Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Teens and Porn 101

Read and then we'll talk

I know this is not a fun topic. But it is a topic that must be discussed. 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. And even scarier is the world we now live in with daily accusations of sexual assault and harassment about the people in our lives who are supposed to be our role models!!

Because of teen's easy access to porn on smartphones, IPADs, and laptops, parents are very much out of the loop. It used to be 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 do whatever a boy wants. College campus's, high schools AND middle schools 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. This is an uncomfortable topic. But in our current culture we are now learning that respect for women is not something that is a given. It needs to start being taught at a young age, and never stop. It is modeling what goes on your own home, and with your friends, and it is using the daily barrage of news stories as teaching lessons. It is talking and talking and talking until maybe you are blue in the face.

Watch this video with your boys. Talk with them again and again and again. The second link is a fantastic website with a tutorial about how to talk with your teen about porn. Great summer reading!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Rascist Texts=Serious Consequences

Kyle Kashuv is an extremely bright 18 year old graduating senior from Stoneman Douglas High School in the Florida suburb where the horrendous school shooting of 2018 occurred. Kyle had high hopes of attending Harvard University. And yay!!!! Kyle was admitted to Harvard!! A dream come true!! Until his offer of admission was rescinded. What could Kyle have done that made Harvard change their mind. It seems when Kyle was 16, two years ago, he and his friends were letting off steam on Google docs, texting each other back and forth. (texts that are unknown and impossible to read from a parent's point of view. (see blog link at bottom of this post for help on this topic) Kyle's texts in particular were extremely colorful, replete with repeated N words and other racial slurs as well as anti-Semitic language. According to Kyle, in retrospect, they were just stupid 16 year old boys trying to be as outrageous as they could be with each other, privately. Except it was not as private as he thought it was.

As usually happens with teens and social media, this conversation was passed around to various friends, cause was funny!!! and someone screen shot the texts. Cause... you know it might come in handy some day. Well that day came, maybe it was a fellow friend or just another student who did not get into his/her dream school, and was pissed and jealous that Kyle gets into Harvard, an amazing privilege, and how is that fair, after all the heinous and terrible racist and anti-Semitic things he wrote, this student might have thought. And so this student goes back into the texts and photo screenshots he/she has saved for just this kind of thing and sends it off to Harvard thinking/hoping that this might effect Kyle's acceptance. It did! Harvard has been quite consistent in the past when they are presented evidence of questionable moral character of an incoming student. A similar instance happened a few years ago when it came to the admission's office attention that a bunch of accepted boys were making sexist and misogynistic comments about the accepted girls whose pictures they found on some incoming student list. This kind of conduct does not fit with Harvard's expectations.

Kyle is pissed to say the least. He says this is unfair treatment. He was a stupid 16 year old boy, and especially after the shootings he has taken a good hard look at himself, and he is really really sorry. That may be true, but Harvard doesn't care, this is an expectation that is spelled out pretty clearly in admission policy, moral decency and the right to take away the privilege of attending when a moral lapse has been identified.

Has Kyle changed? Does he deserve to be un-admitted? Maybe yes, maybe no. For my purposes it doesn't really matter. What really matters is that kids need to understand that WHATEVER they write, WHATEVER photos they have taken are not and will never be private!!!! This is a very hard lesson to teach, but teach it you must. Revenge is so sweet. And though a teen might have shared these texts or photos with their "absolute best friends" those friends can turn on you on a dime. And when those questionable texts and photos are revealed to people who have the power to make decisions about their lives, the gig us up. It is now out of their control. It goes without saying that all parents hope that the values of respect for all people they have taught to their kids would translate to not writing these kinds of horrible things in the first place. But yet they do!

Ah the unexpected consequences of trying to be funny and impulsive, as many teens are. They do not think before they "speak." Social networking has turned us all into aspiring stand-up comedians. One important lesson though is you gotta know your audience!

Here is the article about kyle and Harvard.

"Nearly 80% of employers research job applicants and 70% have rejected candidates because of their online profile." Let the parent lectures begin!!!

If your teen is starting to think about getting a job or internships they need to beware. Or how about looking to become a camp counselor? Perhaps that camp director is social media savvy, and goes on your teen's twitter, or instragram. (you know how teens are so selective about friending people)  If your teen has been posting obscenity laden quips, sarcastic rants or drunken exploits or sexy pics, you better tell them that might not look so good to that pizza store owner or to a camp director, who is looking for a wholesome camp counselor. Or, how about that highly competitive internship, looking for Mr or Ms responsible? I don't think they want to read that "man I got wasted and ....."

Perhaps your teen is will be applying to colleges in the near future.  This is a tough college market. And sometimes that decision might come down to what admission officers have found during their social media sleuthing! Hello Kyle!

This is definitely something that is not on your teen's radar. Someone has to put it there, and it is you!!! As Crosby Stills Nash and Young sing...."Teach, your children well."

Below are more articles about social networking gone bad. Here is how you might use these to teach your kids about cleaning up their act!

You might have them read these articles, and say: You  know honey, I get that posting outrageous stuff on instagram is fun, and reading all your friends crazy stuff is also fun, but the reality is that it makes your life an open book to college admissions people, potential jobs and internship employers. I wouldn't want something you think is funny but maybe insensitive or offensive to an objective reader, get in the way of getting what you want. I think it's time to do some "housecleaning." As you go through all your postings, think like a potential boss, or admission counselor, and ask the question: "What impression am I getting about this student, employee from their sites?" You wouldn't want them to say:"wow this kid seems to party a lot, that would probably affect their ability to work, or they use a lot of foul language and sexually explicit language, they don't show much respect for woman or men, I wouldn't want them interacting with my staff, or they seem kind of sarcastic and mean" Help your teens to ask the right questions and send them on their way with a Mr Clean power eraser! And teach them that their friends can be their own worst enemies. Just because they are good friends today does not mean they will be good friends tomorrow. Revenge is sweet!

Here is my blog on google docs!

So you have a lot to read. Luckily it's vacation time!!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

When A Punishment Causes More Harm Than Good!!

A recent story garnered my attention regarding the effectiveness of "laying down the law." Parenting a teen is particularly challenging when it comes to finding consequences that both communicate to your teen that certain choices they make come with consequences, and at the same time giving consequences that don't destroy the relationship that you have with your teen. Because truly, in the long run, it is the relationship that you have with your teen that will ultimately motivate their behavior. If a teen feels that everything they really care about has already been taken away, there is no motivation for them to change their behavior.

For example, one parent recently told me that in order for their kids to get cellphones, they must bring home all "A" report cards. Their younger children (not teens) for whom pleasing their parents was still an underlying motivator, rose to the occasion. The older teen, 14, not so much. Getting all "A's in middle school or high school is an unrealistic goal for most teens. Their lives are generally full of many things, friends, activities, and the need to just veg to take care of their overloaded brain full of too many thoughts, too many feelings and too many worries. For this teen, knowing that getting all "A's" was not a goal he had for himself, and knowing that the all-important cellphone was completely out of reach, just gave up with his academics. After all, what was the point? His anger at his parents, and his need now for a "fine, don't give me a phone, I'll just do no work, and get crappy grades. and show you! Which he did! And the kicker here is that this kid is extremely bright. So here we see that a motivator for one kid, is a complete disincentive for another, and a backfire for the parent.

I want to give you a few tips on setting consequences that have a chance of working.

  1. Any consequence should be time-limited and short. Teens make mistakes, millions of them, it is a truth of this stage. If you choose to use grounding, or taking away computer/phone. Keep the time short. One weekend, or one week, and let your teen know, we get you made a mistake, there was a consequence, now lets start fresh. Part of the conversation needs to include, lets figure out what you can do differently so you don't find yourself having to stay in or not have access to your phone/computer. This problem solving phase is actually wayyyyyyyy more important than the consequence. Punishment alone never, and I mean this, never is what changes behavior. Otherwise why do we have such a high recidivisim rate in our prisons. 
  2. Do not set your teen up to fail. Make sure that your expectations are realistic, remembering that teens are impulsive, emotional, risk-taking, and inexperienced, do not think things through, and do not like to be told what to do.  
  3. Most importantly include your teen in decision making, rather than you being the rule-maker. When your teen can take ownership of the process, they are more likely to follow through. Let's take curfew for an example, if you set the rule, "you have to be home at 10:30, and literally all their friends really do stay out till 11, you may be setting you and your teen up for coming in late. Rather have this converstion: 
Teen: What time do I have to be home?
Parent: What time do you think is fair ? (trust me your teen will not say some ridiculous time, it might be a little later than you initially would have given)
Teen: 11:30
Parent: What do you think I will be worried about if I say yes to 11:30
Teen: Will probably say something like, "you're worried, I will be late, or out doing something you don't won't me to do.
Parent: Yes those things do worry me. What are YOU going to do to make me feel OK about those things? (This is where your teen has do some thinking. and that is a good thing. He/she is motivated to think, because they see some room for compromise here.
Teen: How about if I call you 1/2 hour before at 11 to let you know I will be home by 11:30 (if they don't say that, you can help them come up with this or another plan)
Parent: That sounds good, so what will the consequence be if you don't call me at 11
Teen: They will probably say, I can be grounded for the next night or one night the next weekend. (the consequence is in place, and it is now the teens responsibility to follow through)

This whole process is designed to help teens take responsibility and ownership of their decisions. Now you just have to sit back,and if they are successful, you can praise them with  a job well done, and if they don't follow through, you don't have to say anything, no lecture needed, just a "sorry it didn't work out for you tonight, I look forward to spending the night with you tomorrow or whenever the next weekend night is. That's it, no fighting , just a little shrug of the shoulders, over and out.

PS Is your teen home for the summer? Why not host an Ask The Expert Party and I'll come over for coffee or a glass of wine and help you and your friends learn how to get through the summer without going crazy from your teen. call 781-910-1770 for more info!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Why Is My Teen Demanding and Full Of Entitlement?

Teens are by definition demanding, narcissistic, and spoiled. Why? Because they do literally think about themselves almost exclusively all the time. Their newly developed brain can be held somewhat responsible for this. As the teen brain grows, it allows teens to think in ways they have never thought before. For the first time teen's are spending hours and hours thinking about themselves and the people in their lives. Being introspective is like a drug. There is no right answer, and there are endless possibilities to explain their behavior and the behavior of their friends. If I do or say this, than maybe this could happen, but if I do that, than that could happen. They have become the center of their own universe, which is a major shift from when you their parents, were the center of their universe. And like all good narcissists, they only see the world in terms of how it affects them. So if you are late picking them up from school, and they had to hang around by themselves, because all their friends had already left, than you have perpetrated a heinous crime, even if the cause was traffic beyond your control, a meeting that went late, or a flat tire. Honestly, they have no sympathy, no empathy, just anger at you making them feel like a loser somehow for leaving them standing alone for someone to see what a loser they are.

The good news, is that this is temporary insanity, unless, and this is a big UNLESS you fall victim to their accusations.!  DO NOT feel that you have in any way screwed up because guess what...shit happens, and you are not to blame, and you do not have to accept blame and then feel that for some reason you have to make up for all your supposed inadequacies by giving into the insatiable demands your teen, in a narcissistic haze put on you. On the other hand, and equally important, is you don't have to lecture your teen ad nauseam about their lack of empathy etc etc. And here is the best tip I can offer in these situations when your teen accuses you of something you absolutely know is not true, and is a function of this acute case of me me me me. You simply look at them, give a little smile, a head tilt, and shoulder shrug. No more no less. Nothing you are going to say will be heard anyway. They won't be this way forever unless you reinforce the behavior with feeling and acting guilty.

Free at least, free at last.. No worries, your kids will eventually shed their self-centered skin and become the loving, caring, kind person you know to be in there!

Do you work for a large company? I'd love to give one of my mini-seminars to you and your fellow staff members. My lunch time talks are extremely popular and can be tailored to meet the needs of parents with kids of all ages. email me: or call 781-910-1770