean Tweets....Learning empathy

Sunday night I was watching the Oscars for what seemed like forever! But somewhere after midnight Jimmy Kimmel, the host, did one of his favorite bits that he does on his late night show...Mean Tweets. He has celebrities read out loud some of the mean tweets that their anti-fan base write about them. They are really really mean and nasty. But somehow, hearing the celebs read those things about him/herself out loud is funny!! Which when I thought about it later, isn't really all that funny! Luckily these are adults who have achieved success and are strong and confident enough to laugh this all off and basically say a f**k you to their haters. But it made me think about teens, who are not so confident and who are extremely vulnerable and who I'm sure at some point are either the senders of mean tweets/posts/snaps or the object of one.

I was giving one of my Ask The Expert Party's Sunday afternoon, and one of the parens asked me about teens and empathy. I answered that humans are pre-wired for empathy. They have done some really interesting research with babies and young children that supports this idea. But unless this natural empathy is reinforced continuously throughout a child's life, it can get lost in the shuffle. Teens are by nature, during Adolescence, narcissistic. Me me me me!!! As they deal with the chaos of their body changing, their brain changing, their relationships changing and trying to figure out a personal identity they often don't have the space to think so much about others. And technology does not help. In the olden days, when you and I were teens, you pretty much said what you thought about someone to their face if you had balls, or you talked behind their back to your best friend, and that was that. But whichever way it went down, somewhere along the line you saw and felt how your nasty comments about someone made them feel. You saw their hurt and and felt bad and usually guilty. A lesson in empathy! In today's world of technology, it is really easy to bad mouth someone on twitter or instagram and feel completely removed from the pain that has been inflicted on the object of their wrath. Just look towards our president as a model for that.

Unfortunately your teens are full of drama, and with technology they have a delivery system for sharing their anger, their frustration, their jealousy in a form that allows them to hide from the consequences of hurting someone elses feelings. Hence, fewer lessons in empathy!!

So take a cue Jimmy Kimmel's playbook. When you see mean posts and mean tweets when you are monitoring your teen's tech tools,not just ones they might have posted, but their also their friend's posts, rather than just getting mad and lecturing, do a mean tweet read. Let them hear how the language sounds, how it feels to be the target of that language, sans lecture! They don't have to be their tweets or posts, you'll find plenty in the public domain., that are mean. Teaching empathy to teens is not about lecturing them about it, it's by letting them experience how words can sound and how they can hurt!

My fantasy is that you copy and paste these safety rules and post them in your teen's room, on the refrigerator, in the family room, in the basement, wherever your teens do their social networking business as a constant reminder of what is smart,kind and empathic use of social networking!





an this post be misinterpreted by anyone?

Does this post intentionally hurt someones feelings?

Does this post give out too much information?

Can any photos or videos posted of me come back and shoot me in the foot?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

When Your Teen Demands Your Immediate Attention!

Your teen walks into the kitchen while you are preparing dinner and says; "I need to go to Staples, or all my jeans are dirty, I need my laundry washed, or I'm going to Dan's house and I need a ride, and so on and so on and so on. So from their point of view, their needs and wants take precedence over anything of importance that you are doing. God forbid you have something else to do and say: "Honey I can't, I have to......fill in the blank." Or maybe you hear one of these statements and get aggravated. How dare they think that you will just be at the beck and call, have they no respect? You say as much, and an argument follows, with your teen totally not getting why you are aggravated. After all, isn't this your job to be at their beck and call?

This interaction probably happens between you and your teen a million times a day. So often that perhaps you are so immune to it that it doesn't even register as a demand unless they catch you at a particularly bad time when you are overworked, overwhelmed and overtired and can't handle one more demand from anyone. Then the sh**t hits the fan, and your teen blames you for being a bitch!

Without being aware of it you may have reinforced your teens demandingness.  Because teens are by nature, and by this I mean biologically, self-centered, and truly only think about themselves. They are often completely unaware of someone else's perspective, as their brain is filled to the brim with all the new thoughts, feelings, and desires that adolescence delivers. This isn't really about a bratty kid or a spoiled teen, at least not the teen I am talking about. You may in fact have a spoiled, bratty, entitled teen, but that is a result of overindulgence, not biology. I am talking about your normal, everyday, developmentally caused demanding teen. They just need to be taught to ask a question, rather than make a statement of want. You don't need to criticize, you need to re-train. And here is how. Every time your teen comes to you with the "I need you to, or I want you to, or you have to...." You can calmly say: " Is there a question in there?" No giving answers until they put their demand in the form of a question, giving you the opportunity to agree, or not agree based on your availability, and your desire to do or not do what they need. Everybody deserves the respect of choice. That includes your teen. So what's right for your teen, should be right for you as well. Rather then demand they help you, or fulfill an obligation, as in " take out the trash ...now! or Shut off the computer, and do your homework!" which they probably avoid or ignore you anyway, why not model with a "honey I could really use your help with trash, will you help me? " "Honey, can we come up with a time you'll get off the computer and do your homework." It still might not work, a power struggle is a power struggle, but at least when they demand something and you tell them you won't respond to demands, you won't get sucked down the black hole of "well you just demand things of me, you never ask me nicely, why should I have to ask you nicely." Which of course turns into the old, I am an adult, and I can tell you to do anything I want lecture. Which of course never goes well.

If you can just see this as a teaching moment, like teaching your toddler to say please and thank you, you'll be on easy street. It will make you like your teen a lot more. And remember practice makes perfect. This might take a while.

PS: Scheduling seminars for the spring. Bring me to your school or community group for my special brand of "infotainment" Have Joani will travel!!
Sign up for "A Quick Question" Bank 60 minutes of time, and call whenever you have a quick question! joani@joanigeltman.com

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Yup, It's Time For A Good Ole Fashioned Porn Talk

I know this is not a fun topic. But it is a topic that must be discussed. I have had a record number of calls recently from parents who have discovered that their boys, starting at age 11, are heavily engaging in porn, alarmingly so, paired with finding extremely explicit sexually themed texts and photos on their phones.

In the olden days (when I was a teen) boys coveted their Playboys, and Penthouses, usually retrieved from their dad's trash. In today's world, those magazines seem so sweet; nude, beautiful, airbrushed, large breasted women..perfection personified. Ah, the days of yore.

Today's porn is live and in-person. As you will see on the video below, 25% of Internet searches are for porn, and I'm sure many of those searches are conducted by teenage boys. Unfortunately, the porn they are watching is not sweet. It is full of women being taunted by men,  and the sex is violent and disrespectful. These video images can shape a young boy into thinking that this is the way girls like sex, demeaning, humiliating and forceful. The number of calls I get from parents of girls who are being harassed sexually by boys is scary.

Because of teen's easy access to porn on smartphones, IPAD, and ITouchs, parents are very much out of the loop. It used to be,(a year ago) parents could check the history on their teen's laptop and see what they were up to, at least giving them the opportunity to have a discussion with their teen about the dangers of porn. Masturbation is not one of them. Thinking that women liked to be controlled is one of them. And in the link I have included, porn addiction is another.

Let's not leave girls out of this. A new favorite pass time at sleepovers is to go on sites like chatroullette to watch live, men masturbating. I know, icky!  This is a video social networking site in which you live chat with someone you do not know. Many men are on this site trolling for girls to have video sex with. I have had a number of calls from parents who go down to the basement to bring the girls some food, and lo and behold there is some guy on the computer screen moaning and groaning, and a gaggle of girls egging him on.

If there was ever a time for a sex talk, this is the time. Teens need to hear another side! It is not OK to be exploited, it is not OK to expect a girl to do whatever you want her to do, or for a girl to think she has to whatever a boy wants. College campus's are now awash in sexual harrassment cases and date rape. The research is showing that this onslaught of easily accessed porn, unsupervised by parents is behind some of this behavior.

Watch this video with your boys. Talk with them again and again and again.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Teens and The Money Pit

Unless you are comfortably wealthy, most parents these days are using up their retirement portfolios, giving up restaurants, vacations, new cars and any other perk that one usually looks forward to in mid-life, to pay for their kids to go to college and have the freedom from debt as they start their young adult life. And most parents I know who do this, do it freely and with love.  It is only when the semester grades start coming in, or the epidemic of changing one's major multiple times, that requires students to take additional courses (read more money) for their interest of the year, that parents start to wonder about the return on their investment. Many students I know are now on the 5 year plan due to flunked classes, need to make up credits or change of heart in what they want to study or do with their life. And because they have not been a part of the financial planning for their college career, and because they live in a fantasy world when it comes to money, and because many parents are afraid to talk money with their kids, they are not taking much responsibility for these decisions. Kids seem to want more, fancy phones, expensive video games, unlimited supply of clothes, and my personal favorite...uber accounts. and parents work hard to give them more. We aren't doing them any favors. Before they go to college is when they need to learn the meaning of money.

How many of your kids have any idea what their phone bill is, or their computer, iPad or cable bill that allows them to order movies, games, apps and TV shows without regard to the extra charges that appears on your bill, or my personal favorite...uber bill!!! How will your teens ever develop an appreciation for what things cost unless you teach them. I am a big advocate whether you are a family of means or a family where you need to count every penny, that you have a monthly date to go over the bills. Let them see just how many movies they did order and what the cost was. How much their portion of their cell phone cost. Dollars and cents, they need the reality. So much of teens lives in this 21st century make it easy to live in lalaland. They can say things without consequence through impersonal devices, they can order things without using the old fashioned greenback, and so it is no surprise that when they go off to college with a car full of new clothes and comforters that it feels magical. They absolutely need to know that college can cost up to $50,000 a year, and that is a sh**load of money.

Start teaching them now. They may not have to pay the bills, but at least let them know that it all costs the real deal...money. Maybe there is a limit on downloads and uploads, and scanning the bills together you develop some budget items. And NO UBER use unless it's an emergency and you really can't get them. I know that uber has become an easy way to ditch the late night pick-ups, the I don't feel like picking you up at so and so's house. But I have seen kids use uber because they don't feel like walking the 1/2 mile home from school, or they want to move to another house on a Saturday night where there are no parents, and think this is a sneaky way of doing it.  This is enabling your teen to be, go, do whatever they feel like it, whenever they feel like it.  Parents be damned!! Because truly, how many of you really check your credit card for uber charges specifically from your teen. This is a 21st century issue for entitled teens who are impatient, sometimes lazy and a bit sneaky, and for parents who finally have a secure way of moving their kids around when they don't want to! Lots of great stuff happens in the car with your teens, observing them with their friends, spontaneous conversation or trips for coffee or ice cream, and TIME!! Time is a very precious commodity these days. Don't outsource your time with your teens.

And lastly when the time comes, let them know that mediocrity is not acceptable for college when everyone in the family sacrifices for their ability to go. A little guilt never hurt! And more importantly, obstacle and challenge make the journey to success so much more meaningful.

In this world of plastic and cyber-money it is a challenge to to teach kids about the value of money. It will serve both of you well in the future!!

PS Booking seminars for the spring, invite me to your school, church, temple, community group, or even your home for a fun, informative "get down" about teens! Also do you have a "quick question"
Purchase and bank 60 minutes of phone coaching time with me, and call when you need it. Sometimes 10 minutes at a time is all you need when a time-sensitive issue comes up. Contact me at joani@joanigeltman.com

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Understanding What Stresses Your Teen Out

Below is a list of stressors that a group of high school students cited as causing them the most stress. It would be really interesting if you asked your teen what things on this list caused them to stress. You might find out some information you didn't know. Teens are not always good at articulating what's bothering them, especially boys. Asking them to tell you what's wrong when you see a long face, or when you get a snarky response to a simple question almost always is answered with a loud "NOTHING JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!" This list at least provides them with some options. You can introduce this by saying: " I just read this list of things that teens stress out about, I'm really interested to see what you think about this list and whether these are things that are hard for you too." 

Perhaps you will find out something new. Beware of falling into the parent fix-it mode. As in "wow, I didn't know that this was a problem, how about if I..., or how about if you......." Your teen will not like that, and will shut you down so fast your head will spin. Certainly respond, but with a: "Wow, you are carrying around a lot stuff, that must get really hard sometimes. I didn't realize that X was an issue. Do you want to talk about it? or can I help in any way?" And them just leave it be if they don't want to get into with you. At least now you have some new information, and every now and then you can ask them: " so how's it going with X, you mentioned a few weeks ago that it was really stressing you out? Anything I can do to help?" 

You can't always get your teen to talk but at least they'll know that you'll listen.

Here's the list:

Academic Rigors (including Homework, Tests, etc.)
Sports  (including school, town and club)
Sports Fees (including uniforms, banquet, senior gifts, etc.)
Extra-curricular Activities (including drama, chorus, clubs, etc.)
Lack of Study/Organizational Skills
Teachers who do not provide a syllabus
College - Demands of the Process and Stress of Outcomes
Body Image
Relationships (including family, friends, boyfriend, and teachers)
Health Issues  (including sports injuries) 
Financial Difficulties
Loss of Home
Part-time Jobs
Internet/Cell Phone/ 24/7 Connectedness
Family Member Illness
Elderly Relative Caretaking
Getting Driver’s License—can’t do HW or sleep in the car anymore
Parent’s (Unrealistic) Expectations
Student’s (Unrealistic) Expectations

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Trauma Of The Wake Up Call

There are those teenagers who never need a wake up call, god love em! But for most parents mornings are traumatic. The pit in your stomach feeling of here we go again. the abuse, the yelling, the cajoling, the threatening, none of which really works. Here's the thing, your kids will eventually get up. They know that, and you know that. But as long as your are a willing partner and enabler, they will depend on you to make sure that happens! Works for them!!! But starting your day this way every day, does not work for you!!

Let them know today what you will and won't do to help them with the new morning wake-up

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. DO NO LET THEM CALL UBER UNLESS THE ACCOUNT USES THEIR DEBIT CARD AND MONEY!!! (SEE NOTE BELOW)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
NOTE: I have recently been made aware that teens are using UBER as their own private limousine service. Thanks mom and dad for making it so easy for me to be entitled and lazy!! I know driving kids hither and yon is a pain in the ass, but that is just part of the parenting job description. Allowing your kids to get rides on demand feeds their already entitled little egos that "I want what I want when I want it!!!" DON'T DO IT. Trust me you will regret it. I will write further about this in a blog next week.

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.

PS: Don't forget this Sunday I will be doing a Facebook live broadcast 8 PM. Join me for Joani's Ten Minute Teen Troubleshooting Parenting Tip: The Crossing The Line Fight!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Please Stop yelling

Are you a serial yeller? Do your teens know how to push you past the point of no return? Have you noticed that the more out of control you get, the calmer you teen becomes? Yelling does not work! Neither does yelling in combination with taking everything away you just gave your teen for a holiday gift like the new smartphone, Ipad, Itouch, or laptop. If you find yourself yelling you have already lost the battle. It's time to put up the white flag and surrender.

I met with a couple recently, engaged in a battle with their teen daughter that seems likely to last forever unless someone blinks. The daughter has basically learned that she doesn't have much to lose, since everything that gets taken away just gets given back in time, and she can yell as loud as and as mean as her parents, particularly her mom. The more unlikable this teen becomes, the more frequent and louder these arguments are. And by unlikeable, I mean entitled, full of attitude and disrespect beyond all reasonable boundaries.  Because of this, few nice words are shared between them. The daughter has had some challenges this year, starting a new school and being separated from all her friends, yet she has continued to make good grades, and has become involved in activities in this new arena. No small task for a 15 year old. But because she is such a brat at home, the good stuff is getting lost in the scuffle. So what's happening here. Mom and daughter share a common personality trait. They are strong, assertive women. See how well we can re-frame something negative to something positive!

If you are a person who likes to be in control, the teen years will be a huge challenge for you. If you have a teen who has a strong personality, just like mom and/or dad, double that challenge, and if your teen has watched and learned over the years how you get people to do what you want, than watch out, you have hit the triple crown whammy! They are paying you the highest compliment: imitation being the highest form of flattery!

If you want your teen to stop be 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.!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Do You Expect Too Much?

I read this letter in my morning paper in the Ask Amy Column:
Dear Amy: I am a sophomore in high school. Last semester was terribly stressful. I have many amazing friends who care about schoolwork and grades. We often study together at lunch. However, chemistry was really a struggle.
My father does not accept grades below a solid B. I ended up with a B in the class, but I did not do well on the final. I understand that I should have done more to save my grades during the semester, such as go to tutoring.
Every day when I come home from school he screams at me for my grades. This semester, I will try harder to get good grades and concentrate, especially on chemistry. I don't know how to fix this problem, because I get super anxious and start having trouble breathing. One time I started crying in class.
Any advice on how to be more independent about my grades? I want dad to care about how I do in school, but I don't want a bad relationship with him.
— Trying

Could this be your teen? When you see that B without a plus next to it, do you hyperventilate and worry that your teen is screwing his/her chances for college, or do you think in your head, they just didn't work hard enough. 

Here's the truth, most people are not only NOT good in everything, but they are also NOT interested in everything.   If your teen is a nice kid, works hard, is engaged and involved with friends and school, has a few subjects that really turn them on, and is not only NOT an all A, B+  student and might occasionally even get a C every now and then, they are absolutely NOT a slacker! 

When teens feel this kind of grade pressure from a parent it actually can lead to the opposite affect. When a teen feels anxious and pressured to please, that anxiety can actually interfere with learning. So a grade that doesn't meet with your expectations can actually be your fault!!!  So lighten up if your teen is like this girl. If your teen puts in effort, is conscientious, and engaged, change up your expectations. Getting an honor roll report card does absolutely NOT correlate with success as an adult. Being engaged fully in ALL that life has to offer does!