All posts tagged 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.

Thoughts On “Mental Health of Affluent Teens; The Challenge of Prosperity.”

Recently a colleague sent me this wonderful infographic titled “Mental Health of Affluent Teens; The Challenge of Prosperity” brought to you by Counseling@Northwestern’s Online Masters in Counseling and I was inspired to share it with our community of parents along with my thoughts on HOW we might put into practice the high structure and high warmth parenting practices suggested below and enhance the relationship we have with our tweens and teens.

It should come as no surprise that there are benefits associated with affluence that can have a positive effect on our children when they are young. They include better physical health and the development of stronger language and social skills, which leads to higher academic achievement in elementary school. Then something remarkable happens. Instead of affluence benefiting our kids as they enter the teen years, affluence becomes a liability. It’s fascinating to consider this turn of events and to ponder what changes we can make in our parenting to keep things moving in a positive direction. Here are my thoughts based on the information provided in this deliciously simple and easy to understand graphic.

Challenge-of-Prosperity-FINAL

Teens

Too much house for the number of people who reside in it means it’s easier for family members to “hide” from each other. In the adolescent world this means disconnecting from your family is as simple as entering your bedroom and shutting the door.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the increase in pressure we put on our teens to “perform”. High, unreasonable expectations along with a hovering parenting style don’t inspire, they discourage and that leads to more alienation and disconnection between parents and their kids.

 

What Parents Can Do

    • Consider creating a “shared space” that your teens help you create and decorate. All too often it’s mom and dad who design the home for their liking which only increases the odds that their teens will find refuge in a room designed by them, for them. Unless you are entertaining royalty, this shouldn’t be a hardship, but rather an opportunity to create more shared space that is reflective of everyone in the family. Beyond that, a shared space implies shared responsibility for keeping it clean and tidy so everyone can enjoy it. This is a chance for your teens to become contributing members of the family who have daily household responsibilities that contribute to a healthy home life. And, you are preparing them for life beyond your threshold.

 

    • Time spent together is at a premium and yet, we spend 50% less time together than we did a mere 30 years ago. Anything that brings the family together so they can reconnect is a necessity in today’s fast paced world. Beyond getting everyone together is the bigger issue of “what to talk about” when you are together. Unfortunately far too many parents are still using the “How was school? Do you have homework? Do you have your gear for soccer? When is your science project due?” format of questioning to not only connect with their kids, but stay abreast of what’s happening in their world.

 

    • Family Meetings are a great way to not only gather once a week, for a limited amount of time (15 to 20 minutes), but also as a way to show appreciation for each other which demonstrates to our teens on a regular basis that they are loved and appreciated by their family; divide the family work equitably among all family members which helps teens feel like contributing members of their family and keeps them grounded in the “real world” rather than an illusion that all their needs will be met by someone else; a place for teens to help create family policy and balance between their desire for more independence and a parents desire to ensure their child is safe; and a place for kids to learn financial responsibility. Learn more about Family Meetings.

 

    • Another way for families to stay connected is to choose a social service activity at the beginning of each year which will ensure the family spends quality time together on a regular basis and as a bonus, the kids are learning life lesson in investing their time and energy in something other than themselves.

 

    • Most teens I know need to eat and unfortunately regular family meals have become a thing of the past. Invite your teens to participate in meal planning, meal preparation, meal service and meal clean up. That doesn’t mean demanding they suddenly start making meals for the entire family and then cleaning the kitchen while you sit down and enjoy a glass of wine. It means that you consciously begin to invite your teens into the entire process so they feel a sense of ownership around the meal.If you have a teen who comes home late from practice or eats at other crazy times, decide you will eat with them at least once a week. This means adjusting your schedule to accommodate theirs. Imagine the message you are sending!

 

    • Decide where in your schedule you can make time for your kids. It might be time in the car or walking the dog. Think quality, not quantity here. Being present without outside distractions is the key. Once you have the time, deepen the experience with a new kind of conversation. Life at school is no more exciting than life at your office. For the most part it’s the same old, same old. Try expanding your repertoire of questions and live dangerously. One friend of mine throws random questions out that are meant to provoke robust conversations. For instance, “So, are you having sex yet?” or “My friend got drunk last night at an office function and made a fool of herself, what do you think I should do?” or “I’m thinking of taking a vow of silence for 2 months, what do you think?” If our time is limited, then we have to make the most of it and thought provoking questions can help bring family members closer together and bridge the gap between parents and their teens.

 

  • Many parents are nurturing demanding careers, in part because it allows them to provide more opportunities for their kids. However, I never met a kid who would substitute an interested, engaged parent for some future opportunity. Our kids are learning about living a balanced life from us, they are learning about healthy relationships from us and they are learning about parental roles from us. If we take a few minutes to consider everything that is at stake when we allow careers to sap us of energy and focus, we are in a better position to create a more balanced life where the needs of our teens are at the top of that list. The good news is, they don’t need the same amount of time or energy from you that they needed as toddlers. Quality over quantity will do a lot to keep you connected to your kids and teach them about balance, prioritizing and healthy relationships.

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In my new book, The Straight Talk On Parenting, I explain in great detail my method, laying it all out for parents so that they can find an approach to parenting that supports their family thought all of the growing pains, developmental phases, life changes, and surprise events that greet anyone raising children in the twenty-first century.

As a mom who raised five children into adulthood, I’d like to share the two most important aspects of my parenting.

  1. Create structures for my family that supported each of us individually and all of us collectively. That meant designing mornings that worked for my morning lark and my night owl, homework routines that took into account a child who needed complete quiet and one that walked around and stood to write. These structures allowed my children to relax, and when they were relaxed and at peace it was easier for us to connect as a family.
  2. Show faith and confidence in my kids’ abilities, so that they would learn to have faith in themselves and confidence in their ability to navigate their world.

Our kids need to know that we accept them for who they are right now, even if the “right now” is messy. When we communicate unconditional love and acceptance, we foster emotional health and strong parent child relationships. 

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

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.

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: 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.

Holidays with Tweens

It’s the tweener week here at the Hoefenways, that’s blended for Hoefle & Hemenway, a name the kids came up with years ago when Iain and I met. Christmas is behind us. The presents are put away. The decorations are down. Three kids are home, one is due in on the 4th from Spain and another one arrives on the 6th from San Francisco.

I am holding steady as they say. This is the week that defines the holidays for us. It’s a time to celebrate life with children, who are more adult than anything else. It’s my time to dive into each of them and to re-establish contact in a new and meaningful way. Let’s face it, they aren’t the same people they were last year at this time.

I marvel at how smart, how funny, and how mercurial they are. I am awestruck at their humor, their insight, and their commitment to “showing up in their lives.” I am touched by their comments to me which include “you look hot in those jeans mom” by my 17-year-old daughter and “every kid should have a mom like you” whispered in my ear by my 15 year old, six-foot-tall son.

So here’s to the teens and the tweeners in our lives. These wonders of light and love.To my own children I say thank you. Thank you for inviting me into your world, and sharing your thoughts, your aspirations, your fears and your dreams. Thank you for sitting on my lap, for letting me braid your hair, and sharing a quiet moment of reflection. Thank you for sticking with me through all my painful parenting faux pas.

Thank you for teaching me the Wii and encouraging me as I learn to hit a ball and almost wet my pants doing it. Thank you for giggling with me and not at me, as I learn that you don’t have to actually “play” tennis, in order to “play Wii” tennis.

Thank you for loading my iPod up with all new songs and for making me my own Taylor Swift CD. Thank you for trying on the dorky pants I bought you and not calling me “stupid head” because I got the wrong style, size and color.

Thank you for loving each other. For cuddling up together during The Grinch and letting me get a glimpse of you as small children, even if just for a moment. Thank you for fixing each other french toast and eating together around the table, something that happens less and less these days, as kids grow and some move out.

Most of all, thank you for choosing me as your parent.

For all you parents out there, who wonder what the world is like with five teens in the house – there is only one word to describe it – MIRACULOUS!

Do not waste a single moment with these magical beings. Before you know it, they will have moved on and you may find yourself trying to carve a spot in their new and exciting lives. Take a few moments, and look beyond the external expression of who they are and look into the hearts, the minds and the spirits of these young people.

There is much joy to be found in those sparkling eyes.

Happy Holidays!

Vicki
2009

No Good or Bad Choices

    As a child my family’s menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it. -Buddy Hackett

Do we really trust our kids with the choices they make? I guess the answer is often sure, if I think it’s the “right choice” for my kid.

Kid’s Choice: I don’t like dinner so I’m not going to eat it.
Parent: Bad Choice – I’ll make you something else or I will nag you and bribe you till you eat. Okay.

Kid’s Choice: I don’t want to bring my lunch today.
Parent: Bad Choice – You’ll get hungry and then you can’t learn so I will pack it for you and stuff it in your backpack.

Kids Choice: I hate soccer and I don’t want to play any longer.
Parent: Bad Choice – You promised your coach and you will let the team down (2nd grader here). You will play this year even if you hate it and next year we can discuss it.

Kids Choice: I don’t want to wear pj’s to bed, I want to wear my jeans, so I am ready for school.
Parent: Bad Choice – You will uncomfortable and wrinkly in the morning and it’s just silly.

You get the picture. We say we want our kids to make choices, but as adults, we have decided what the “right” choice is for the child.

Here is the thing though – there are no good choices or bad choices, choices are just that – choices.

A choice will either move you closer to or further away from what it is you want. Parents are constantly commenting on their kid’s choices. Instead of helping the kids learn about the process of choice and the power of choice, we interrupt the learning by judging whether the choice is good or bad. Here is a story to illustrate the power of choices and how they often reveal the true goal of the person making them.

    When one of my kids was 7 she decided (her choice) to play soccer. About half way through the season, I went to a game and watched as she danced and shuffled around the field, never really running toward or going after the ball. After the game I asked her about her overall decision to play soccer (I was getting the sense that she didn’t really like soccer). She looked at me – serious as all get out, and promptly stated, “Oh mom, soccer is the best, and things are going great. I decided that this year, my goal was to keep 6 feet between me and the ball at all times. I don’t want to get hit with that thing. Have you ever been hit by a soccer ball? It hurts.” Enough said.

Choices, as I have said on numerous occasions, are about more than blue boots or red boots, coat or no coat, do it now or do it later. Choices move us forward in our lives and give us a sense that we are in charge of our lives in the most fundamental way.

Anyone, particularly a child, who is WILLING to make a choice, should be congratulated for having the courage to make it. And let’s not forget, that each time our kids make a choice, the better they get at making them, so lets give them lots of practice.

Facing Fear at Any Age

Dr. Heather posted a very useful article on her blog about Preschoolers and Fears.

Read article here.

My only question is based on the idea of using “monster spray” and other totems to repel monsters. In my experience this practice can be counterproductive. Parents tell their kids that monsters aren’t real, but then act like they are by looking under beds, waving magic wands or spraying monster spray in the room. Seems a bit confusing if you ask me.

It would be more helpful to ask your child a couple of questions:

    1. Can you show me where the monster is? Let them explore and show you where it’s hiding (hmmm, can’t seem to find it at the moment, mum). There is power in actually looking for what you think you fear. Opening closet doors, looking under beds, and behind a pile of stuffed animals will reassure a child much more convincingly and quickly than a parent waving wands or spraying twinkle dust in a room.

    2. What is the difference between your imagination and reality? Yes, I know it’s a big question, but you can break it down and help your child learn to distinguish the difference. I have talked with dozens of creative people and they all agree, imagination is stimulated when there is a balance between living in our imagination and being in touch with reality.

So the next time your wee one suggests that there are monsters living anywhere in their world, take a moment to reflect on how you want to address this concern and the fact that a “monster” at 3 could be “anxiety” for a 13 year old.

Radical Parenting & Your Teen

As part of the Parenting On Track™ Home Program, parents receive 6 free Web Events throughout the year. Last night we hosted a 60 minute Web Event on Adolescence with special guest, Vanessa Van Petten of Radical Parenting (she may sound familiar to many of you as I have recommended her on more than one occasion) and 2 of her interns, Sydney 15, and Emily 13. Because this web event was filled with such great information, we decided to share it with everyone. Don’t worry forum members, we’ll add in another freebie.

Listen to the replay!

Here are a few of the highlights and how investing in the Parenting On Track™ program when your kids are young, makes raising a teen a whole lot more enjoyable for everyone concerned.

Teens want parents to know the following:

  • Don’t take the complaining or disagreeing of teens personally. It’s usually just a way for them to vent and they rarely mean anything hurtful.
  • Kids do listen to their parents – it just isn’t cool to look too interested or admit it.
  • A good relationship with their parents is as important to teens as it is to their moms and dads.

Enter Parenting On Track™ – The basis for the program; relationships built on mutual respect, cooperation, open and honest communication and a solid foundation that can absorb the constant changes our kids experience. You don’t enter the teen years in good shape, if you haven’t invested heavily in the relationship when the kids are young. Another Parenting On Track™ technique that is sure to pay off in the long haul – ignoring the cheap drama of a 3 year old which makes it possible to listen to a teen without getting worried, annoyed, angry or “hooked” into the emotion of the moment. Instead, Parenting On Track™ parents are trained to appreciate where their kids are emotionally at any given moment, the confidence to allow the kids to work through those emotions whenever possible, and the ability to “not” take what is said personally.

What fractures the parent/teen relationship?

  • Treating teens like they are still babies.
  • Imposing the same rules you established in elementary school on a 15 year old.
  • Embarrassing them repeatedly and then not owning up to it or apologizing for doing it.

Enter Parenting On Track™– Vanessa said something that really struck me “Re-evaluate agreements with your kids on a regular basis”. This is where Creating a Roadmap, Implementing Privileges and Responsibilities and Utilizing the Family Meeting come in. Each of the 3 tools ensures that parents are growing with their kids and that there is a balance between growing independence and reasonable boundaries.

What’s it like growing up in the 21st Century?

  • It’s tougher than parents think.
  • Technology plays a huge role and kids have to learn to navigate an ever changing landscape.
  • Unrealistic expectations from parents, teachers, friends, and coaches add more pressure to an already tough stage of life.

Enter Parenting On Track™ – A major theme that runs through all the work we do here is this: To ensure we, as parents, allow our children an opportunity to develop the mental muscle necessary to grow up in the 21st century feeling confident and with the skills necessary to navigate their lives effectively. And to allow our children the freedom to tell us to “back off” when we begin imposing our ideas on how they should run their lives so as not to overwhelm them or send the message that we are not pleased with the decisions they are making.

And one particularly helpful hint Vanessa shared that really hit home for me. Evidently teens don’t appreciate it when parents disguise a suggestion with a question – for example – “Hey do you think it might be a good idea if you did a little extra credit to get your grades up?” Ha! Busted. Sorry kids. I didn’t know there was a name for that. Instead she says – be transparent, ask honest questions and wait until your child begins the brainstorming process. And again, Parenting On Track™ encourages families to help kids articulate problems quickly and spend their energy looking for creative solutions.

I want to thank all 3 of these extraordinary young women, particularly Sydney and Emily for sharing their thoughts, insights and wisdom. I hung up the phone feeling the world was indeed, in very capable hands with these 3 at the helm.

Enjoy the replay!

The Bullied Child

Last week I introduced Barbara Coloroso’s definition of both Bullying and the Bully from her book, The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander; From Preschool to High-School – How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence. If you missed it or would like to learn more, go check out last week’s blog post.

At the end of the post, I suggested that parents take a week to observe and learn from their children’s behavior, and resist the temptation to either assess too quickly or jump in with action if they suspect their child might be a bully.

Today I introduce the Bullied and again, suggest that instead of “doing” anything, parents begin to look for any signs that their child might experience bullying in their daily lives.

The Bullied

The truth is, it could be anyone and often times is – anyone. No longer is the bullied child easy to recognize. Bullied children come in all shapes and sizes, ages and races, religious backgrounds and physical attributes. They can be athletes, academics, socially comfortable, popular, awkward, introverts or anything in between.

What accounts for a children being bullied isn’t so much their characteristics as much as it the bully’s need to “single out a recipient of verbal, physical, or relational aggression, merely because they are different.” (Page 42)

Imagine for a moment – being different as the precursor for a child being targeted for bullying. How could any parent adequately prepare for this possibility? It is literally impossible for parents to “be on the look out” for a child who fits the profile of a potentially bullied kid when there is no profile.

But at least parents can rely on their children telling them that they are experiencing bullying, right? Not so.

In her book, Barbara asserts that many children who are bullied, avoid telling their parents that bullying is occurring in their life and worse, to what extend they are being bullied. Her list of reasons why children don’t talk with parents or authority figures includes:

  • Shame
  • Fear of retaliation
  • No one can help
  • No one will help
  • It’s part of growing up
  • Adults are in on it
  • False sense of loyalty

Barbara does suggest that there are signs that kids are being bullied and if parents are informed and willing to consider that their child might indeed be experiencing bullying – although they don’t fit the profile – then a parent can intervene to stop the cycle of violence.

Here are just a few signs that might indicate something is going on.*

  • Abrupt lack of interest in school
  • Drop in grades
  • Withdraws from family and school
  • Taking parents money
  • Beeline to the bathroom when they return home
  • Sad, sullen, angry or scared after a phone call or email
  • Acts out of character
  • Disheveled, torn or missing clothes

*For a complete list, please refer to p.50-53 in Barbara Coloroso’s book.

What’s most disturbing is that many kids who find themselves bullied, eventually, become the bully.

“If the assumption made by teenagers is that potential attackers in their schools are kids who were picked on- and the statistics seem to bear this out-then keeping children from becoming victims of bullying would substantially reduce the risk of future acts of violence and would certainly reduce the number of kids, who, choose death over facing the brutality of their peers.” (Page 61)

Even if you are living with a child who seems to “fit in” at school and until now, you had no reason to suspect they might be on the receiving end of bullying, be on the look out for signals that you might have overlooked a message your child may be trying to send you.

As you follow along with this series, take some time to consider how you will talk with your child about the subject as you learn more in the coming weeks.

Life with Tweeners

I love tweeners. Always have. There is something about this awkward, geeky, confusing, overwhelming, mysterious time that both excites and scares me at the same time. As the mother of 5, who has successfully negotiated her way through the tweener stage, I am appreciative of those still in it.

When we take the time to invite our children into their lives from the earliest possible days, we provide an environment rich in support, encouragement and faith.

As a result, we have kids who enter the world of tweenerdom who exhibit a sort of swagger and confidence that comes from KNOWING that they can handle what comes their way. They are more deeply embedded in their lives and as a result, are happy with themselves and with those around them.

So if you are experiencing the first pangs of what I call “push back” from your tweeners, it could be that they aren’t feeling as confident about their lives as they might.

Enjoy this video and remember, rebellion IS NOT the natural state of these amazing tweeners.