Raising Teens

a site for parents grappling with sanity

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Teflon Teens

You get to a point sometimes that no matter what you tell your teen or how you tell them  it ain’t sticking, like teflon. They will do what they want, when they want and how they want. How do we stop or control this?

How many times can you tell your teen to:

1. Clean your room

2. Put your clothes away

3. Do your homework

4. Be home by curfew

5. Be careful when you’re out

6. Be safe, make smart choices

7. Don’t drink or do drugs

and the list goes on and on.

I find myself helpless that I can’t get through to my daughter no matter what.  So what can I do? Keep at her and never give up? Give up and just let her do what she wants, she will anyway? Is there an answer? I don’t know. Do you? Does anyone?

I do know that I, not like teflon, will stick by her and hope that something, anything that I have told her over and over has sunk in and stuck.

So until then, I wait, hope, breathe, exhale and repeat.

 

What do Dan Marino, Arnold Schwarzenegger and my son have in common?

 

Almost on a weekly basis, I talk about condoms with my son.

I tell him, “rain or shine, wear your raincoat.” My son thinks my condom crusade is hilarious. He doesn’t have girlfriend, he’s only 15, and he says he hasn’t had sex so he finds this obsession of mine to be “ridiculous.”

I may be crazy, but as parent, I feel my window of opportunity to make an impression on my son is now. Catching a your teen at the right time in the right mood to absorb your words of wisdom is a huge challenge. You need to be physically and mentally being there at that rare moment when your teen wants to talk or listen.

My recent obsession with “the condom talk” came about from the NBC show Parenthood. I love that show and one of the characters, Drew, reminds me a lot of my teenage son. A few episodes ago, Drew, who is still in high school, got his girlfriend pregnant. It was torturous to watch him visibly upset and waiting around while his girlfriend decided how she wanted to handle the situation.

It made me realize that should my son decide not to wear his raincoat one night, for whatever reason, he has absolutely no say in the life-altering decisions that follow. That comes with the territory of being male.

Football great Dan Marino has learned this the hard way. So has Arnold Schwarzenegger. So has John Edwards. All are fathers to children they had while married to another woman. Whether they were intentionally trapped by these women who preyed on their wealth and stature, we will never know. What we do know is that their mistakes have cost them dearly.

What does their situations say to our sons? What can we teach them from this? Everywhere you turn in the news these days there is some high profile man being accused of lying or cheating in sports, in business or in life. When the news leaks, and they finally come clean, they apologize and say they made a big mistake.

When my kids are caught doing something wrong, they usually respond,“But everyone else was….” There is a reason generations of parents have dished out that famous line, “If all your friends were jumping off a bridge would you do it, too?”

But somewhere along the line of growing up, we mature and realize that “everyone is
doing it” is not a logical argument and that avoiding mistakes takes smart split-second decision making in the heat of the moment. That’s not easy, especially for teens.

Like most parents, I have worried about a lot of things as my kids have grown up — from their playground antics to their Facebook antics. Watching them step out into their own lives and make their own decisions and mistakes might be the hardest part.

When the news broke yesterday about Dan Marino’s extramarital affair and his love child, I jumped on the chance to use Dan’s story in my condom crusade, making it dinner table conversation. I’ve accepted that my son may think I’m crazy mom — at least right now.  But if my voice can creep inside my son’s head, and guide his thinking when the brain turns off and the hormones or alcohol kicks in, then all my efforts to be present as a parent will have paid off.

Parents, how do you approach finding the right time and right method to drive a point home with your teens? What news events have you used as your teaching moments?

 

What would you do if this was your daughter?

For several days now, I’ve been upset by a story my kids have told me and I want to get some other parents thoughts.

Here is what happened:

Last weekend, a bunch of kids were at a house party and were drinking. One girl named Emily got drunk and decided to go out on the crowded patio and give her ex-boyfriend oral sex on a lounge chair. Immediately, another teenager whipped out his cellphone and videoed it. He forwarded the video to friends, who forwarded the video to more friends.

It took only about two days for thousands of teens to have seen the video. It not only spread to students at the high school the girl attends but it also made its way to kids phones at two other nearby high schools. The video became so talked about that several of my daughter’s teachers knew about it and discussed it in class. One of my daughter’s teachers urged those who had it on their phones to delete it and told them they could get in trouble for disseminating child pornography.

My daughter was really upset about this whole incident and feels extremely sorry for the girl. My son’s take is different — he called the girl a slut, said she shouldn’t have been doing what she did in public, even if she was drinking. He pointed out that it’s almost an expectation today that anything stupid you do will be videoed by your peers.

A few days after the party, kids from a rival school showed up at a high school basketball game with a sign that said your school sucks and so does Emily. We all know that teens can be VERY mean.

Regardless how you look at this incident, I think it’s horribly sad.  Teens by nature are immature and make mistakes…but now their mistakes are soooo public. Could you imagine what it would have been like to have your teen mistakes caught on video?

I can’t imagine how this girl is going to  shake off the reputation she now has earned.  It’s likely it will  even follow her to college unless she leaves the state.

My daughter also was upset that no one has even mentioned the boy’s name or revealed his identity, only the girl.  I explained to her that unfortunately, that’s how it is and has always been in our society.

My kids have heard that the girl has been tweeting to urge her peers to back off. I really hope this girl is strong enough to withstand the taunting.

How would you handle this situation if you were the girl’s parent?

You might be inclined to preface your answer by saying your daughter would never do something like this but I’m sure Emily’s mom would have said the same thing.

If Emily were my daughter, I think I would get her into counseling pronto. For the rest of us, maybe it’s an opportunity to acknowledge that we live in the digital age and discuss actions and consequences with our kids.

 

 

Have you failed as a mom if your teen can’t talk to you?

Recently my daughter and I were texting back and forth and she texted something that kinda hit nerve and kinda hurt. Basically, she was telling saying she couldn’t talk to me.  I was shocked! I thought I was “talking” with her and listening. Apparently not.

Here is what her text said: “Why can’t I talk to you like kids can talk to their parents and they are actually good parents. But, you are a whole different story, yes you do a lot with me but you don’t do enough. If I can’t talk to you, you are not a mom, you failed at being a mom if your own daughter can’t even talk to you. How do you think that makes me feel?”

WOW! How do you think this text made me feel?  It was like ice water hitting me in the face, shocking and painful. Have I failed her? Have I failed at being a mom? Nothing in this world means more to me than that.. BEING A MOM.

I took a deep breath before I responded because my defensive mode kicked in and I knew that listing everything that I have done for her and how I have been there for her would be moot. That’s not how she sees it and she won’t get it, why waste arguing via text back and forth. Nothing will be gained.

I guess the things she needs to “talk” to me about she hasn’t been able to for fear I will get upset and not understand. I took this text as an opporunity, an opportunity to get close to my teenage daughter. She is telling me  “Mom, I want to be able to talk to you. Please listen and don’t judge me.” Well, I knew if I was going to be the mom she needs me to be for her I would need to listen better and really hear what she’s saying and most importantly, not judge her.

So, I texted her back and told her that I’m sorry she felt she couldn’t talk to me. I thought she could. I told her I would try to listen and not judge but I need the same in return from her. Hey, it’s the first step right? No one said it was going to be easy.

I have said to Olivia that being a mom did not come with instructions so I will make mistakes, big and small ones. We all do. So, I asked her to be patient and cut me some slack.  I may not be the best mom, but I am ALWAYS here for you and no one will love you as much as I do.

Will keep you posted on  how the “talking” goes.

Drinking, driving, teenagers and New Year’s Eve

My teenage daughter wants to go to a party at a friend’s house tonight. I’m stuck in a bad position because I’m certain that tonight, of all nights, a teen party will include alcohol. So, should I let her go?

It’s not the drinking I’m worried about as much as the drinking and driving. If I let her go, she will either have to drive herself home after midnight (which means breaking the driving curfew of 11 p.m. and promising not to drink even a sip)  or she will have to get a ride with a friend (who may or may not have been drinking).  Another option is I would have to venture out late at night to pick her up. Not one of those scenarios is appealing.

Ugh! It sure was simpler when I didn’t have to worry about the alcohol factor and when my kids still thought hanging out with mom and dad was cool!

It seems more parents these days are giving into the notion that their teens are going to drink at parties, regardless of being under legal drinking age.

The New York Times reports:

In a national study of 11th and 12th graders commissioned by Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions, nearly half of teenagers said they were allowed by their parents to go to parties where alcohol was being served. While it’s possible to be of two minds about the legal drinking age, few parents are ambivalent about the question of teenagers drinking and then getting behind the wheel. They are totally against it!

But teens are doing it. In that same study, more than one in 10 students reported driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs after New Year’s Eve. What can you do to make sure that one in 10 who is drinking and driving isn’t your kid?

Here’s some advice from an expert:

Recognize that some teenagers will be drinking at parties and renew your promise to pick up a child anytime, anywhere, no questions asked., says Dave Melton, managing director of global safety for Liberty International and an impassioned advocate for keeping young drivers safe. Mr. Melton.  “It’s not a matter of getting angry,” Mr. Melton said. “It’s a matter of getting them home.”

The same study found a number of positives: a majority of teenagers said they would stop drinking and driving if asked by a passenger, or would speak up and tell an impaired friend not to drive. Melton says  parents need to encourage teenagers to act on those good intentions.

Here’s what I plan to tell my daughter about getting a ride home tonight or any night:  Assume any driving friend who has had even a small amount to drink (or used other substances) isn’t safe to drive even if they think they are okay.  That assumption can be a matter of life and death this New Year’s Eve, and any other night as well. Now, I just have to figure out how to deliver this message without it sounding like a lecture!

No one said this parenting stuff was easy. Wishing you and your teens a safe and happy new year!

Are tough AP classes worth it for your teens?

The debate about whether to take AP classes in high school goes on in homes around the country. It goes on in mine EVERY time my kids have to do course selection.

Both of my teens take AP classes in high school. I encourage them to do it, mostly because I feel like they have to if they want to get into their college of choice. I never took a single AP class in high school. Often, I wonder how this whole craziness got started…how did we get to the point where our kids have so much academic pressure on them in high school?

Even more, do teens really need to take AP classes to get into a state college or just the Ivies? Is the pressure in high school really necessary?

An recent article in The Miami Herald caught my attention: Are tough Advanced Placement classes worth it for Florida high school students? The article takes a hard look at the AP madness. Here’s one conclusion I completely agree with: The college-level program used to be known as a VIP program for elite students. Now it’s more about open access. If you want to take an AP course, you can even find one online at a virtual high school.

While this AP pressure goes on in other states too, in Florida the state pays for kids to take the AP exam, teachers get a bonus if their students pass the exam, and  the number of students in AP courses — which cover more than 30 subjects — has nearly tripled over the past decade.

What’s the real point of AP classes? I’ve always thought it was to prepare our kids for college. To me, the most interesting discovery in the article was that even after taking AP classes, some students said the rigor of college was a shock. They felt they weren’t prepared.

Of course, a big upside of AP classes in high school is financial. If you take enough Advanced Placement classes, you can potentially graduate from college a semester or even a year early. For a student who isn’t receiving financial aid, it can save tens of thousands of dollars.

My kids are always talking about friends or teens they know who have gone overboard with taking six or seven AP classes at the same time to raise their GPA higher and stand out. To me, that’s insane!

The crazy part is with the AP madness, admission rates to the country’s premier liberal arts colleges have never been lower, according to an article in The Boston Globe.

Here’s are quotes from admissions officers from the Boston Globe article. ”

Six AP classes overall is ample to prepare a student well for college, says the College Board’s Trevor Packer. Packer, who bases that number on one researcher’s conclusion, says, “I don’t like it when I hear that a student is choosing a 10th AP course instead of doing an extracurricular activity.”

Lee Coffin, Tufts’ dean of undergraduate admissions, suggests using the selection of AP classes to create what he calls an “intellectual fingerprint.” Students who are passionate about history, for instance, can take AP history to explore the subject and have success in the course documented on their record.

“It’s things in moderation,” says Kevin Kelly, director of admissions at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “My rule of thumb here is to get good grades in good courses.”

So parents, I guess it’s up to us to know whether AP classes are worth it for our kids and how many they can handle at one time.

What do you think about the AP madness? Do you encourage or discourage your kids to take AP classes?

 

Why are teens so annoyed?

 

 

Almost every day, I hear a teenager say someone is annoying. He or she could be talking about their sibling, their teacher or their close friend.

Recently, my son told me he was interested in girl, but he found out she said he was talking too much to her one night and she called him annoying. He wasn’t even offended by that!

Being annoying isn’t really much of an insult, because to teens it is  assumed that someone — even a close friend — is going to be annoying at some point in time.

What confuses me about the “annoyed” generation is that these are the same kids that hug each other every time they meet or part. For teenagers, hugging is hip. And so is being annoyed.

Check out the hashtag #annoyed on Twitter and you will find teens who are annoyed by how loud people talk, how boring teachers are, how two faced their friend is or how certain people talk too much.

I saw a teen comment on a website that said: “It’s kinda hard *not* to get annoyed.

Of course, for teens we (parents) are THE most annoying people in their lives. Some days, saying hello to them or their friends in a certain tone is considered annoying.

Luckily, I’ve read up on how not to be annoying to a teen. Here’s what I’ve discovered I need to do:

1. Avoid repeating myself (this is a tough one!)

2. Learn to read facial expressions (so that I can immediately identify and stop whatever I’m doing that is annoying)

3. Avoid laughing too loud in front of a teen’s friends (or asking too many questions).

4. Do not butt into conversations when they are chatting with friends (another tough one!)

5. Avoid singing along to music on the radio (particularly if you are belting out the wrong lyrics!)

I’m not sure how, when or if teens mature into less annoyed adults but from where I sit, it can’t happen soon enough!

 

 

Why can’t kids focus in school the way they do in sports?

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, my daughter Olivia had a Soccer Tournament for her U-16 Girls  Travel Team.  I started to notice over the course of a couple of the games how Olivia was so focused, determined and always preparing for the next play. I was so impressed how she knew what to do and didn’t need to be told to focus or pay attention. Best of all… NO CELL PHONE!

Olivia also plays for her High School JV Soccer team and again that same week, I noticed how much better of a player she has gotten by really listening and paying attention to the coach. I was so proud when Olivia scored a goal for her school. All I kept thinking was “wow, first time I don’t have to worry about her making the right choices”.

After the game, I said to Olivia, “I am so proud of you and Dad is too. I wish all the hard work, effort and focus you put in playing soccer well and winning, you would put into your life and all aspects of it.”

At the Thanksgiving tournament, she actually started! Her hard work paid off! Again, I told her how proud we were and that working hard has rewards.

Why can’t she apply that to her personal life? I just don’t get it. Why doesn’t she want to “win” or “be the best” in school and in her life choices?

Havent figured out a way for her to get it yet but, I will not give up trying. I so hope it’s just a freshman thing because if her passion for soccer continues, which I think it will, no way  will she get a scholarship if her grades aren’t there. See, on the soccer field, no socializing, no texting, its all game. You are there to win.

Well, now I just need her to play just as hard and win in the game of life!

Mom’s shouldn’t wear PINK from Victoria’s Secret?

If you recall in my very first post, I wrote about how I went shopping with my daughter at Hollister and how she was mortified that I would buy anything in the store. Well, we had a similar situation occur recently but it was regarding why mom’s should not wear PINK by Victoria’s Secret but they can wear Victoria’s Secret under garments.

It all started when I was giving my daughter her laundry and noticed one of my undergarments mixed in with hers. Well, she was very abrupt in telling me “Mom, you shouldn’t be wearing PINK underwear from Victoria Secret. You are too old to wear that. Mom’s your age wear VS, not PINK.” I started laughing so hard because I wanted to know where on earth she got that idea. Seems like I’m too old to wear anything and I’m only 45!!

Being  I am a Director of Marketing for the Miami  Children’s Museum, I know all to well about targeting your product to the appropriate target group. I asked her “Who said PINK was only for teens?”  She said “Mom, PINK is for young girls, you don’t see me shopping in VS for sexy stuff for me, so why would you be in PINK shopping for you.”  “Maybe because I have been wearing PINK from VS since before you were born and it is NOT just for teens!” I knew I was not going to win this battle. It’s just silly.
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College prep stress

My husband and I are stressing over college prep. We are stressing more than my 11th grade daughter, who is the one taking the SAT and ACT tests.

Two weeks ago, when she was out with friends at 10 p.m. the night before her ACT, I called her and insisted she come home –NOW! I wanted her to get a good night sleep.

Then, the morning of the test, my husband set his alarm to make sure she woke up on time. She was angry with him and said she had set two alarms and was capable of getting up on her own.

“I don’t know why you guys are getting yourself all crazy over a test!” she told us with attitude.

The truth is, we are crazy over a test. She may not understand the implications of her test scores but we do. Today, these college entrance tests mean so much more than they did when I was applying to college. They mean entry or denial. They mean scholarship money. They mean choice.

Teens today have to compete like crazy to get into the college of their choice and then they have to compete like crazy to get a job.

My daughter seems to be taking all this pressure in stride. She knows the importance of these tests, she taken a prep course, but she doesn’t seem to be as stressed over them as we are. Is that a good thing?

I know students can take SAT and ACT multiple times. I’ve heard parents say that their child ended up at the college that was right for them, regardless of their test scores. So, am I being crazy for stressing myself out?

Is a 16 or 17-year-old too young to really understand how much rides on these tests? Is it good or bad for them to be a little naive?

 

 

 

 

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