All posts in Teens & Tweens

Be Patient. Your Child is Remarkable.

This is a personal story and for those of you who know or have been following me, you know that I don’t share much outside of the classroom, and can appreciate that this is a rare occurrence. However, I think sometimes those of us with older kids, can share a bit of our experience to help younger parents along the parenting path. I know how much I cherished hearing about the ups and downs from the parents I respected who had older kids.

So Here Goes

Brady SlidingOur youngest son has always marched to his own drum. He is a maverick of sorts. He does not care in the least if people are mad at him, he isn’t easily influenced by the normal social pressures. He trusts himself more than anyone else, he never complains, blames, or makes excuses. He owns his mistakes and his successes. He is nearly impossible to read, but has a gentle and giving heart that is easily broken by injustice. I was one of those parents who thought it would be super cool to have a kid like Brady, until I actually got one and then I was like “what the hell do I do now?’ because none of the rules, none of the guidelines, none of the strategies work to influence this kid.  So, I did what I always do – I put all my eggs in two baskets. The first was on maintaining and cultivating a healthy, respectful relationship with him and the second was to foster his independence in any way I could and that meant backing off – which (if you know me, you know) isn’t easy for me.

Determined Resolve

Before I get to the punch line, here is a little background. School came easily to Brady. He figured out by the 5th or 6th grade that he could just listen in class, or read the assignment without ever doing the homework and pull an A on his tests. He determined early on that if he could understand the material and prove that by acing the tests and contributing to class discussion, it didn’t make sense for him to do the homework, so he didn’t. Of course this caused chaos at school. We were told that he HAD to do the homework, that his grades were based on the completion of homework. We argued, but in the end, we lost that battle. We tried to convince Brady to play the game as it wouldn’t take him long to knock off the homework, but he wouldn’t budge. In the end we backed him up and told his teachers they would have to find a way to work with Brady. They could ether find a way to motivate him, punish him for his decision or decide that understanding the material was more important than passing in homework.

We had hoped that by early high school he would change his attitude and decide that it was worth doing the homework if it meant getting in to a reputable college and qualifying for some serious scholarship money. In fact, in some of our dreams we imagined him going on to get his Masters and then a PhD and then perhaps teaching at a prestigious college. By the end of his sophomore year, we were living firmly in reality and in senior year he announced that he was done with his formal education and would be leaving school. GULP. He talked and we listened and we knew that his decision was made. We were not going to fight with him and so we agreed that if he was willing to get his GED and take the SATs on the off chance that one day he might want to go to college, he would have our support. And so he did and at 17-years-old he left for a four-month trek in Nepal. (Read more about this experience – here.)

Nepal to California

He relished his time in Nepal and on returning he promptly packed a suitcase and announced that he was moving from our small town in Vermont to Berkley, CA to live with his older brother. Wow. We were shocked, and a bit disheartened that he hadn’t changed his mind about college and yet, just a wee bit hopeful that when he got to Berkley and was surrounded by all those intellectuals, that his passion for learning would kick in and he would announce that he was applying to a University. Nope. He wasn’t interested in anything other than working and playing, but mostly working – in kitchens. Any kitchen. He started off at Subway because that is all he could get and he wasn’t even 18-years-old. He moved from there to a little diner that served mediocre diner food. He picked up a second job and began working between 60 and 80 hours a week. He didn’t have a car so he hoofed it, rode a bike, got a taxi or took the BART. No college, but industrious as hell. Other than getting mugged a few times he didn’t ask us for anything. He managed his finances, his friends, his family, his leisure time, his hours and his work schedule.

At about 20-years-old he hit the wall. He was tired, discouraged and well, confused. We talked and he pitched the idea of going to culinary school. Why YES, yes indeed, what a great idea. And so we jumped through hoops, he enrolled and just when it was time to send in the tuition check, he let us know that he wasn’t going. He let us know that he had pulled himself out of his funk and had found a new job he was excited about and that would be his culinary education, in the trenches like so many other chefs before him. We were deflated but not defeated. This kid is resilient. No, he is more than that, he is everything a person can be who can get up off the floor, battered and bruised and move himself into a new and exciting adventure with not a single look back. Remarkable to behold.

My Parenting Goal

I have said for years, that when I was parenting I had one goal in mind. That goal was to ensure I did everything I could to enhance the relationship I had with my kids so that when they were adults, and they had the choice to call and share big news with me, they would call because they wanted to, not because they felt obliged to.

Brady is now 22-years-old and a few days ago he called with big news. He had just left an interview for a sous-chef position with a four-star restaurant in the Bay area and he wanted to share his excitement with me. He was on the BART traveling home and so we texted back and forth. Me with my questions and he with his excitement at the possibility of working in a stellar restaurant with a more than decent salary and the potential to become a head chef by the time he was 25-years-old. I cried as I typed. I thanked every force out in the Universe that helped me stay true to parenting Brady in the only way that made sense for him. I thanked all those parents with older kids who kept encouraging me to trust him, to let him pave the way and for me to follow quietly behind. It wasn’t always easy. In fact, he challenged me in a way none of my other kids did. I am surely a better parent and person because of him.

Be their Champion

So here’s the punch – you, parent out there, reading this crazy blog, you are living with children, who are remarkable. Right now, just as they are. Whether they are making you crazy or pushing you to your limits and making you shake your head because you cannot figure them out. Trust me when I say, your kids know what they are doing. It may not look like it to you and me, but these kids know and if we can stand behind them and be their champion, they will surely share this adventure with us and it will make all the uncertainty and confusion and chaos worth it.

Take a look at the munchkins living in your home and ask yourself, what are you willing to do today to ensure you get the phone call with the big news? Because if you don’t start preparing for that day today, you will surely miss it.

Your Kids WILL See Porn

I receive so many great questions from parents each week and now, with their permission, I will be sharing them with our parenting community along with my thoughts on the subjects. I think it’s important that we leverage our collective experiences and as the Adlerian community would say, you can solve problems one at a time or you can solve the problem one time. Here is to making life simpler for everyone in our community.

trust child

I received an email from a distraught and frightened mom the other day who discovered her 11-year-old son had searched “sex” and “naked girls” on his computer and had ultimately seen pornographic images and videos. This is not the first time I have heard from a parent in this situation, and it won’t be the last. So hold on to your hats, as most of you know, I don’t hold back.

Sex and porn

Two topics I mention many times in classes, blogs, presentations, and my books because this is the
world our kids live in and the world we must parent from. If you have kids ages 11 and older they have most likely seen porn. They might be looking at it right now up in their room on their laptop. Did you hear me? YOUR KID IS LOOKING AT PORN. Don’t fool yourself by thinking that your sweet little 11-year-old son would NEVER, doesn’t even know it exists, and is satisfied with the birds and the bees talk that you had two years ago. He has seen porn. She has seen porn. Yes, this applies to our daughters as well. Children are curious about sex. They are curious about body parts. They hear about oral sex and might even have some friends who have experienced it.

Overcome your fears and release the judgement

This is normal. This is natural. This is the world our kids live in. The question is will you be part of this world or not? It is time to be honest with yourself, muster up the courage to face reality head on, and be involved in this stage of your child’s development. You (and more importantly your child) will be more prepared to face the reality in which we live. Are you going to sit back and hope they don’t come across porn or are you going to assume they will (or already have) seen it and face that reality with a clear head and open heart?

Identify the part that trips you up. Identify the fear that keeps you in denial. Identify the belief that paralyzes you. Identify, embrace and solve that problem, so you can support your child as he/she develops and matures.

Get Educated

Remember, knowledge is power. As a parent, you want knowledge on the subject so you feel confident talking about it with your kids and you want your kids to have knowledge so they can make informed decisions. This applies to every area of life with kids – sex, porn, technology, drugs, cheating, stealing, relationships, and so on.

Specifically when it comes to talking to your kids about porn Amy Lang has a great article, How to Talk to Kids about Pornography on her blog, Birds and Bees and Kids.
https://birdsandbeesandkids.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-pornography-2/

Also check out Laci Green on youtube. She doesn’t hold back and is in touch with the world today and the issues our kids are facing.
https://www.youtube.com/user/lacigreen/videos

Talk to friends and create a support system

If you are still feeling a bit sheepish, reach out to your friends. I usually tell you the opposite- Don’t bother asking friends and neighbors “advice” about your kids because your kids are different than your friends kids and you are a different parent. Two kids could be displaying the same behavior, but for completely different reasons, so what works for Suzy and her kid won’t work for you and yours. However, with a topic like sex/porn, all parents will walk through this in a similar fashion. Most parents are nervous, unsure, terrified, unclear on how to talk to their kids about this and tend to just start lecturing and putting stricter “rules” alongside the technology usage. So in this case, it can be a great thing to talk to your friends. You’ll find you are not alone and you might learn a thing or two, yourself. It’s also important that while you don’t shame your kids during this phase, that you also don’t shame yourself. The mother who reached out to me most recently expressed feelings of shame, failure, embarrassment, and was just defeated. She didn’t talk to anyone about it because she felt like it reflected so badly on her and that her friends would think less of her for being a mom who “let that happen on her watch.” Get over it parents – Be real with eachother. Stop judging others and they will stop judging you. Your kids are their own separate entity – not always a direct reflection of you. And again, the fact of the matter is, your friends kids have probably seen porn too and they just don’t know it. Stick together on this journey. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It IS something to be educated on and prepared to handle with your children.

Jump in and try it

When I tell parents to “talk to your kids about sex/porn,” I don’t mean just once. I mean constantly – like every other day. Talk to them about it so much and so casually, that the topic is just as normal to talk about as what they ate for lunch or how they’re doing on their science project. Ask questions about what he knows. Offer information before she asks for it. I’m not suggesting you drill your kids with questions and accusations. I’m suggesting the opposite. You’re at the counter chopping carrots with your daughter and you might say, “so, who’s having sex in the 7th grade?” Or you’re in the car with your son and you have the chance to say, “Let’s talk oral sex.” He knows that it’s out there and he’s heard about it. Ask him about that. Keep talking and keep asking questions, until your kid is so over the topic that when a friend suggests they look at naked pictures online your kid says, “no thanks, I’m all set with that. My mom talks about it every single day.” And then chat about it some more. It’s not a sit down, eye to eye, serious and scary conversation. It’s just a reality – it’s sex, it’s hormones, it’s puberty, it’s masturbating, it’s porn. It’s also love, and relationships, and intimacy and pleasure and boundaries and body awareness and communication.

Remember, our kids are growing and changing and investigating. If we want to receive an invitation into their lives and stay connected as a trusted ally, so that we can be the source of their sexual education, it takes work. Work on our parts to stay open and non-judgmental, to parent from a place of confidence and poise, create a support system and keep practicing. You won’t get it right the first time (or maybe even the second or third), but keep at it. I trust you would rather be honest with yourself and take steps to connect with your sons and daughters about what their reality is, instead of hiding under your covers pretending that it won’t happen again or didn’t happen at all.

#growingagrownup

I’d love to hear from more of you. If you have a question or an area that is challenging you, please go to our contact form and send it in. We’ll do our best to answer it via email and we’d love it if you’d give us permission to post on our blog to help others.

Siblings Part 3: Tips To Bring More Joy

stop the fighting

Watching your kids play nicely together, hearing a shared giggle, watching a potential fight averted, because of some savvy negotiating between your 6 and 8 year old is just about every parent’s idea of a dream come true. But raising kids who truly enjoy each other is a process that takes years. It’s important that parents recognize that building on small moments, bringing a child’s awareness to the moments that “work” with a sometimes pesky sibling, providing situations in which kids can practice solving problems around play, will go a long way in creating sibling relationships that will stay strong and loving for years to come.

Personally, I made the decision when my kids were young, that if I could choose between kids who got along between 2 – 18 and kids who were close from 18 to 80, my choice would be the later. One of the major trip ups for parents around kids getting along when they are young, is the belief that we parents are responsible for those relationships. Maybe if we did more of one thing or less of another, we could guarantee our kids would be each other’s best friends for life – pinky swear. But nothing could be further from the truth. Take a page from your adult experience and trust that by following these easy but powerful 10 tips, you will indeed raise kids who truly enjoy each other’s company more with each passing year. And yes, you will witness this before they leave home.

appreciate

1. Appreciations: Just like suggesting to someone who has a head ache that they drink water, before they run to the doctor for an MRI, using appreciations as a way to combat sibling squabbles is often overlooked because of it’s simplicity. But as a mom who raised 5 kids in a blended family dynamic, this was the key to my kids not only enjoying life together under one roof, but the reason the 5 of them are still as thick as thieves as young adults.

2. Adler’s Golden Rule: “ I use Adler’s “see with their eyes, hear with their ears and feel with their heart” to help my children understand a sibling they are struggling with. Inevitably, there is a moment of empathy and awareness, which translates into a more relaxed and accepting dynamic. This has become the foundation for conversations when one sibling is struggling with another’s choice of behavior.” Mother of 4 children, ages 7 – 16.

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

3. No Blood – No Break – No Foul: “I stay out of every single squabble that doesn’t include blood or break. And yes, it’s tough. Especially in public. It’s easy for parents to get pulled into the tussle and as soon as I’m there, I can see the entire dynamic change. It’s no longer an opportunity for my kids to work together to solve the problem, it’s about me trying to decide who needs to change or do something different and the relationship between the kids takes a psychic hit. I would say, that at this point, my kids spend less than 10% of their time squabbling for more than just a few minutes. They have strategies that work for almost every occasion, including walking away, writing it on the problem board, negotiating and sometimes, just throwing themselves down on the ground and hoping for a sympathetic sibling to concede the toy.” Mother of 3 children, under the age of 5

4. Use Reality as your Guide: “I had kids who were very physical and it really concerned me. I thought that the fighting defined the relationship and it scared me. Over time, as I learned to watch the kids in other situations, I realized that they had a high degree of respect for each other and often times worked together in ways that I overlooked. I think it’s important for parents to really challenge their beliefs about what it means for kids to enjoy each other because truly, I think it can sometimes be a bit Polly-Anna. And today, my kids are as close as any siblings I know.” Mother of 3 children, ages 25 – 19

5. Get an accurate idea of how often your kids get along and how they “do” getting along. Most parents admit that when challenged to do this, they recognize that the kids get along more then they give them credit for. So take a deep breath and relax. Remember to acknowledge when the kids are working together or enjoying each other and be specific so they can use this information again and again.

6. Give them a break from each other. Even kids can get sick and tired of hanging with the same folks for too long. Sometimes it’s that simple. Allow them time alone, with other friends, with parents one-on-one and don’t get caught up in the “it’s not fair” song and dance.

7. If you have friends with older kids (like young teens) leverage them. They can teach your kids the importance of getting along with their siblings in a way that we, the parents, can’t. Hearing a story from a 10, 13 or 16 year old about how awesome they think their sibling is, or a time when their sibling came to their rescue, can go along way in helping shift your child’s perspective towards their pesky sibling.

8. Stop fretting. Most kids do enjoy each other. They might not show it the way you want them too, but they are young, they are doing the best they can. Allow the relationship to grow over time, slowly and naturally. Watch that you aren’t comparing or judging and that your expectations are in line with reality.

9. Keep your own childhood out of the picture. You aren’t raising yourself and over compensating for a lousy relationship with your sister will only guarantee that your kids struggle to create meaningful relationships with each other. If you model for your kids what a healthy relationship looks like, sounds like and feels like, they have a much better chance of establishing a healthy one with their siblings. Trying to force kids to get along usually back fires and causes more fractures not less.

10. Take pictures of the times people are enjoying each other and post them around the house. When kids start to squabble, bring them over to a picture and ask them to remind you of what was happening in the action. Along with this, make sure appreciations during Family Meetings includes when kids are rockin it out together. Remember, whatever you pay attention too – you get more of.

jens kids

Remember to pace yourself. It’s not nearly as important to have young children who have developed the skills which makes it possible for us to get along with people day in and day out for years, as it is to help them build a strong foundation that will grow with them over time and solidify the relationship they have with their brothers and sisters.

Young Adults Leave The Nest, But Not For Long.

 

 

I came up with a motto, a slogan to help me parent. And it was this: It is my job to make sure that when my children turn 18, I have trained them in everything that they need to learn so that they can open the doors, walk over the threshold, and enter young adulthood with confidence and enthusiasm. I have 18 years to prepare them. It is my job to teach them how to run their life so they don’t need me any longer. But so many kids leave home at 18, young adults, and find themselves at college and don’t know how to manage their lives, how to navigate their lives, how to make simple decisions, how to organize. And they’re forced back home. And I can’t think of anything worse for those kids to admit that they couldn’t make it on their own, or for their parents who have to say “come back home,” knowing that in some way it was their fault. If you find a child who has to come home because they couldn’t make it, this is a chance to start fresh. Look back and ask yourself what areas of this child’s life did you do for them because you thought it would be too hard or they would make a mistake or they would make a mistake and it was just easier if you did it for them. And teach them. It’s not going to be fun, because they see themselves as adults, but they already know that they’re missing some of the life skills that they need to be successful. Sit down, have a heart-to-heart, make a list start at the top, and teach them everything they need to now. Set a timeline that says, 6 months or a year from now we’re going to try it again. This is not the worst thing that will happen to you. Together we’re going to figure this out. We’re going to get you ready to go this time. And you’re going to give it another shot.

PRE-ORDER your copy of The Straight Talk On Parenting HERE

Tweens, Technology and…..Sexting

Sexting. Some parents have difficulty just saying the word, never mind admitting that their child might – just might – be participating in it.  Our sweet, innocent 3rd and 4th graders have suddenly become tweens and teens and they are growing up in a world very different than the one most of us grew up in – a world surrounded by technology. Many children will not remember a time when they didn’t have instant access to a friend living half way around the world or the ability to see their grandparents each week via skype. These kiddos can receive an immediate and accurate answer to a question about pre-historic dinosaurs and link classrooms and share poems with students in Ghana and Kansas. This invaluable technology has also introduced our children to texting, social media, youtube, cyberbullying and yes, even sexting.  With the awesome comes the not so awesome.

As parents we can stay in denial and try to convince ourselves that we have the ability to protect and shield our kids from internet dangers like sexting, or we can get educated, grab our courage and meet our kids where they already are – cell phone in hand deciding in a split second whether or not to send a racy picture or post a decidedly inappropriate picture on social media. Contrary to popular belief, technology is NOT the problem. 

The problem is our lack of preparation around this issue, it’s the lack of intelligent conversation we have with our kids that is the problem and it is our fear of the unknown that is the biggest roadblock. Remember our job as parents is to teach, prepare and work along side our kids as they learn to navigate the world of technology filled with all the pluses and minuses.

Parents come to me confused on how to handle the issues surrounding their tween/teen and technology. This subject often either leads to power struggles between parents and their kids that negatively impact the relationship and the entire topic of responsible technology use gets lost in the mix of fighting and battling or it leads to a “if you can’t beat them, give up and let them” attitude with no structure, conversation or boundaries in place. It’s not unusual for me to ask a room full of concerned parents this question as a jumping off point: “What do you know about your child to ensure that you have set up a structure that will work for her?” Silence. “Uh, structure?” Often the story is, “My son turned 13 and all he wanted was a phone. All of his friends have them and he was dying for his own so he could text and stay connected.  Now, just a few months later, it’s a mess. The phone bill is sky high, he’s on the screen all the time, he’s neglecting homework and family. It’s a nightmare.”

Okay. Let’s back this bus up a bit and see if an analogy will make it clear where we get tripped up.

Before handing someone the keys to a car, that person has

  1. Reached a certain age.
  2. Passed drivers education.
  3. Practiced driving for hours with an experienced driver.
  4. Proven they can handle the responsibility of paying for a car or gas.

Right? And even if parents are scared to death that their son or daughter will get behind the wheel of a car and be in a serious accident, we can’t stop them.  We know this and so we accept it. We prepare our kids and we prepare ourselves for the inevitable.  We don’t fight against it – we work with it.  And that is what makes the difference.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to preparing our kids to handle technology. In many cases, parents skip those steps and go right to the “car” – then realize that their child may not have the necessary skills to adequately navigate the tricky terrain of internet use.  When parents can reframe the idea of technology and create a plan for preparing themselves and their kids for its inevitable arrival, everyone wins.

With a specific concern like sexting, the situation becomes a bit more serious and as a result, a parent’s fear factor increases. The idea of talking openly and frequently with kids about sex is tough enough, now we are forced to combine sex and technology in the same conversation. No wonder parents are sidelining these conversations until they can no longer avoid them.  Here’s the thing, no matter what you do to prevent it, there is a strong likelihood that your child will either sext someone or receive a sext from someone. The goal is to come to terms with this and do what you need to do as a parent to prepare yourself so you can discuss the situation openly and honestly with your child and prevention, danger, recovery, restitution and healing from a humiliating experience.

Include technology in the conversations you have with your children about healthy and unhealthy relationships – sexual and not sexual. If you aren’t comfortable talking about the topic, how do you expect your child to open up and talk to you about it?  Our kids need to know we have the confidence to tackle any difficult conversation with love, respect and understanding.

Here are a few tips to make the process easier.

  1. First, do what it takes to find the courage, to talk with your tween/teen about the various scenarios that might come up and how she/he might handle them.
  2. Ask questions. Find out about your teen’s cyber IQ. How tech savvy is she? Does she realize once something gets out there in cyberspace you cannot get it back? Or does she really think that once the image disappears from Snapchat it is gone for good?
  3. Work in other areas of life with your child to ensure that he has the tools to navigate tricky subjects. Does he accept responsibility? Does he value himself and others? Does he practice empathy and respect? Does he crave attention and long to fit in?
  4. Come to fair and reasonable guidelines with your child around technology use and include sexting in the conversation. Have a plan and stick to it. Remember your kids need to know they can trust you. Following through on an agreement demonstrates this. They may be mad at first, but the bigger message is – you do what you say, which means you can be trusted.
  5. Respect your child’s privacy. Have faith in your child’s ability to keep the agreements. This doesn’t mean turn a blind eye to what is going on, but it does mean that you don’t have an app that sends all your children’s texts to your phone, too. Finding out what is on your teen’s cell phone is about trust and respect. If you focus on those aspects of the relationship, your teen will invite you in – on her terms.
  6. Demonstrate your understanding that being a teen is hard enough; Let your child know that you understand and that the added element of technology, social media and sexting is one that you didn’t have to figure out when you were 12, 14, and 17-years-old. It’s more than just saying that you’re there if they need you. If your child does get in trouble, it is what you do next that matters most.

Does your tween/teen have the courage make their own choices and not succumb to peer pressure when it comes to sexting? What can you as the parent do to support your child’s independence in this area?

 

Resources on Sex and Kids

With so much information out there, it can be difficult to approach the topic of sex with your children.  I’ve read my share of books on the subject, and today’s blog post highlights two authors whose expertise is helpful to parents of boys and girls of all ages.

About Michael Thompson

An expert in child and family psychology, Dr. Thompson is the author of nine books and has consulted with hundreds of schools. In his thirty-five years as a clinical psychologist, he has developed incredible insight into the emotional and social development of boys in particular. Read more about Michael Thompson here.

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of  Boys (with Dan Kindlon, Ph.D)

Discussing a nation of boys that is “emotionally illiterate”, Kindlon and Thompson set out to answer the question: “what do boys need that they’re not getting?”
Learn more

It’s a Boy!: Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18 (with Teresa Barker)

In exploring the developmental, psychological, social, emotional, and academic life of boys, Thompson and journalist coauthor Teresa Barker identify key transitions in psychological and emotional growth, and the many ways in which boys attempt to define themselves.
Learn more

Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children (with Cathe O’Neill-Grace and Lawrence J Cohen)

Thompson and Grace demonstrate that children’s friendships are alternately intimate and intense, and cruel.  These two experts use a combination of research and their own experience in schools to give parents a deeper understanding of the motives and meanings of children’s social behavior.
Learn more

About Leonard Sax

Dr. Sax is a longtime psychologist and family physician, and has worked with hundreds of schools and spoke on child and adolescent development in eleven countries.  He uses scientific research and his own experience as a parent and a doctor to gain insight into the unique challenges our kids face today.

Boys Adrift

Dr. Sax argues that a combination of social and biological factors is creating an environment that is literally toxic to boys. Outside forces such as overemphasis on reading and math as early as kindergarten, too much time spent playing video games, and overlooked endocrine disturbances are actually causing damage to boys’ brains.  The result is a generation of men who are less resilient and less ambitious than their older peers. However, Dr. Sax tempers his argument with simple remedies and action plans that parents can begin to implement right away – and includes inspiring stories of success.
Learn more

Girls On the Edge

Young women are at risk today. In Girls on the Edge, Dr. Leonard Sax shares stories of girls who look confident and strong on the outside but are fragile within. Sax provides parents with tools to help girls become confident women, along with practical tips on helping your daughter choose a sport, nurturing her spirit through female-centered activities, and more.
Learn more

Resources for 2014

Oh those lazy days of summer…or maybe not. Regardless of how you are able to spend your summer days, here is a recommended reading list for all of you. There a many experts in the field of parenting and many who have specific expertise. Bookmark this blog and when you have the time you can peck away at this list of my absolute favorites. Next week I’ll post my top resources on Kids and Sex.

Protecting The Gift
by Gavin de Becker

In Protecting the Gift, Gavin de Becker shares with readers his remarkable insight into human behavior, providing them with a fascinating look at how human predators work and how they select their targets and most important, how parents can protect their children. He offers the comforting knowledge that, like every creature on earth, human beings can predict violent behavior. In fact, he says, parents are hardwired to do just that.
Learn more

Mindset
by Carol Dweck

Every so often a truly groundbreaking idea comes along. This is one. Mindset explains:
Why brains and talent don’t bring success
How they can stand in the way of it
Why praising brains and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment, but jeopardizes them
How teaching a simple idea about the brain raises grades and productivity
What all great CEOs, parents, teachers, athletes know
Mindset is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in decades of research on achievement and success—a simple idea that makes all the difference.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.
Learn more

Children the Challenge
by Rudolf Dreikurs

Children: The Challenge gives the key to parents who seek to build trust and love in their families, and raise happier, healthier, and better behaved children. Based on a lifetime of experience with children–their problems, their delights, their challenges–Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs, one of America’s foremost child psychiatrists presents an easy to follow program that teaches parents how to cope with the common childhood problems that occur from toddler through preteen years. This warm and reassuring reference helps parents to understand their children’s actions better, giving them the guidance necessary to discipline lovingly and effectively.
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Nurture Shock
by Po Bronson

What if we told you…
that dishonesty in children is a positive trait
that arguing in front of your kids can make you a good role model
and that if you praise your children you risk making them fail
…and it was all true?

Using a cutting-edge combination of behavioural psychology and neuroscience, award-winning journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman have produced an innovative, counter-intuitive read that will change the way we interact with our children forever.

They demonstrate that for years our best intentions with children have been our worst ideas, using break-through scientific studies to prove that our instincts and received wisdom are all wrong. Nurtureshock is the Freakonomics of childhood and adolescence, exploring logic-defying insights into child development that have far-reaching relevance for us all.
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Queen Bees and Wannabees
by Rosalind Wiseman

When Rosalind Wiseman first published Queen Bees & Wannabes, it fundamentally changed the way that adults looked at girls’ friendships and conflicts. From how they choose their best friends, how they express their anger, their boundaries with boys, and their relationships with parents—Wiseman showed how girls of every background are profoundly influenced by their interactions with each other.
Now, Wiseman has revised and updated her groundbreaking book for a new generation of girls, and explores:
How girls’ experiences before adolescence impact their teen years, future relationships, and overall success
The different roles girls play in and outside of cliques as Queen Bees, Targets, and Bystanders, and how this defines how they and others are treated
Girls’ power plays—from fake apologies to fights over IM and text message
Where boys fit into the equation of girl conflicts and how you can help your daughter better hold her own with the opposite sex
Checking your baggage—recognizing how your experiences impact the way you parent, and how to be sanely involved in your daughter’s difficult, yet common social conflicts
Packed with insights on technology’s impact on Girl World and enlivened with the experiences of girls, boys, and parents, the book that inspired the hit movie Mean Girls offers concrete strategies to help you empower your daughter to be socially competent and treat herself with dignity.
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Masterminds and Wingmen
by Rosalind Wiseman

In 2002, Rosalind Wiseman wrote Queen Bees and Wannabes and established a new way to understand girls’ social dynamics. Now Wiseman has done the same for boys. Wiseman’s new book, Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World, shows what’s really happening in boys’ lives. It creates a new language and analytical framework to understand the power of boys’ social hierarchies and how these influence their decision-making and emotional well-being. Wiseman’s hard-hitting challenge to parents and educators establishes a road map to reach boys and help them to grow into the best brothers, friends, students, athletes, boyfriends, and sons they can be.
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The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence
by Rachel Simmons

In The Curse of the Good Girl, Rachel Simmons argues that girls are pressured to embrace a version of selfhood that sharply curtails their power and potential. Unerringly nice, polite, modest, and selfless, the Good Girl is an identity so narrowly defined that it’s unachievable. When girls fail to live up to these empty expectations—experiencing conflicts with peers, making mistakes in the classroom or on the playing field—they become paralyzed by self-criticism, stunting the growth of vital skills and habits. Simmons traces the poisonous impact of Good Girl pressure on development and provides a strategy to reverse the tide. At once illuminating and prescriptive, The Curse of the Good Girl is an essential guide to contemporary girl culture and a call to arms from a new front in female empowerment.
Looking to the stories shared by the women and girls who attend her workshops, Simmons shows that pressure from parents, teachers, coaches, media, and peers erects a psychological glass ceiling that begins to enforce its confines in girlhood and extends across the female lifespan. The curse erodes girls’ ability to know, express, and manage a complete range of feelings. It expects girls to be selfless, limiting the expression of their needs. It requires modesty, depriving them of permission to articulate their strengths and goals. It diminishes assertive body language, quiets voices and weakens handshakes. It touches all areas of girls’ lives and follows many into adulthood, limiting their personal and professional potential.
We have long lamented the loss of self-esteem in adolescent girls, recognizing that while the doors of opportunity are open to twenty-first-century American girls, many lack the confidence to walk through them. In The Curse of the Good Girl, Simmons provides the first comprehensive action plan to silence the curse and bolster the self. Her inspiring message: that the most critical freedom we can win for our daughters is the liberty not only to listen to their inner voice, but to act on it.
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It’s Okay Not To Share
by Heather Shumaker

Although it flips convention on its head, It’s OK Not to Share… is based on child development and emerging neuroscience research. Discover concrete skills to help your child prevent bullying, channel active energy, express feelings appropriately and much more. It’s designed to make you rethink what you thought you knew about parenting and give you saner days.
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Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years
by Michelle Icard

 

Middle School Makeover is a guide for parents and educators to help the tweens in their lives navigate the socially fraught hallways, gyms, and cafeterias of middle school. The book helps parents, teachers, and other adults in middle school settings to understand the social dilemmas and other issues that kids today face. Author Michelle Icard covers a large range of topics, beginning with helping us understand what is happening in the brains of tweens and how these neurological development affects decision-making and questions around identity. She also addresses social media, dating, and peer exclusion. Using both recent research and her personal, extensive experience working with middle-school-aged kids and their parents, Icard offers readers concrete and practical advice for guiding children through this chaotic developmental stage while also building their confidence.
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Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain
by Daniel J. Siegel

In this groundbreaking book, the bestselling author of Parenting from the Inside Out and The Whole-Brain Child shows parents how to turn one of the most challenging developmental periods in their children’s lives into one of the most rewarding. Between the ages of 12 and 24, the brain changes in important and often maddening ways. It’s no wonder that many parents approach their child’s adolescence with fear and trepidation. According to renowned neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel, however, if parents and teens can work together to form a deeper understanding of the brain science behind all the tumult, they will be able to turn conflict into connection and form a deeper understanding of one another. In Brainstorm, Siegel illuminates how brain development affects teenagers’ behaviour and relationships. Drawing on important new research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, he explores exciting ways in which understanding how the teenage brain functions can help parents make what is in fact an incredibly positive period of growth, change, and experimentation in their children’s lives less lonely and distressing on both sides of the generational divide.
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Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children
By Michael G. Thompson, Ph.D. and Catherine O’Neill Grace with Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D.

 

Friends broaden our children’s horizons, share their joys and secrets, and accompany them on their journeys into ever wider worlds. But friends can also gossip and betray, tease and exclude. Children can cause untold suffering, not only for their peers but for parents as well. In this wise and insightful book, psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph.D., and children’s book author Catherine O’Neill Grace, illuminate the crucial and often hidden role that friendship plays in the lives of children from birth through adolescence.
Drawing on fascinating new research as well as their own extensive experience in schools, Thompson and Grace demonstrate that children’s friendships begin early–in infancy–and run exceptionally deep in intensity and loyalty. As children grow, their friendships become more complex and layered but also more emotionally fraught, marked by both extraordinary intimacy and bewildering cruelty. As parents, we watch, and often live through vicariously, the tumult that our children experience as they encounter the “cool” crowd, shifting alliances, bullies, and disloyal best friends.
Best Friends, Worst Enemies brings to life the drama of childhood relationships, guiding parents to a deeper understanding of the motives and meanings of social behavior. Here you will find penetrating discussions of the difference between friendship and popularity, how boys and girls deal in unique ways with intimacy and commitment, whether all kids need a best friend, why cliques form and what you can do about them.
Filled with anecdotes that ring amazingly true to life, Best Friends, Worst Enemies probes the magic and the heartbreak that all children experience with their friends. Parents, teachers, counselors–indeed anyone who cares about children–will find this an eye-opening and wonderfully affirming book.
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If you think I am a competent young adult, stop treating me like an immature child

Growing into competent young adultsSitting in the doctor’s office last week, I overheard a mother and her sixteen-year-old daughter chatting. How do I know she was sixteen-years-old? Because she was talking about the rules that go along with being a new driver, mainly, that she is not allowed to drive anyone under 22-years-old for 6 months. Totally lame in her words.

The topic of their conversation suddenly shifted and before I knew what was happening, their exchange went from casual disdain, to blatant hostility, to full on, clenched teeth verbal warfare about whether or not mom would be going into the exam room with the same sixteen-year-old young woman who was just moments before talking about driving a vehicle.

Question: What might this mom believe about the relationship she has with her daughter that makes it possible for her to see her as a competent adult ready to get behind the wheel of a car, but not mature enough to go into the exam room on her own?

Question: Is this a common phenomenon? Accepting our kids are growing up and becoming competent young adults in some ways – dating, cars, college – and yet refusing to accept that they are growing up in other ways – exam rooms, using manners, choosing friends.

Question: Is needing to be needed as a parent making it difficult to identify these “markers” in our teens’ lives and if so, does that explain the “pushback” we feel as they become more competent young adults?

Question: Does a sixteen-year-old who is old enough to drive and probably date, have the right to decide whether her mother joins her in the exam room?

Question: Do we, as parents who changed diapers, wiped tears away, giggled under covers get confused because our kids will always remain MY child, but not always be A child?

This is just one example of how as parents, in our desire to stay connected to our kids, inadvertently enter into power struggles that push our children further from us. Take a moment and consider all the ways your pre-teen may be showing you that she is ready to be treated more like a competent young adult, than a school-aged-child.

Consider that by letting go just a bit more each day, you are sending the message to your child that you trust her and have faith in her ability to handle her life. Kids who know their parents have faith in their ability to handle the ups and downs of life along with making the daily decisions that go along with being an adult, feel more connected to them. While kids who have hovering parents who continue to hound them with questions, offering opinions and advice, want to run as far away from their parents as possible.

Let’s keep our kids close, by giving them space and supporting their march towards independence.

Denial and Addiction are Co-conspirators

courage-to-doI was part of a collective conversation several months ago that focused on addiction in teens and young adults specifically as it pertains to a parent’s denial of the situation and the effect this denial has on younger children in the home.  It was a brainstorming, sharing, flushing out conversation more than it was a – let’s find a solution to this problem conversation.  Some of us had personal stories to share, others of us were in the addiction profession, others were in the medical and mental health profession and brought a perspective that shed light on the long term implications that accompany denial and the impact on siblings.

As stimulating and important as the conversation was, it soon moved to the back recesses of my mind as other more pressing matters took center stage.  And then I got a call from a friend.  It seems her eldest son is an addict.  Something the family is just now coming to terms with and admitting openly.  Something her friends have known for years.

She talked about the process of moving from denial to acceptance and although this step was easier than she had expected, the fall out of living in denial for so long had taken a toll, actually wreaked havoc on her family.  You see, she has a younger son.  A son who has been watching from the sidelines, from the time he was nine, as his older brother, his idol, fell further into the grip of addiction with parents who refused to respond.  A son who was forced to form his own conclusions about drugs and alcohol and their effectiveness as solutions for life.  He was left alone to contemplate a parent’s role in addressing a difficult situation or refusing to address it for a reason that he could not fathom.  He questioned whether he should be following in his brother’s footsteps or running in the opposite direction – but having no experience in what the opposite direction looked like, he stayed put, in the familiar.  He was alone. And in his loneliness, he turned to denial and a sense of powerlessness toward addiction.  His addiction was more subtle, more conspiratorial that his brothers.  Unlike his older sibling who came home intoxicated throughout middle and high school, he was sober whenever there was even the slightest chance his parents or their friends might encounter him.  He became an expert at covert anesthetizing. And, most troubling, he had more than just booze and drugs to numb his pain.  He found other addictions.  His family remained in denial.  Until, like most addiction stories, someone fell to their knees and hit rock bottom.

The family is finally in full recovery mode, and by that I mean, they are ALL enrolled in a 12 step program, working with family counselors and seeking guidance from clergy, but my friend knows that it will be years before her family is whole again.  Denial will only get you so far.  And then the truth descends like an angry hammer and wipes out all the lies and betrayals and the work of rebuilding begins.

This painful story is worth sharing for only one reason.  I know parents who are, at this very moment in denial.  They deny that their child is a bully.  They deny that their teenage daughter is cutting.  They deny that their seven-year-old is stealing.  They deny that they don’t have a plan for raising their kids in this fast paced world we live in. They deny that their adolescent son is addicted to porn. They deny that their recently pubescent daughter has already had oral sex. They deny that there is booze missing from the liquor cabinet and they refuse to acknowledge the smell of marijuana emanating from the downstairs basement.  They deny they are over their heads and need help, direction and support.

Denial and addiction are co-conspirators.  Our best chance in helping our kids navigate the world of addiction and the world of risky choices is to deny denial a place at the table. Finding the courage to admit and then deal with, whatever challenge is set before us as parents, is sometimes enough to influence the direction our children will move when they are confronted by the sometimes confusing and demanding world they live in.

So take off your goggles.  Find the courage to accept what is really going on in your home.  Take a risk and start a conversation with a child who seems more distant with each passing day.  Trust your gut.  Throw back the drapes and let in the light.  Talk to your kids, challenge yourself, and ask for help.

We are all in this together.  Whether we want to be or not is immaterial.  What happens in your home affects me, affects my community and it ultimately affects the world we live in and above all else, your kids are counting on you.

Kids Developing Worrisome Habits? Stop Blaming the Neighbors.

If we want our children to change their behavior, we must first change ours.Earlier this week, we shared this article on our facebook page. Don’t Text While Parenting — It Will Make You Cranky

For many this proved as a wake up call.  As this article so plainly points out, it is parents, adults, who model unhealthy and addictive behavior when it comes to technology but instead of taking responsibility for our actions and instead of having the courage to admit that our kids are modeling exactly what they see mom and dad doing, we spend hours talking about the neighbors, the kids on the bus, and the negative influence this dangerous technology has on our children.

Whenever parents talk to me about “pesky” behavior or worrisome habits, I remind them that kids are modeling EXACTLY what they are exposed to – by their parents.  It is me, it is you, it is every parent and adult, we must accept that we are role models. If we want our children to change their behavior, we must first change ours.

 Here is an example from my own life:

I am talking to my daughter, Zoe, on Skype. (Yes, that is the two of us many years ago in the picture above.) She has taken a break from her studies and has called to chat about something important that she is discussing in one of her child development classes.  We are deep into a conversation we both care about, sharing ideas, thoughts, concerns, and solutions. I get a facebook message – POP – and Zoe is in mid-sentence. I ignore this distraction for a moment but then I open up the message and think to myself, I will just respond real quick.  Now, I already know that the brain can not multi-task.  (I too, read that scientific study that confirmed what we already know.)  The brain can not successfully focus on two things at the same time. One of the activities or thoughts takes a back seat – it is deemed, “not as important”.  This is what happened to Zoe’s sentence, it got relegated to the “not as important” pile. Suddenly, as I am clicking away to answer this message I notice that Zoe has stopped talking.  I stop typing.

She says “Let me know when you are done and then I will continue with what I was saying.”  No malice in her voice.  “Either talk to me or talk to the other person, but be present for at least one of us.”  Message received loud and clear.

I stopped nagging my kids about their technology the first time Zoe busted me like this.  I used her strategy instead to invite re-engagement with my children and I made damn sure I wasn’t trying to multi-task as they were talking to me.  Even if we were 3000 miles away and I could mute myself so they couldn’t hear me typing to someone else.

The next time you are tempted to complain about the impact of technology in your child’s life, examine your own practices and I think you will find that like everything else, the remedy to this national crisis is looking back at you from the mirror.

Five Ways to Preserve your Teen’s Freedom (and the Relationship)

Be a ChampionI am teaching an Adolescent Class this month, and reminded again how difficult it can be for parents to give their teens the freedom they so desperately yearn for. In the teens’ attempt to break free from their parents and create some autonomy, their parents experience increased stress and as a result, begin tugging at the little freedom their teens do have in an attempt to recreate the closeness they once felt when their teen was a toddler.

If you are the parent of a younger child, the time to start is now. Spend some time learning how you can start supporting your child’s independence in small ways over the course of many years so that when they finally reach the teen years and your instinct is to pull back the reins – you will have experience that tells you – your child can handle this exciting and exhilarating time of life.

Timeline

At infancy, we are connected to our children – body, mind and soul – in a way that will never be duplicated again during their lifetime. We teach ourselves how to listen for small subtle changes in the babies’ cries, we spend hours holding, feeding, changing and just staring at these small wonders. At no other time will we be as connected to a human being as we are to our child during early infancy.

As they become toddlers, we are still close at hand, ready to swoop in at a moment’s notice if necessary. Imagine a rubber band tethered to both you and your toddler. They may travel as far as five feet away from you at any given time, but the truth is, you are close enough to scoop in, pick them up football style and remove them from any impending danger. And yet, they are beginning to experience the first thrill of freedom and independence. They are exploring, learning, and experiencing the world with just a bit of autonomy.

As they reach school age they enter what I call “The Grace Period”. They are old enough to understand certain dangers and how to avoid them, so we allow them to stretch the rubber band — and we even add a bit of extra slack, conveying to the kids that we trust them. Because we are more relaxed, and because the kids feel this loose line between themselves and their parents, they tend to check in regularly. No need to stay far away because they are certain that after a quick check in with mom or dad they will be allowed to travel back into the world and explore.

And then our kids reach the tween years and suddenly parents are acutely aware of how dangerous the world is and how one bad decision could lead to a ruined life, so they pull that rubber band in as close as they had it during the toddler years.

Because we are unable to articulate our fear in a sensible and respectful way and because our kids have no idea why we suddenly stop trusting them and begin hovering around them as if they were two-years-old, tensions rise.

Soon power struggles ensue. Our teens want parents who extend more freedom not less with even more slack so they can continue their march toward independence. What they get are parents who begin tugging and pulling on the metaphorical rubber band and with each tug the child becomes more determined NOT to turn and reconnect with their parents.
All for fear that if they dare to come close, to look for guidance from a parent, to feel a connection that reminds them they are loved and safe, their freedom will be taken from them and they will be forced to fight their way back to the independence they so desperately need.

After a few rounds of this, teens soon learn to stay away and parents. In the haste to be a part of their teens’ life, parents begin snooping, interfering, prying, and they stop honoring privacy. The relationship continues to suffer.

Here are 5 tips that will help you lengthen the cord, trust your teen and preserve your relationship.

1. Accept when your children are infants (or whatever age they are at the time you read this) that they are going to leave you and that you are charged with ensuring that when they leave they are ready to fly on their own.

2. Begin backing out of your job as your child’s “manager” the minute they arrive on the planet and by the time they are 18, you will both be ready for more physical distance without feeling emotionally distant from each other.

3. Be honest with your kids about any trepidation you have about their increased freedom. Ask them to help you be more reasonable and to accept that they can handle more responsibility for their world. If you do, you will inevitably create a bond that makes both of you feel closer and more connected to each other.

4. Make sure that you are talking with moms who have kids 3, 5 and 7 years older than your kids and ask for their perspective, their tips and what life is like when you accept that your children will move away from you and how to bridge that gap with grace and dignity.

5. Trust your kids. They love you. They want you in their lives. They do not want to be smothered or worried about or babied or saved. They want to prove to you, that they are strong, wise, and resilient. They want to prove that they can handle the next phase of life, so be their champion not their babysitter.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Disclaimer: This post isn’t going to be for everyone, but because I am teaching an adolescent class and because the topic of sex, sexuality, intimacy, body image, and gender roles along with plain old “So how DO you talk to kids about all of this?” comes up during every class, I wanted to provide a quick tip list that will help parents address these sensitive subjects in a reasonable, rational and respectful way.

sex-talk1. Start early. The sooner you start talking to your kids about sex, intimacy, pleasure, body image, and gender identification, the better chance you have of raising a thoughtful, well informed educated teenager who understands all of these subjects and feels comfortable talking about them – openly and honestly. Take into consideration your child’s age, and take into consideration the level of curiosity your children display. Use their questions as a way to gauge how much information to share. If they seem satisfied with your answer, stop. If they ask more, keep answering. Parents wait too long to talk to their kids about sex, intimacy, pleasure, responsibility and healthy relationships and miss the opportunity to establish honest conversation when kids are in the curious stage of life.

Most children are exposed to pornography by the age of 9. The sooner you start the education process, the better informed your kids will be which means they will make smarter, safer decisions when it comes time to decide whether they are ready for sex or not and with whom they want to have a sexual relationship with.

2. Use real language, not pretend words for real body parts. If you are uncomfortable using the word penis or vagina, intercourse, homosexuality, and so on there is no way you are going to be able to talk to your kids about sex and their sexuality. One of the ways you can determine whether your children are ready to explore their sexuality is by how comfortable they are talking about their bodies and how they work. After all, if they can’t say the word penis or vagina, they probably aren’t ready.

Using made up, immature names only confuses kids and lets them know that you are uncomfortable with the entire subject. This means they will rely on other people for information and their education.

3. Get educated. Chances are your parents were not a wealth of information and you grew up with some questions and faulty beliefs of your own around the subject of sexuality and sex. Blow these limiting beliefs open and do the work necessary to be a viable resource for your kids. It is our responsibility to talk to our kids about difficult subjects. Particularly subjects that will affect them their entire lives. Find experts who resonate with you. Practice talking about things that make you uncomfortable and nervous. You want your kids to come to YOU, not the other 9 year-old on the bus, with questions. Be honest and provide accurate information. Don’t confuse education with values. Being educated often makes it easier for kids to live into the value of delayed sexual intimacy.

4. Make it a regular conversation, not a conversation that happens once a year. Sex and intimacy, gender identification and body image are a big part of life as an adult. There are many aspects to a healthy sex life with a life partner. It will take dozens and dozens of conversations, some light, some serious in order to educate our children on relationships, intimacy, sexuality, pleasure, monogamy, and so on. Put it on your calendar and take advantage of every opportunity to talk about sex.

5. Education breeds confidence. Children who are confident about what constitutes a healthy sexual relationship (and that starts with the relationship they have with themselves), are better able to navigate healthy relationships when that becomes an integral part of their lives.

6. Encourage your kids to develop a healthy relationship with their own body. Yes, I know this is awkward, but studies show that people who are comfortable in their own skin, who understand their own bodies and can communicate openly about their own wants, needs and desires, are more likely to enter into healthy relationships. If you can’t bring yourself to talk to your kids, find someone you trust who feels comfortable and make that personal available to your child.

We are sexual beings. Whether you like it or not, it is your responsibility to teach your children about sexuality, sex, intimacy, healthy relationships and the time to start is when they are young and you have time to cover every aspect of what it means to be in a physical relationship with another human being.

Be Brave. Be Courageous. And have FUN.

Podcast: Privileges & Responsibilities

Would you like to say yes to your kids? Would you like to raise kids who take care of their things, manage their time, and treat their siblings with respect? By implementing, a simple strategy, Privileges and Responsibilities in your family, you can with confidence.

Listen to this podcast below and learn more. Let us know what you think or if you have any questions.

Tween Behavior During Divorce

normal tween behaviors during divorceQ&A with Vicki Hoefle

Question: Is my tween showing “normal”  behavior during divorce?

Scenario: I am in the beginning stages of a divorce and I have noticed my 12 year old seems to be lashing out and becoming somewhat defiant and uncooperative.  My question is two-part:  Is this normal tween behavior during divorce and how can I support her through the process and get my daughter back.

Answer:  Divorce is never easy – on anyone.  As a mom who experienced divorce herself and as a parent coach who has worked with many divorced couples, here are a few things I have learned to support tweens during divorce.

  1. Everyone deals with divorce in a very unique way.  There is no formula so it’s impossible to know from one day to the next how someone, especially a tween is internalizing their experience.  One day they could be sullen, the next joyful, the next angry, the next confused and the next melancholy.  I taught myself to observe each of my kids every morning and look for clues as to how they were dealing with the situation on that particular day.  I fully expected that later that day or certainly by the next day, they could be experiencing a whole new set of feelings. This helped me stay “fluid” through the process and before long I started to notice more consistent, “normal” behavior.  By plugging into THEM, I felt more centered and calm myself, which influenced the entire family dynamic.

  2. It is quite normal for anyone experiencing a stressful event, to have shifts in behavior that might seem random, unexplainable and downright aggravating.  Remembering that the behavior is what is informing you about her internal feelings will make it easier or at least help to not take it personally, or to worry too much about it.  Instead of talking to her about her behavior, talk about all the ways that she is dealing with the situation in a mature, kind and supportive way.

  3. None of you will be the same after this experience.  So allow everyone affected by the event to change accordingly.  Look for the best, celebrate the future and let go of the past.  There is nothing to be gained by going back and wishing things were different.  They are what they are.

Question:  Do you have a strategy or a resource that helped you through a difficult transition?

Kid Quotables via @Flockmother

Quotables

Last week, we shared an inspiring post by @flockmother that showcased how great it is when we invest in the relationship with our children.

This week, we’d like to share another wonderful post from her blog that showcases how our children do benefit and they do appreciate it when we, as parents, aren’t all “up in their business.”

If you’d like to read more from @flockmother, you can read her journey here: 12 1/2 Weeks: Parenting On Track- One Family’s Story.  If you’d like to learn more about the Parenting On Track Home Program, click here. (PS We only have a limited number left so look while you can! Now, on to the GOOD STUFF.  Shared with Permission From the Post, Quotables

You know you’re a Parenting-On-Track family when you hear:

  • “Mom, come on! Let’s go! I don’t want to be late for school!”
  • “She’s not willing to clean the sink, so I’m going to do it for her. Can I use the yellow sponge?”
  • “I found out that when I’m left alone, I like to clean. We cleaned the kitchen, now we’re going to clean the house.”
  • “Ok, if you’re willing to play Frisbee later, then I’ll get my work done now.”
  • (As I started to give advice): “Mom, please don’t. I’m so tired of people telling me how to do stuff all day at school.”
  • “I have a problem. I haven’t been getting to bed on time lately. I think if I go to bed too late there should be a consequence.”
  • “Mom, stop staring at me like you know I’m about to figure this out.”
  • “I take pride in having a mom who doesn’t tell me what to do.”
  • “My family is awesome.”

Read ALL the  inspiring quotables and other true stories, HERE.

Teen – Parent Relationship (Flockmother)

Today’s post was originally written and shared by Flockmother. It is re-printed below (with permission) or you can read the original post here. You can also follow her on twitter @flockmother.

Enjoy and be inspired!

From Twelve and a Half Weeks – Parenting On Track: One Family’s Story

“Recently, I took a “Leadership Workshop for Girls and Moms” offered by my friend and fellow Parenting-On-Track-er, Cindy Pierce. Since it was for middle school girls, only my 7th-grader, Ellen, was eligible to attend with me. One of the exercises Cindy had us do was write a letter about our hopes and appreciations for each other. For each letter she provided some structure (italics) and had us fill in the blanks. Since I know my Parenting-On-Track training greatly influenced my letter, I wanted to share it with you.

And if anyone reading this is concerned that my parenting style could result in children who feel alone and abandoned, perhaps Ellen’s letter will provide some reassurance (published with permission)”: 

Dear Mother,

I appreciate that you are always there for me when I need help, and you always listen to what I want and let me choose my own life.

I am proud of you for accepting the mess I give you. Without you I would not have an outlet for stress and probably would become a homeless person, and because of you I will always have a place to go. My greatest hope for you is that you find a good place to retire.

Love, Ellen

 Dear Daughter,

I hope that you grow up to be your own best friend, loving and trusting yourself. I want you to experience both success AND failure, and to always have confidence that you will figure things out.

I know you will learn to know what’s in your own heart and will also build the courage to stay true to yourself and say what you need in relationships. My greatest hope for you is that your love and respect for yourself will guide you in your continued love and respect for others and be the foundation for a life full of intentional courage.

Love, Mom

Like this post? Be sure to leave a comment on her blog!

Want to learn more about Parenting On Track Home Program? You’re in luck because it is ON SALE. Have a look HERE.

See the PIN, here!

 

Podcast: Dawn Lyons

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Dawn Lyons recently from Lines By Lyons. Among other things we talked about her program for teens called “Write Steps 4 Teens”.

Dawn shared her “aha” moment which came while she was presenting to a group of adults about teens and their often times “anguished” filled experience. A man in the audience stood up and asked her if she worked with teens – and of course her answer was “well, I do now”. Thus began her journey into create a unique program with teens that integrates her deep compassion for them, her own experience as a teen and her love of writing which she uses in her work.

This is a remarkable woman whose deep respect for teenagers is apparent in the way she talks about them and her work with them.

Enjoy this touching and honest conversation.

Listen to Podcast here.

Podcast: Let’s Chat Middle Schoolers

Today’s blog features a podcast with Michelle Icard. The topic? Middle Schoolers! This interview is just right for back to school thinking…ENJOY!

Click to listen!

Parenting Strategy: Interview with Michelle Icard

About Michelle Icard

In 2004, Michelle Icard launched Athena’s Path, a curriculum that helps girls navigate the tricky middle school social scene. Shortly after, she added Hero’s Pursuit for boys, and in 2011 launched her website for parents of middle schoolers: MichelleintheMiddle.com.

 

Athena’s Path & Hero’s Pursuit have been implemented in 30 schools, in five states, and have impacted over 7,000 students. Over 250 teachers have been trained to implement the programs in schools. Michelle regularly speaks at schools and parenting events around the country.  She has also written curriculum for other national programs for adolescents, including Girlology and Girls Rock the House. Michelle lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband, 12 year-old daughter, and 10 year-old son.

Podcast: Fresh Thinking on Tweens

The following is a guest post by Michelle Icard, founder of Athena’s Path, a curriculum that helps girls navigate the tricky middle school social scene and similarly, a Hero’s Pursuit for boys.

embarrassed.teenThere are a lot reasons we, as parents, have to fret about the scary, obnoxious, or heart-breaking qualities of middle schoolers these days. Kids often DO become increasingly defiant, attracted to risk, and hyper-emotional through the middle school years.  But there’s good reason for that behavior and if you can see past the rebellion to the reason why, a lot of good will shine through in the middle school years.  There’s gold in them there hills! Let me show you where to look.

Says who? I’m Michelle Icard, founder of the social leadership curriculum Athena’s Path & Hero’s Pursuit.

My programs have been taught in 30 schools across the country to teach tweens how to navigate the tricky new social world of middle school. My website, www.MichelleintheMiddle.com is a resource for parents during this time of transition.  In my 9 years working with middle schoolers I have been humbled, inspired, and awed by the social and emotional capabilities of kids this age.  As the parent of a middle schooler myself, I know first-hand how important it is to reset our perceptions about middle school to help our kids reach their potential as independent thinkers, creative problem solvers, and empathetic friends.Are you telling me it’s good for my child to rebel in middle school? Yes.

Quick poll: How many of you would like your child to live in their own house someday? Everyone? Perfect. That’s the idea, isn’t it?  The fact is that you have built a cozy beginning for your child, but you are not your child’s future. Their future will be made in a world run by their peers. Figuring out how that social world will work and where they will fit in it is the key to their success.  It will be hard for your child to learn where they fit outside of your world. It will take some trial and  error, many mistakes, and a dash of rebellion to figure it all out.

I’m not suggesting you applaud when you catch your kid smoking behind the middle school! However, how you react to your child’s missteps will set them up for more success or more failure.

OK, how should I respond?

Here are some things you can do to help your child make the most of their middle school years:

  1. When your child makes a mistake – whether a bold act of rebellion or an awkward stumble onto the wrong path – express empathy first. “That must have been hard or painful or embarrassing” always comes before “You screwed up now how are you going to fix it?”
  2.  Be unemotional in your discipline.  You may cry into your own pillow at night but if you cloud your discipline with tears, anger, or despair, your child will likely misinterpret you. It’s a good idea to be firm, direct, and without emotion when talking about consequences. If you need to buy some time to achieve this say something like, “I need some time to figure out how to respond. I’ll talk to you about this tonight after dinner.”
  3. Help your child take risks. Create an atmosphere where your child is allowed to do things that feel thrilling, daring, scary, and unknown. Take them to an audition, help them start a business, go bungee jumping.  When you fill that need for risk with a positive source there is less chance your child will try to fill it through unhealthy activities.

Want to learn more? Visit me at www.michelleinthemiddle.com. Also, I love Facebook (too much).  You can hang out with me there at www.facebook.com/middleschoolrelief.

To hear a live conversation with Michelle, please click to listen to the Podcast, below:

Podcast: Interview with Michelle Icard

More About Michelle

In 2004, Michelle Icard launched Athena’s Path, a curriculum that helps girls navigate the tricky middle school social scene. Shortly after, she added Hero’s Pursuit for boys, and in 2011 launched her website for parents of middle schoolers: MichelleintheMiddle.com.

Athena’s Path & Hero’s Pursuit have been implemented in 30 schools, in five states, and have impacted over 7,000 students. Over 250 teachers have been trained to implement the programs in schools. Michelle regularly speaks at schools and parenting events around the country.  She has also written curriculum for other national programs for adolescents, including Girlology and Girls Rock the House. Michelle lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband, 12 year-old daughter, and 10 year-old son.

Happy Parenting Takes Practice

parenting styleThis post was written by Vicki Hoefle for radicalparenting.com. Enjoy!

Taking a less is more approach to raising five kids helped us all enjoy the transition from childhood to tweenhood to young adulthood (ages 18 – 23 living on their own or at college).

I came up with some simple rules that guided us on our journey and supported each of them as unique individuals discovering their place in the world.  These rules also translated well to the tens of thousands of parents who I have worked with over the past twenty years as a parent expert and coach.

  1. Stop worrying about how your tweens express themselves in terms of their personal style (this includes their wardrobe, accessories, hair and makeup, music and friends). Learn to notice character traits and strengths that define your tween as a unique human being.  What you might find troublesome now, will develop into a sense of personal power later on.  Embrace this time of self-discovery and adventure.  This is the time that your tweens can discover what it means when someone says, “be yourself.”
  2. Likewise, ignore parents who give you the hairy eyeball when your tween experiments with clothes, hair, makeup, music, attitude and values.  Let those around you know you are raising a thinking child and giving him/her room to develop self-confidence and independence.
  3. Ignore strangers at the mall, grocery store and restaurants who give you the hairy eye-ball because your tween is lost in their own world, giving you the cold shoulder or looking apathetic when everyone around them looks thrilled to be doing whatever it is they are doing. Learn to wait quietly as your tweens navigate their own feelings and find their own way of re-engaging.   Adolescence is a tough phase and moments of withdrawal are necessary from time to time.

Read the entire guest post, here.