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Parenting Teens

May 11, 2021

Go See "Young@Heart"!

Young_at_heartWhat a wonderful Mother's Day gift I received! Randy and Matt took me to see "Young@Heart," and it felt like a full-body workout. I laughed, I cried and I was glad I wasn't watching it at home in the den. This felt more like a community event.

The theater was packed with people ages 10 to 80, and we were all so involved in the movie, everyone was silent. (When's the last time that happened at the movies?) OK, we were silent when we weren't laughing or stomping our feet. But there were a lot of silent tears, too. Check out the trailer. Then grab your kids (over about age 10), grab your parents and GO!

April 23, 2021

So Your Kid Was Rejected By Her #1 College Pick? Have Her Read This

Today I'm happy to welcome Rob Gilbert, Ph.D., professor of sport psychology at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey, as a guest blogger. I love his perspective on college life, and I plan to save this post to share with my own son when he gets a bit closer to college age.

Dr. Gilbert is the author of How to Have Fun Without Failing Out: 430 Tips from a College Professor. And his blog offers great motivational tips for students. (Yes, he's a busy guy!) Thanks for joining us today, Dr. Gilbert!

REJECTED? I CAN HELP!

You got the dreaded thin letter and found that the college you desperately wanted doesn’t want you.

Of course, you’re devastated—look at all the time, effort, and money you and your parents put into the whole college application process with guidance counselors, private college consultants, tutors, test-prep courses, college visits, interviews, essays, SATs, etc.

It’s not true that all your hopes and dreams are now destroyed. Your future is not over. Once I saw a poster that read, “It’s not the end of the road; it’s just a bend in the road!”

I’m not going to give you some Pollyanna-type pep talk and tell you not to worry. What I’m going to tell you is that wallowing in your misery is not the answer. You must regroup and refocus — starting right now!

Maybe I can help. I speak from over 40 years of experience. I’ve been on a college campus since 1964 — first as a student, then as a staff member, and for the last 29 years as a professor at Montclair State University.

However there’s one big mystery about college I’ve never been able to solve.

Why are students putting so much time, effort, and energy into finding their so-called “right” college, and so little time, effort, and energy into figuring out what their personal passion is once they’re in college? I see students devoting more time to determining where they’re going to spend the next four or five years of their college lives rather than concentrating on how they’re going to spend the next 40 to 50 years of their professional lives — in their careers.

And here’s a warning if you did get into the college of your dreams: Be careful of the “Yale Syndrome.”  Donald Archer, an expert in higher education and the author of “Cool Colleges,” reports that some students are so obsessively focused on receiving the “fat envelope” that getting admitted becomes an end in itself. Remember: Gaining admissions is not the end of the adventure — it’s the beginning!

The late psychiatrist and radio talk-show host Dr. David Viscott once said, “The purpose of life is to discover your gifts. The meaning of life comes from giving your gifts away.”The purpose of college is to find your gifts, to find your passion, to find your life’s work.

Right now stop regretting why you didn’t get into that school that was “perfect” for you and start refocusing on the future. Whatever college or university you’ll be attending in September, you can have a spectacular, life-changing experience there. There’s mounting research that shows that your future success is not determined by the college you attend.

However, no professor, advisor, or classmate is going to show you how to follow the yellow brick road to your passion. Sure, you’ll receive a lot of help, but it’s primarily a do-it-yourself job.

Where you attend college is not nearly as important as what you’re going to do once you get there. Here’s some advice for when you arrive on campus in September that’ll help you find your passion:

#1. Find out who the most passionate professors on campus are and enroll in their courses —regardless of what they teach or when the classes meet. I joke with my students that most of them probably would not take Religion 101 if it met at 8:00 a.m. even if it were taught by Professor J. Christ!

#2. The noted mythologist Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” What are the subjects or activities that you find endlessly interesting? What are the things you like to do that energize you? Be a detective. Listen to your heart. Find what you love.

#3. Professor Joseph Renzuli from the University of Connecticut advises students to carefully examine what they loved to do as a child because this might give some insight into what they might really want to do for a career. Did you know that when they were kids, Sesame Street’s Jim Henson loved to play with puppets and Walt Disney loved to draw?

Of all the things you can discover in college, the most important is your passion.

Look at it this way: College is a fountain of knowledge. Some students come to drink. More come to sip. But most come just to gargle. Make sure you take a big gulp!

April 21, 2021

Can Being a Parent Help You In Business, Too?

Today I'm happy to welcome guest blogger Adrian Miller, president of Adrian Miller Sales Training in Port Washington, New York. The proud mom of 23-year-old Eric (left) and 20-year-old Nick (in the green shirt, below), Miller has had just enough time away from the everyday parenting world to have gained a little perspective that the rest of us (who are still in the trenches) can benefit from. Here's her post on "How Being a Mom Has Helped Me In Business." Thanks, Adrian!

For most women, becoming a mother is a turning point in their life. It's a time that's rife with challenges, frustrations, and uncertainties, but it's also when many of life's most rewarding achievements and miraculous moments occur. What many new moms figure out rather quickly is that the skills that they use every day while taking care of children are also very applicable in succeeding in business. Nurturing a needy newborn isn't all that different from managing a high-maintenance client, and trying to juggle chores and kids can be strikingly similar to the multi-tasking required to manage a large list of prospects. Here are just a few of the skills that are fine-tuned and mastered the minute you take that leap into motherhood:

Patience. Colicky infants, whiny toddlers, defiant teenagers... If you didn't have patience before you had children, you quickly developed this virtue as a parent. And, the patience required for childcare definitely helps you increase your tolerance threshold in business. Difficult clients and prospects are plentiful, and patience is the key to unlocking their buying potential.

Time Management. As any new mother knows, time can be a scarce commodity and shouldn't be wasted frivolously. Whether you need to meet a specific deadline or only have an hour before your child wakes from a nap, time-management skills are essential to getting things done. Parenthood does wonders for enlightening women (and some men) on the need to budget time wisely, and this skill certainly gives moms a distinct competitive edge over their child-free colleagues.

Multi-tasking. If you've ever changed a diaper while on the phone making a doctor's appointment, while reading an email, you understand multi-tasking. Sure, we'd all love to be able to focus on one task at a time, but in this age of technology and information, the ability to multi-task is a necessity if you want to be competitive in the market. Motherhood promotes multi-tasking skills tremendously, and these skills remain with mothers long after the diaper changes cease.

Training Skills. One of the primary jobs of a parent is to teach your child what is needed to succeed in the world. This requires you to be a dedicated, skilled trainer. The same skills are required in business. Whether you're training a classroom of seminar attendees or guiding a client through the sales process, the training abilities you've acquired as a mother will certainly come in handy in the business world.

Flexibility. Children are full of surprises, and staying flexible is a necessity to maintain sanity. Every day is full of challenges and interruptions, and if there is one thing that is consistent about parenting, it's the fact that it's ever-changing. Inflexibility doesn't work for parents, nor does it work in business. People can be indecisive, situations can change, and even your role can evolve. Having the flexibility to gracefully manage the unexpected is a skill that will always serve you well, whether with the kids or in the office.

March 24, 2022

Why We're Hooked on HBO's "John Adams"

Thanks to his wonderful fifth-grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Stelter, my now-12-year-old son Matt is completely jazzed about anything having to do with the American Revolution.

I'll confess, my fifth-grade social studies teacher didn't inspire such enthusiasm, and (while I've never shared this with Matt) I had always equated American history with "Read chapter 6. We'll have a test on Friday." But now Matt's enthusiasm is inspiring my own.

Mrs. Stelter made the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the battles that followed, come alive for her students. Matt would come home from school last year talking endlessly, and in great and gory detail, about what hardships the soldiers endured in their fight for liberty. (Mrs. Stelter knew how to throw in just enough yucky stuff to keep the boys enthralled.)

It was Matt who first started talking about HBO's new series, "John Adams." We started watching it as a family the other night and we're hooked. Starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, the series sucks you in from the first five minutes. (Executive producer Tom Hanks read David McCullough's Pulitzer-prize-winning book by the same name and decided this mini-series had to be made. Thanks, Mr. Hanks.) HBO also offers a free teacher's guide and a student's guide on the website, which you can download as a PDF file.

The series is definitely not for young kids. It's appropriately rated TV-14, and I think it's probably fine for mature middle schoolers. (Randy and I are pretty careful about Matt's exposure to movies and T.V., and we don't let him watch most other shows rated TV-14 just yet. But we happily made an exception for this one.) There have been two pretty hairy scenes so far — one showing a man being tarred and feathered and another showing Abigail Adams and her children being vaccinated for smallpox. (I didn't know how it was done back then. Yikes. Let's just say I'm happy to be alive in 2008.)

HBO shows lots of repeats of each episode, so it's not too late to catch up if you haven't started watching it. (There's also an episode guide, with a synopsis of each show, on their website.) And if you don't have HBO? Not to worry. This seven-part series is sure to be available, not too far down the road, on DVD. Either way, if you have older kids, check it out. Heck, if you have NO kids, check it out. It's terrific.

P.S. Here's Matt as Thomas Jefferson last year during a production of "Walk Through the American Revolution," put on by Mrs. Stelter's class in conjunction with a terrific company, California Weekly Explorer, Inc. (Don't ask how many cotton balls I glued to that backward baseball cap!)

March 21, 2022

Hey, Doc — Can You Talk With My Kid About Sex?

When we bring our wanna-be-teen and teenage kids to the doctor for routine check-ups, many of us are hoping our kid's doctor or nurse practitioner will do more than just check blood pressure, listen to our child’s heart and keep the vaccination record up to date.

We also want the doctor to talk with our kids about sex, diet, drug abuse and smoking, says a new report from the University of Michigan.

The poll — which asked parents of 11- to 17-year-old kids to rate 18 health-related topics for healthcare providers to address during an adolescent’s routine check-up — found that diet/nutrition, exercise/sports and the physical changes of puberty were the overall top three issues parents want discussed, followed by drugs, tobacco, sexually transmitted diseases and depression/suicide.

Doctors have heard it all, and they know how to talk with teens and pre-teens about these potentially touchy topics. So if there’s something on your mind that you’d like your child’s doctor to discuss during an upcoming office visit, call her in advance and let her know.

P.S. This all leads me to a question our family is considering right now: When to switch 12-year-old Matt from our much-loved pediatrician to our family doctor, who is also terrific. Matt has been seeing the same doctor since he was a toddler, but lately when we enter the waiting room, he looks pretty out of place, at 5'6," surrounded by those tiny chairs and Thomas the Tank Engine books.

If you've made the switch and given up your pediatrician, how old was your child when you did it? And are you happy you switched?

March 08, 2022

Can't Say No to Your Kids? Here's Help

In response to my Feb. 27 post, "Are You Crazy Busy?" Susan Newman, Ph.D., a social psychologist and author of 13 parenting and relationship books, including The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It — and Mean It — and Stop People-Pleasing Forever got in touch and offered to share these tips, from her wonderful book, with the rest of us:

When something needs to be done, you’re the one to do it. It often feels as if you’re the only reliable person you know. The trouble is: Everyone else thinks that way, too. Especially your children.

Children have no trouble saying no. But it’s a word you avoid because it sets your guilt meter running, particularly where your children are concerned. You don’t want to disappoint them or make them unhappy. When you say yes to your children’s every want and whim, you wind up saying no to yourself, being overwhelmed and exhausted. You can’t be a happy, effective parent if you always function on overload.

At times, it seems a child’s needs involve you in different and demanding ways every waking minute. You have every right to say no to a child who asks to stay up later or eat more candy than you think is healthy, just as you do to an adult child who seeks dollars to start a seemingly risky venture.

NO Teaches Life Lessons

In some situations, no is the obvious answer, but what happens when your child asks to add another extracurricular activity to her already-full schedule? You’re proud of her initiative and want her to excel, but at the same time, your brain calculates the extra costs, both monetary and physical, that will result if you give permission.

When faced with the decision to add another activity to your child’s crowded schedule, grant a privilege or buy the latest electronic gizmo, listen to your gut feeling and ask yourself these questions: Can you afford to invest the time or money? What will it take away from other children in your family? From your job? How much stress or pressure will it add to your life?

By calling up a no when you need it, you gain a bit of deserved time for yourself, and equally important, no prepares your child for the “real” world. Parental no’s teach children how to cope with disappointment, how to argue, how to strike a balance between work and play, time management and task prioritization — essential experiences that aren’t always taught in school. When children grow up learning these concepts, they are more likely to be successful in their academics, relationships and, later on, in their careers.

10 Tips for Saying NO

In The Book of NO I point out that you have certain rights. Among them: Using no to get your life in control and to be in control of it; requesting details before committing; refusing anyone, including your children, who insists on an immediate answer. Exercising your “no” rights will change how you think when your children’s requests seem excessive, unnecessary or impossible to meet given your other commitments.

In our culture of “yes parenting,” here are suggestions and reminders to make saying no to your children easier:

•    Don't get in the habit of putting your children's wants and wishes before yours.
•    Forget about keeping up with the Joneses (one of the reasons many parents say yes).
•    Think about what’s really involved (in terms of time, money, health, pressure — yours and theirs).
•    Children get over disappointment far better and faster than parents do.
•    Don’t say yes to avoid confrontation.
•    Appropriate use of NO teaches important life lessons.
•    Saying NO helps instill your beliefs and values.
•    Remember, it is your parental right to say NO.
•    Park your guilt. As adults, your children will find something other than your refusals to fault you for.
•    Your children may even thank you for teaching them how to say no.

Thanks, Dr. Newman! For more on how to say NO to your children, friends, family and at work, visit www.thebookofno.com.

March 06, 2022

Cell Phone in the Washing Machine - Arg!

Talk about timing...

So I'm sitting here working on a magazine article on kids and cell phones, and I decide to take a break from the home office and switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer. (OK, and maybe grab some Triscuits and cheese... If there are downsides to working from a home office, like the constant reminder of dirty laundry, there ought to be upsides, like snacks. Right?)

Perfect time to discover that my 12-year-old son left his cell phone in his pants pocket and it went through the wash cycle. &*^())#$#^!

I knew I wasn’t alone with this problem when I Googled “cell phone in washing machine” and up popped 332,000 results. That seemed a bit overwhelming, so I decided to go straight to our service provider, who suggested removing the battery and letting the phone dry out for a few days. Sometimes that does the trick, they said — but often it doesn’t.

Unfortunately phones that are damaged by liquid aren’t covered by most manufacturers’ warranties. So this may be an expensive lesson for one young man regarding always emptying his pockets at night. (But his dad’s wallet went through the laundry — again — two weeks ago, so this may be a genetic problem we’re dealing with here!)

Hey, anything for a good article-sidebar idea, right?

Has this happened at your house? If so, did the phone ever come back to life?


March 05, 2022

"Dude, Let's Go Play Guitar Hero at the Library"

Libraries in southeastern Michigan are crying "uncle" it seems, when it comes to attracting young people. Hey, who needs books?

Video-game events at public libraries there are drawing crowds of teens, including about 100 kids who compete monthly at "Guitar Hero" at the Rochester Hills Public Library.

"Getting teens to come to the library is right up there with getting them to go to church: It's not exactly the first place they want to go," Christine Lind Hage, library director, told the Detroit Free Press for a recent story. So she stocked the shelves with 1,823 games, about 1,300 of which are checked out daily.

OK, so if I follow that logic, I'll stock my fridge with lots of junk food because it might make the kitchen more appealing to my pre-teen son and his buddies, right? I guess the kids who are checking out all those video games might stumble on a book or two while they're there. But this effort seems a bit misguided to me.

March 04, 2022

Kids and ATVs — What Are We Thinking?

I've been writing my kids' health column, "Health Notes," for more than a decade, and every year, I receive the same sad statistics on kids and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Too many kids are dying here. Enough already!

More than 100 children died in ATV accidents in 2006 (the most current data available), according to the CPSC. An additional estimated 146,600 people were treated in emergency rooms for ATV-related injuries. More than a quarter of those were kids.

Pennsylvania has had the highest number of reported ATV deaths since 1982, followed by California, West Virginia, Texas and Kentucky. Every state had at least one death related to ATVs. Most of the deaths and injuries to children are the result of kids riding adult-size ATVs.

In more than 75 percent of the incidents where the vehicle’s speed could be determined, it appeared that the ATVs were going too fast for conditions. In nearly 60 percent of the deaths, riders were not wearing helmets. That's just plain nuts. For younger riders, ages 6 to 11, about 30 percent of the ATV accidents involved collisions and at least 27 percent involved ATVs that rolled over.

Let's get real. These things aren't toys. They require proper instruction, helmet use, adult supervision and the proper size ATV for the child. Young kids simply can't handle adult-sized ATVs safely. The CPSC — and emergency-room docs — can only ring the warning bell. It's up to parents to do the rest.

February 07, 2022

Guest Blog: Our Get-Fat-Tuesday Family Tradition

Here's a fun post from first-time guest blogger Ellen Cajka, who knows all about healthy eating (and when to not worry about it) AND raising teenagers. I love her "Get Fat Tuesday" family tradition.

Mardi Gras, otherwise known as "Fat Tuesday," was a lot of fun at our house this year. No, we didn't have a wild costume party, partake in alcohol or even "earn" multi-colored beads.

My 14-year-old daughter, Taylor, and I planned our own version of Fat Tuesday — and boy did we do it up right! We called it "Get Fat Tuesday." Taylor is giving up fast food for Lent, and I am giving up sweets. No small task! So we decided to go out with a bang.

We ordered  three different kinds of takeout: pizza, Taco Bell and El Pollo Loco. And we finished the evening off with 31 Flavors ice cream and had two scoops each. I was planning on having a hot fudge sundae, but after a piece of pizza, 3/4 of a cheese quesadilla, some Nachos Bell Grande, chicken and mashed potatoes, a sundae suddenly didn't sound all that appetizing.

We had fun planning and it certainly felt sinful enjoying all those forbidden foods. Sweets are my nemesis, and any teen would struggle to go just a week without pizza or a burger. It's going to be LONG 40 days and 40 nights.

But hey, maybe the Easter Bunny will bring me some chocolate.

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