Raising Teens

a site for parents grappling with sanity

Does taking away your teens cellphone really work as punishment?

My daughter’simages.jpg1 friend Tina recently got her phone taken away for lying to her mom and dad. When I asked her why, she said that she was driving a golf cart and accidentally hit her brother’s  foot. Well, her brother, Ryan, started crying and their mom freaked and wanted to know what happened. Tina,  for fear of getting in trouble, lied and said he ran into the cart.  Her brother said that was not not true, Tina ran into him.  Her mom asked a neighbor who happened to have seen the incident and she supported what Ryan stated. Well, Tina’s mom was not only disappointed in Tina for lying, but extremely upset because  she could have seriously hurt her brother.

Tina’s phone was taken from her as punishment and she does not know when she will be getting it back. Now, I understand what Tina did was wrong, but I don’t think the punishment fits the crime. I know every parent disciplines differently, but I would have at least told Tina her exact punishment — a day or two  without the phone —  or I would of had her do the laundry for  a week.

I told Tina she needs to apologize to her brother for hurting him and apologize to her parents for lying and hurting her brother, even if it was an accident. Accidents happen, but lying  will only hurt you in the end.


I have to wonder what punishment would Tina have gotten if she snuck out of her room and went drinking with friends at midnight. Would she  have the phone taken away for a month? It’s unrealistic and I don’t think would work.  If you keep taking the phone away as a punishment for everything your teen does, do you think it’s really going to continue working? For some teens, the first or second time their cellphone is  taken away  becomes their last. They realize it is too painful to be without it.  Yet, some other teens become immune to losing their cell phones. Or, parents give in and give the phone back.

So, I pose this question: Does taking away a teen’s cell phone really work as punishment?



I’m Devastated by Teen Boys Committing Suicide

Yesterday, when I heard a teenage boy at University of Florida appeared to have committed suicide, I was devastated. How sad that a young man could feel hopeless enough to take his life!

My nephews, who knew this boy well, are grief stricken. This boy was close with his younger brother, belonged to a fraternity, had lots of friends and  played on the university’s hockey team. Through an outside observer’s eyes, he seemed to be living an ideal life.

When I was in high school — a school with about 2,500 students — I never knew of any of my peers committing suicide. And even in my college years, suicide among the teens was a very unusual event that I rarely heard of.

Yet, in the last year, two teenage boys with whom I have a connection have committed suicide and I regularly hear of others in cities across the U.S.  This morning, I stumbled onto a website with a post by Mark Gregston , founder and executive director of Heartlight, a residential counseling program for struggling adolescents.  He gave these statistics:  Before the 1960’s, suicide by adolescents happened only rarely; but today, nearly one in ten teens contemplates suicide, and over 500,000 attempt it each year. While suicide rates for all other ages have dropped, suicides among teens have nearly tripled.

Gregston explains that between the sexes, teen boys are more than four times as likely to commit suicide as girls. But girls are known to think about and attempt suicide about twice as often as boys. The difference is the method; girls attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves, and thankfully most are found in time and rescued. Boys tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, hanging, or jumping from heights.

For the last 24 hours I am consumed with this horror. I’m scared for our teens and for parents who aren’t sure  how to avert this sad scenario.

Ask any parent and they will tell you that the pressure on teens today is much greater than it was when they went to high school. The pressure to achieve academically, socially and athletically has reached crazy levels and our kids are paying the price. Combine that pressure with the angst from social media and we have created a society of highly anxious and often depressed teenagers who are flooding campus counseling centers looking for ways to cope.

How does suicide happen? Gregston says teens who feel pain and despair don’t see the bigger picture; they only see the “right now.” They get wrapped up in the emotions of the moment.  When you mix immature short-sightedness with feelings of utter hopelessness, some kids think they cannot live with the pain another day. They react on suicidal thoughts without thinking it through.

As a mother of a son in college who doesn’t communicate well with me, I worry.

So, what can we as parents do?

Gregston says we can talk to our teens when we see any signs of trouble and encourage them to seek professional help from a qualified mental health professional.

Here are some more of his recommendations:

  • If you ever hear your teen say, “I’m going to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide,” always take such statements seriously and immediately seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional. Don’t walk away. Don’t wait.  Get them to a hospital or counselor immediately, even if they don’t want to go or say they were just fooling with you.
  • If you see mild warning signs, ask your teen if he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide.
  • Get them to commit to you that if they ever do have those thoughts, they’ll let you or someone else know.
  • If your teen confides in you their loss of hope or control of their life, show that you take those concerns seriously.
  • Recognize that a depressed teen generally doesn’t have the ability or strength to solve their own depression.
  • Listen to your teen and try not to be judgemental or accusing. Being a teenager is hard today and your child is justified in their feelings, even if you may not agree or understand. When you realize this, you can help your child.
  • Remain in contact; even if you no longer have any control over your teen’s life. It can make all the difference.

Parents whose children are suffering from anxiety often feel embarrassed or don’t want to talk about it with other people. The reality is more parents are dealing with this than you realize.

Also, I feel like it is increasingly important to talk to our teens about how to respond if they have a friend who suffers from anxiety or depression.  Their reaction in a situation can be just as critical to how it plays out.

When a teen commits suicide, the entire community grieves. Yet, we aren’t making enough headway in preventing this tragedy. What are your thoughts on the increasing rate of teen suicide? Is it too late to dial down the pressure on teens? What do you think can be done?

New Year, Tons of Homework


I’m not sure what’s going on but the new year has my home in turmoil.  My oldest are still home from college on winter break having a great time doing whatever they feel like doing and my youngest is inundated with homework.

I remember the older two having tons of homework in high school but it seems to have gotten worse. I know each child has their own pace for getting homework done, and maybe my youngest is slower at his homework (or more distracted). Still, how much homework is too much?

I hate being the nagging mom asking repeatedly each night, “How much homework do you have?” It’s just that as a mom, I want my kid to go to bed at a decent hour. Some nights, I feel like screaming at the teachers, “What are you thinking? These teens deserve time to be a kid.”

Unfortunately, it’s a different academic world today than when most of us parents went to high school.  There is so much pressure on teens to take advanced classes, get good grades, get amazing test scores, participate in activities and go to college. Some teens do after school activities — or work — and then have to come home to hours of homework. No wonder our teens are stressed out, burnt out and suffering from anxiety!

When my daughter got to college last year, she felt the workload was a breeze compared to what she had in high school. She also had more time to get the work done. In that way, I guess high school prepared her well.

Still, is the overwhelming amount of high school homework necessary? I really don’t think it is! I think about all those parents out there,  trying to get their teens to put down their phones and finish math and I send them my sympathy. We all want our children to do well in school. But does school really need to follow our kids home in such a burdensome way?

What are your thoughts on high school homework?


Does mom get involved in your breakups?

Recently my daughter Olivia and her boyfriend of 11 months broke up. I know breakups are a part of life, but I feel like I broke up with him as well.

He was apart of my daughter’s life and was a part of our family functions and we all liked him a lot. Actually, we loved having him around.

It was hard seeing Olivia’s heart broken. I was constantly giving her advice on what to text and say in hopes of making things better. I felt like I was in the relationship.  I was trying everything to help her and hoping I was making things better not worse. It was very stressful. In my day, we didn’t text.  We called or met in person.

I know this generation has technology in their relationships, but back when I had a boyfriend, I looked forward to hearing the phone ring and hoping it was him calling me. This generation needs to TALK TO ONE ANOTHER!! Texting is not the best form of communication. It makes a bad situation worse!

Olivia and her boyfriend went back and forth so much on text and she kept asking me what to say. I became mentally exhausted. I wanted to help her, but she needed to stand on her own, too. In the end, she did meet and talk with him and really communicated how she felt and what bothered her.  It was the smart thing to do in order to save their relationship.

As of today, they are okay and working on their relationship. I keep telling Olivia to just keep the lines of communication open and talk whenever possible so as not to have a misunderstanding.  Most importantly, respect respect, respect one another. These millennials need to learn that respect in a relationship along with communication is key.

I’m glad Olivia leaned on me for help and advice at her most desperate time of need. I’m also grateful I have that relationship with her, but I don’t know if I can take another breakups. It was tiring.

Have you gotten involved in your teen’s relationship breakups??

Why your teens should buy holiday gifts


My son came home from college with a suitcase full of holiday gifts for the entire family. He actually put thought into each one. I was shocked. But while I thought it was nice, my younger son felt bad. He hadn’t bought anything for any family members. The thought hadn’t occurred to him, which upset me. I want my children to be thoughtful, especially with each other.

During the last few weeks, several of my friends have asked about how to handle family gift giving.  Is it necessary for teens to give each other gifts and give parents gifts?

Ask a teen what they want for the holidays and they can rattle off a list in a few minutes. It likely includes something electronic and expensive. But ask them what they plan to give others and the list is much shorter — if it even exists.

It can be tough to teach children the value of giving in a season when they’re surrounded by messages about the value of getting.

Here’s the thing: Your teen will likely get more out of the act of “giving” than the sibling who receives the gift. While you might want to offer to help with shopping, teens need to do the giving themselves, even if funds are running low.  They can always make gifts like chocolate chip cookies or a picture frame. They also can do extra chores around the house or neighbor to earn money if necessary.

While giving to charity teaches them to be caring, I feel like giving to their siblings or parents or grandparents  teaches them family is important and worthy of their thoughtfulness this time of year. It sets them up for a lifetime of being charitable towards each other. I still remember when  my little brother who was so annoying to me  bought me a paper doll book when I was young. It didn’t cost him much and I was thrilled with it. Today, my brother still comes through with gifts he knows I will appreciate.

A few years ago, my children set a price limit on how much they would spend on each other. It wasn’t much but at least they all focused on giving rather than just receiving. It’s amazing how much you can get for $5 when you put thought into it!

By adolescence, young people have the capacity to think and act independently from their parents – to give conscious attention to giving.  Okay, so maybe we need to nudge our teens to put down their iPhones, take out their earbuds and think about what they are going to give their annoying brother or sister. I tell my teens that best gifts show the person that you know them well and want to make them happy. All it takes is some thought.

A friend of mine doesn’t agree with me — at all. She believes her teens should spend their time and money giving to charity rather than each other. While I understand her perspective, I believe showing generosity for others begins at home.  To me, the lessons you teach your children about being thoughtful toward family are as important as those about being thoughtful to strangers in need.

What are your thoughts on teen gift giving to family? Do you encourage it in your home? Do your kids buy you holiday gifts?


My “little man” is growing up?

I never blog about my son Matthew, my “little man”.  He’s 14 and hitting puberty full force. We recently went to his annual physical, which I consider my report card as a mom.  He grew 4 inches  and gained 15 lbs in one year! He’s 63 ” tall and 105 lbs! How did this happen before my eyes?

I always call Matthew my “little man” and recently he said, “Mom, what are you going to do when I am all grown up? Matthew Are you still going to call me your “little man?” I said, “YES!” In my eyes, you are the little boy I longed for when I was trying to get pregnant. You make me smile when no one else can. You are my life. So yes, you will always be my “little man”.

I see him changing,  and becoming more awkward with me about certain things that before were fine. He keeps more to himself and has become  more independent. I feel like he doesn’t need me, but I know he does. I miss the little boy who used to always want to be around me. Don’t get me wrong, my Matthew gives me daily hugs and kisses and will tell me how his day went.  Every chance I get, I tell him how much he is loved and why. I try to take opportunities to get quality time with him.

I know he has to grow up and I love the man he’s becoming.  But, I wish he could be the little boy who wanted me to pick him up and hold him constantly. I miss his little arms around my neck, holding me so tight. Even now when he hugs me, I feel all of life’s stresses  leave my body.

Funny how I don’t mind that my daughter is growing up! I know it’s a double standard. It must be a mother-son thing. I know my daughter Olivia will be fine and I am so excited for what is ahead for her as she starts planning for college next year. I know she is dying to grow up  fast and live life to the fullest. But, Matthew? No, he can wait to grow up! I’m not ready for girls breaking his heart or his feeling disappointment over anything he’s trying to achieve.

As I tell Matthew often, ” I love you forever. I like you for alway. As long as you’re a living, my baby you will be!” — Robert Munsch

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Cell phones and homework? The struggles of a parent of a teen

A few days ago, I walked into the room to see my son at his desk staring at his cell phone.  I yelled at him to put it down and get his homework done. But,  he insisted he was doing his homework. “Mom, I’m looking up my assignment,” he told me.

Lately, I’ve noticed a big difference in the way my youngest child Garret, a high school freshman, uses his phone and the way his older siblings used their phones .  Garret uses his phone for everything he needs to do his homework. He uses it to look up word definitions, check his grades, calculate math problems and research science terms. Of course, in between, he’s also liking pictures on Instagram and pulling up videos on Vine.

As a parent, I’m struggling with maintaining control over how much connectivity is too much, particularly when my teen is a digital native who considers a paperback dictionary “ridiculous” and “unnecessary”.

A big problem is that homework in my house seems to drag on for hours and I find myself nagging Garret to hurry up so he can get to sports practice on time or get to bed at a decent hour.  While I realize that teachers pile on the homework, I’m sure that some of the reason it drags on for hours is because of the distraction of electronics.

In a new study by Common Sense Media, half of the teenagers said they watch TV or use social media either “a lot” or “sometimes” while doing homework, and 76 percent said they listen to music while working.  Half of the teens also said that listening to music actually helps their work, while only 6 percent said they thought it hurt.

“As a parent and educator, there’s clearly more work to be done around the issue of multi-tasking,” said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, an organization that monitors youthful media use and gives recommendations to parents told NBC News. “Nearly two-thirds of teens today tell us they don’t think watching TV or texting while doing homework makes any difference to their ability to study and learn, even though there’s more and more research to the contrary.”

My friend Stefani is just as frustrated as I am. She took her son’s cell phone away from him a few days ago. She explained to me that he’s a kid who is easily distracted and whose grades have been slipping. “I blame that darn phone,” she said.

The phone is just one culprit in our teens’ addiction to devices.  New research has found that teens are spending a reported nine hours a day on media consumption, with tweens trailing not too far behind, dedicating an estimated six hours to their smartphones or tablets.

Steyer says that that statistic  is sad because it “shows you that kids spend more time with media and technology than they do with their parents, time in school or any other thing.”

While it is sad, it also is reality.

Until now, I’ve been okay with letting my son use his phone while doing homework. He is doing well in school. But this survey has me wondering if I am making a mistake. Maybe I should make Garret put his phone in the desk drawer until his homework is finished. What do you think…should cell phones be part of the homework routine —  or banned until it’s completed?

Should teens have part time jobs?

teen working

(Editor’s note: Today our guest blogger is Liz Greene)

As a parent,  you make decisions for your kids based on nothing more than your gut feeling and a good dose of common sense.

However, once they hit those freewheeling teenage years, things start to change. Suddenly, they’re making a lot more decisions for themselves, and you’re just holding on, hoping they’ll accept your guidance. One of the biggest choices teenagers face is whether or not to get a part-time job.

As a teen, I had a part-time job as a server in a retirement home. At the time, I loathed my boss and the rules he made.  Now, years later, I realize how much I gained from those months in the service industry.  I learned to cooperate in a work environment with people I didn’t necessarily get along with and I learned how to  figure out a way to hold washed plates so I didn’t get burned. Most of all, I learned with any job you can always find a silver lining; mine being the relationships I built with the senior residents.

I feel like every teen can benefit from getting real life work skills. But before you give your teen the green light, take these pros and cons into consideration.

The Benefits

Work skills serve teens well in college and prepare them for careers in adulthood. Time management, problem solving, communication, working under pressure — these are all soft skills that look fantastic on a resume or college application and are great to get at a young age. Furthermore, the right job may provide networking possibilities that set your teen on the path to a lifetime career. Working teens meet new people and have new experiences – creating positive memories that last a lifetime.

Earning money enables teenagers to learn how to effectively manage finances. Even if they’re only using their paychecks to bankroll their own expenses, they learn to budget between clothes, entertainment, and bills. These new-found skills instill confidence, a sense of responsibility, and independence.

The Drawbacks

Can your teen handle it? Unfortunately, there can also be negative consequences to teen employment, such as reduced time for homework, less school involvement, and increased stress.

Having a job can also negatively affect a student’s grades. Students who work more than 20 hours a week have lower grade point averages than students who work fewer hours per week. For those same teens, research shows that substance abuse is higher – partly because older coworkers can lead them astray.

How Parents Can Help

Sit down with your child before they apply for employment and discuss the pros, cons, and responsibilities of having a job. Come to an agreement on how your teen will use his income, whether it be helping out with family finances, saving for college, or for fun. This will help to avoid future conflicts about money.

Teach your teen how to manage demands made on his time. This is a necessary skill that will serve him well in adulthood. The teenage years are a good time to learn to use time and resources wisely.

The truth is, a part-time job can be a wonderful experience for teenagers – as long as it’s paired with the right parental guidance. It’s not easy to let your kids loose into the world of employment, but the benefits are numerous. It would be a shame not to let them get that leg up into the world of adulthood.

Liz Greene is a writer and former preschool teacher from Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene



College Bound or Home Bound?

As my daughter applys to colleges and prepares to start the next chapter of her life, I asked her if she would consider going to college locally and staying home. Well, I might as well have cut all her hair off and taken her phone from her because that was the reaction I got. How could I even consider that for her she wanted to know?

I’m sorry,  was that an insult? College is college whether it’s  local or away.  Not to Olivia.college

To her being away at a college – whether it be a big University or small community college – is just that, “AWAY”.  It’s her passage to adulthood. She wants to feel she is starting a new chapter somewhere new, not where she went to high school and while  living at home.

I went to school locally for a couple of years and stayed home, but she and I are different  people. I get that. She knows she won’t feel like she’s growing up living at home. She says she won’t feel like she’s in college, just back in high school.

As silly as that may sound to you and I, to her it’s her reality. It is how she feels and I cant fault her for that. I need to support her in any way that helps her do well in college, whether it be here or away.

In the end, we all have goals and dreams and we set paths to get us there.  Many people may not agree with the path we take to achieve our goals, but, as I always tell Olivia,  it is not where you start that counts, it is where  you end that matters.  People may not understand your choices and they don’t have to. I know I don’t sometimes. But people have to understand that they are your choices.

So, as Olivia prepares for college life, I know she will flourish and thrive being away. Her wings will spread and she will soar.  She is college bound but  that’s okay. untitled

because I know when she wants or needs her mom or dad we will always be here.. home bound.

Why you shouldn’t care about your teen’s messy bedroom

messy bedroom


When I pictured my children in college, I envisioned young people wearing their school t-shirts surrounded by new friends and roaming a campus. What I didn’t picture was the empty bedrooms they would leave behind.

For me, that has been one of the most difficult parts of the next stage of life. My daughter, and now my son are living their lives, enjoying college, many miles from home. And, here I am walking past their empty bedrooms feeling a pang of loneliness every time I look in. I have had other parents tell me they shut their children’s bedroom door when they leave home.  I can’t bring myself to do that because part of me wants to see their belongings and picture them still in their rooms.

In high school, my son and daughter turned into giant slobs. I am not a neat freak by any means, but I couldn’t stand the overwhelming mess – every drawer open, empty water bottles on their dressers, stuff all over. I nagged them regularly to pick dirty clothes up off the floor and make their beds. I even hung a sign on the garage door stating that no one leaves the house without their beds made. (It didn’t work!) My teens seemed baffled by my need for cleanliness. One weekend I stood at the door of their bedrooms refusing to let them go out until the tidiness met my approval.

Now, the bedrooms are clean and exactly in the pristine condition I insisted they be in when they left home. That’s definitely the upside. But there are days when I would trade the clean room for my kids’ presence. Yes, I admit, I long to see a dirty sock on the floor.

For all you parents frustrated when your teen’s room looks like a disaster zone, feel free to insist on cleanliness. But know the day lies ahead when the mess will go away and unfortunately, your teen will too.

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