Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Category: arguments (page 1 of 2)

Raising Teenagers Means Knowing When To Stay Quiet

parenting teenager means staying quiet

 

My friends and I have just made our way through the buffet line and are taking our seats at a round table. As I pull my chair back and sit, I notice my friend is staring at her daughter’s plate. I know she wants to say something about the lack of protein and abundance of starches she sees piled up, but she glances away, and quietly takes a sip of water.

Watching her, I understood what was going through her head. I have had many similar moments of silence — when I want to say so much, but don’t. By staying silent, I have preserved my relationship with my teenagers rather than blurting out words that they ignore, resent or respond to with anger.

When my older son was about 14, he had a wicked crush on a girl who seemed to be annoyed by his attention. On Valentine’s Day, he bought her silver heart earrings. Aren’t they nice? he said, putting the earrings in front of me. At that moment, I knew my son was going to give her the earrings no matter what I said. So I said “yes” and then stayed silent.

At so many different life moments, I have wanted to offer my teenagers suggestions that would save them from getting hurt, or warn them about friends who aren’t loyal or give an opinion on a love interest. But as I began to open my mouth, I realized my comments would be misconstrued or worse, cause my teens to go in an opposite direction just to show me they are their own persons. So as I have gained some teen-raising wisdom, I have started to recognize when to bite my tongue, avert my gaze and resist the instinct to blurt out what I am thinking.

Of course, there are times when I do speak up because staying quiet can create bigger problems. The challenge for a parent is knowing when to make that call.

Here are the times I think it’s okay to tell your teen what’s on your mind:

To tell them the risk or consequences of an action. Whether it’s drugs, drunk driving, cheating  on tests, or premarital sex, I think teens need to know the worst that could happen. 

To give them another option. If your know your teen is going to be at a party with alcohol I think it’s okay to say something like…”If the only option is getting into a car with a drunk driver, call me — I don’t care if it’s 2 in the morning.”

To remind them of the rules of your home. If you have a rule of “no doors closed when the opposite sex is in the room” it’s okay to say something when the rule isn’t being followed, even if it’s in the moment.

To address a lie. This is tricky because most teenagers tell their parents lies or just tell them half of the story. In an online poll of 1,000 teenagers, only 40 percent said they tell their parents the whole truth.  Some lies or half-truths can be ignored. Others can’t. I have had to drill down at times to get the whole story and then figure out what to say in a way that will encourage them to tell me the truth in the future.

Here are the scenarios in which I zip my lips and stay quiet.

To comment on anything related to body image. We all know teenagers are sensitive about their appearance, but somehow we can’t help doling out advice and giving our opinions. Usually, what we say or what advice we give is not taken well. 

To say something about one of their friends. This is super-dangerous territory and can easily go badly for a parent.

To comment on a romantic interest or boyfriend/girlfriend.  I have discovered your teen  can say something negative about their love interest. You cannot. And if you think you you can guide them toward being interested in someone you pick out for them, don’t go there.

To compare them with a sibling. Somehow almost every parent at some point falls prey to the temptation of comparing a child to their siblings. Don’t do it!

So many teenagers walk around saying they hate their parents or they can’t talk to their parents. Ugh…I don’t want that to be me. So now, I put a little thought into what I say and how I say it, and at those pivotal moments, I stay silent. (Here’s an article I like about Talking to Your Teen )

Parents, do you believe in staying silent at times? Has staying quiet helped, or made a situation worse with your teenager? 

 

How to Make the College Application Process Less Stressful

I am on the phone with a teenager, talking about her college applications when her father enters the room, makes a comment to her and the two begin fighting. Unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon. If you have a high school senior, be ready for some arguments over college applications.

The college application process is stressful for teens and for their parents. Some of us have kids who are all in. They want to go to college and they want to get their applications done.  But even if they want to do it all by themselves, they get overwhelmed.

Then, there are the teens who aren’t motivated at all to fill out college applications. They aren’t sure whether they even want to go to college, or they just don’t want to put in the effort to apply.

In either scenario there is one thing in common: a stressed out parent!

I know because I have been that stressed out parent. As a writer, I wanted to help my older son with his common app essay. He refused to let me, or to even consider my suggestions. It led to some awful fights.

Most high school seniors are in the thick of the application process right now. What they quickly discover is that there is a LOT involved in the process. So parents, here are my five suggestions for holding onto your sanity during the process.

 

  1.  Prepare a list together. Work with your teen on a list of schools and make sure they are colleges or universities you an afford.  Ask your teen what major he or she is interested in or considering  and make sure the colleges on that list have that major. Once the list is made, put the responsibility in your teen’s hands for applying on time.
  2.  Don’t nag. Once your teen knows the deadlines, nagging only makes things more tense. It’s okay to check in every so often on progress, but it’s not okay to continually remind your teen that applications need to get done. It only creates tension. If your teen is independent enough to go to college, he or she should be able to get the application done by deadline — or ask for your help.
  3. Don’t get offended.  If your teen doesn’t take your advice or suggestions, it’s normal. If you want to give an opinion or make a suggestion, be prepared for your teen to dismiss what you have to say.
  4.  Be open to options.  If the application process becomes too contentious, back off. In the end, your teen needs to own it. Or, if your teen isn’t ready for college, don’t freak out. There are great vocational schools and certificate programs that can lead to high paying jobs.
  5.  Consider getting help. There are people who you can provide guidance, not just college advisors but sometimes teachers at your teen’s school or friends who are strong in grammar.  It’s amazing how when someone else tells your teen the exact same thing you do, they listen.

The college application process is a year long process of applying, getting accepting, making housing deposits and making a final choice. It’s a year where there may be lots of tears of frustration and elation – and almost always some arguments. Just hang in there! It will all work out!

So, what are your thoughts…..do you believe parents should be highly involved in the process, or do you believe in a completely hands off approach?

The teenage son haircut struggle..It’s real.

 

My son Matthew has beautiful curly wavy hair. When it is cut, it looks so good and makes him look so handsome. However, to get him to get a haircut is torture for both of us. The constant back and forth and  mother-son bickering is awful.

I just don’t understand why there is a struggle every time I ask him to get a haircut.   I even compromised and said he could just get his hair “trimmed.”  I was desperate. He still refused.

Recently, I texted him about getting a haircut and as you can see I didn’t win.  I guess I should be grateful that at least he will get his haircut before school starts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I wonder if my son’s resistance is because how he looks and how he dresses represents his identity and that is the one thing he would like to control or have a say in.  Look, I get it, for teens, how you look should be up to you and your appearance is your choice, but I also think you mom or dad should have a little say in it, right?

I am curious to find out if any other parents have had the same struggle. If so, how have you resolved the haircut battle?

 

Should a Teen Sleep Over a Boyfriend’s or Girlfriend’s House?

Nearly two years ago I (Raquel) wrote a blog that surprised me as it resulted in the largest response I had ever had. The topic? Should teens that are dating be allowed to sleep at each other’s house and have a boyfriend/girlfriend teen sleepover? This blog post resulted in almost 150 comments, from parents and teens!

I honestly can say I did not expect such a huge response. But I was so happy to touch upon a subject that clearly needed to be talked about. I sure hope I helped some parents and teens with this difficult conversation. Given the high level of interest in this, I thought it was worthy of sharing a Top 10 list from the interesting feedback I received from teens and parents.

Original post from March 2014

Is it okay for boyfriend/girlfriend to sleep over at each other’s house?

My daughter recently went over to her boyfriend’s house last Saturday night to hang out like she has done in the past. I fell asleep and realized she wasn’t home and it was past her curfew. I looked on my phone and found messages from her saying she is sleeping over at her girlfriend’s house.  I am a bit upset over the fact she didn’t ask permission and I know she is lying!

I asked her why she didn’t ask me prior to now and she said she fell asleep. More lies. I decided I would let her stay over her “girlfriend’s” house knowing very well she is probably at her boyfriend’s. I knew arguing at this time of night wasn’t going to get me anywhere so I said we would talk about this in the morning when she comes home.

Next morning comes around and like I suspected she stayed at her boyfriend’s house! I was extremely upset because we had this discussion before and I am totally against it, as is her father. She tells me that she doesn’t understand what the big deal is? “Lots of parents let their kids stay at their boyfriend’s house.”

I said, “Well, it’s not okay with this parent.” She said my reasoning did not help her understand why it was wrong or inappropriate because she found nothing wrong with it. They weren’t doing anything and they are 17.

How do I talk to a teen rationally about this? I am spitting nails and fuming. My daughter would not let go of the fact that there is nothing wrong with the sleepover and that it’s not wrong.

So, I am asking… Am I wrong? Do you allow your teen to sleep over at their boyfriend/girlfriend’s homes? Have times changed THAT much? I need someone to please help me understand this or at least help me make my daughter understand.

I did explain to her that sometimes in life, just because we don’t think it’s not inappropriate or wrong, doesn’t mean it isn’t. There isn’t always a logical reason.

That same day my husband called my daughter’s boyfriend’s dad and told him that she was not allowed to sleep over and unless he hears it from us, don’t believe it is okay with us.

I mean, really? These teens nowadays have found a way to basically make everything a battle. Sleepover with boyfriends? Yay or Nay?

Top 10 Things I Learned After Reading Feedback on My Original Post:

  1. Talk with your child not TO your child. Sometimes simple conversations can go a long way with building a relationship with your teen.
  2. Listen to your child. You may not agree with what they say but give them a chance to talk to you if you want the same courtesy back.
  3. Be realistic. Teens of today are not the same from when we were teens so because you did not do it does not mean they should not. Don’t have expectations that your teen may not live up to.
  4. Do not judge.  You are not a bad person and you will not be punished if you allow your son or daughter to sleep over at their boyfriend/girlfriend’s house.
  5. Teens are not sleeping over their boyfriend/girlfriend’s house for sex. They can have sex anytime. They just want to be able to relax the way they cannot at home.
  6. Teens need to respect and trust parents first! Parents want what is best for their teen and that may be not letting them “play house” at 17 or 18. So, until you are an adult and get your own place, parent’s house…parents rules.
  7. Communicate  and compromise. Consider compromising with your teens so they do not have to lie and go behind your back. Better to know where your teens are and that they are safe than to not know.
  8. Do not try to control your teen. Teens hate to feel controlled. They just want to be able to have some freedom.
  9. Trust your teen. If you have taught them about right from wrong and good from bad, then trust that your teen will make smart choices and will be honest with you on not about just sleeping over at their boyfriend/girlfriend’s house, but on bigger issues.
  10. Teach your kids values and respect. That is more important than controlling them or allowing them to be a part of a sleep over.

When mom tells her teen daughter she is fat

 

I am at Starbuck’s and I’m eavesdropping. I hate to admit that I would do such a thing,  but I just can’t help it. The teens sitting at the table next to me are talking loud and the conversation has lured me in.  “I love your mom,” one of the teenage girls says to the other. “She’s so cool.”  Now, instead of taking the compliment, the other girl replies, “Oh yeah, well this morning my mom told me I was fat.”

I listen as she explains further.  The girl continues on. “My mom asked me to go to the gym with her in the mornings before school. Can you believe that?”  “Really?” asks her friend, sounding horrified. “Yeah, of course I’m not going to go. I don’t have time for that,” she says.

I glance over and from where I was sitting it looks like the young teen girl is  average weight. Sure, the Frappuccino she is drinking isn’t doing anything to trim her waistline, but she by no means seemed overweight. As I sat there taking it all in, I realized that what I did not hear in the conversation was any mention that the girl’s mother had actually said her daughter was fat. She merely invited her to go with her to the gym.

As a mother of a teen daughter, I have learned discussing body issues is dangerous.  Teen girls are super sensitive about their bodies and bringing up the topic of weight is tricky. This girl apparently read more in her mother’s invitation to join her at the gym — whether or not the mother intended it that way. Unfortunately, I could relate. One day I suggested my daughter eat something other than the cupcake she was about to put in her mouth. My comment sparked tears and she insisted I called her fat. I tried to convince her I was just trying to teach her about making healthier eating choices.

As a society, we’ve gotten a little better about expecting females to be stick thin throughout their lives. But for teen girls, carrying extra weight can be difficult mentally and physically. It’s something many mothers worry about. So how exactly do you as a parent handle it when you see your daughter packing on pounds?  Do you say something and risk that she will rebel? Do you couch it in a caring way and avoid the word fat? Do you ignore it completely?

And, what do you do when your daughter says, “I hate my fat thighs?” Is there any right answer?

I have found a well-meaning conversation that’s just about weight or dieting, especially in the heat of the moment, can backfire.  Instead, I noticed conversations go more smoothly when you plan out what you’ll say before you say it, so you don’t cause your daughter to get defensive or worse, develop an eating disorder.   What has worked for me is to talk with my daughter about healthful eating, and how to balance that with exercise.

Lots of teen girls are just figuring out moderation and  what “eating healthy” really means. My friend’s daughter gained a good bit of weight her freshman year of college. My friend was upset and wondered if she should say something. She worried that speaking up would hurt their relationship.  But then, on her own, my friend’s daughter realized that eating late at night can make you put on weight and that skipping breakfast made her ravenous at lunchtime.  She began eating healthier and lost the weight. My friend felt  her daughter needed to figure it out herself and the approach worked. But it doesn’t always play out that way.

As a parent, none of this is easy.  I have found it helps, though, when you make your teen daughter well aware of your unconditional love. Have you ever talked to your teen daughter about her weight? Why do you think so many teen girls walk around saying, “My mother thinks I fat?”

 

Mom versus Gramma

When your teens were babies, it was great having your mother-in-law or mom help you out.  As  you well know, you can never have enough help when you have a baby. The more hands the better.

Over the years, you appreciate the help, the babysitting, the spoiling with gifts etc. But, as your children become teens, the dynamics change and it becomes  mom vs. gramma. Often,  when your teen doesn’t like the rules or gets angry with you, he or she will call Gramma.  In other words, they don’t need to stay at home because they have Gramma’s house. Gramma will take my side. Gramma will make me feel better. Gramma will listen and understand.

That’s all fine and good UNTIL Gramma undermines mom and sides with your teen and enables your teen in a way that it justifies his or her disrespectful behavior. Basically, your teen wants someone to side with them and who better than Gramma.

Well, what your teen doesn’t realize is he or she should never underestimate mom. In the end, SHE IS YOUR MOM, Gramma is NOT. She will win, trust me.

Using Gramma against mom is not smart and Gramma should know that her  job should be to talk with your teen and reason with him or her to see what mom and dad  are trying to communicate or what lesson they are trying to teach.

What will make it worse is when Gramma starts fighting with mom because she agrees with your teen! Really? Who is the adult? Who is the teen? Now mom, has two people to deal with but,  mother-in-law dearest or mom should know better. How would they like it if you  or your husband did that when you were a child. It’s ridiculous that you now have to reason with your mother-in-law or mom when you shouldn’t have to! You have a teen to deal with!

Remember that help they gave you when your teen was a baby? Well, they certainly aren’t doing it now!

So, parents, teens, does this sound familiar? Do you have a mother-in-law/mom that makes matters worse? Do your teens run to Gramma whenever things get tough at home? What do you do to resolve this?

 

Video games are driving me crazy!

boys on xbox

“Get that guy! Nice shot! These phrases along with other yells and screams have been the background noise of my home this summer.

Video games are driving me crazy!

For some reason, when my sons have friends over, video games become the immediate entertainment. I know there is some benefit: it must help with hand eye coordination.  There may even be skill involved. It’s just that there so much noise from the soundtrack of the games and from  kids screaming at the screen that it makes me insane. Then, there’s the arguing about who gets the control next and who had the highest score.

It’s not only the actual playing into the wee hours of the night that’s driving me crazy. It’s the content, too.

Video games have been at the center of conflict between me and my sons this summer. Recently, my 14 year-old-son, Garret, and I had a battle at GameStop. He wanted to buy an M-rated video game and needed my permission. I asked the guy who works there why the game is rated M. He explained it is because of the extreme violence and scantily clad women with  big breasts jiggling committing destructive acts of terror. We left the store without the game!

The next day, I overhead my son plotting with his now 18-year-old brother, Jake, to take him to GameStop. It sent me on a rampage, screaming at my sons and asking why these games need to be so violent and why they need to feature half-naked women .  I have to give it to Jake, he explained it to me in terms I could easily understand. “Mom, their target market is horny 18-year-old boys!”

Action games with big battles are incredibly exciting, but it seems like the video game industry assumes girls don’t play them. There are not many female heroes in games. In a lot of video games, the default character is a guy. If you want to play as a female character, it’s not easy. Often you have to pay. That makes me furious. My boys don’t seem to be bothered by that — at all.

Last year, when I moved my daughter into her college dorm, I noticed the boys across the hall had not unpacked a single item of clothing or even made up their beds. Instead, they were deeply engrossed in playing Xbox. I recognized the  sounds coming from their room: “No way! You’ve got to be kidding me! That’s bullshit!” …. I turned to my daughter and said, “I guess Xbox even follows teens to college!”

Recently, when the sounds of explosions and gunfire from Xbox had give me a giant headache, I told my sons and their friends to go outside and play basketball or good old-fashioned hide and seek. Their response was to continue playing. It seems these all-consuming video games make it difficult to hear a mother’s voice.

Now school starts and we go back to homework and activities, the Xbox will go into hibernation mode. I will miss the lack of routine, but I will not miss the sounds that emanated from my playroom this summer. I realize I can’t fight the video game generation or the superfans the video game developers are targeting, but I can insist that school and homework come first. Most importantly, I have a shot at restoring some peace and quiet at home and I plan to take it. Score one for mom!

What age is realistic for a teen to get a summer job?

My husband wants my son to experience the reality of the working world. He’s been after him to line up a summer job since January. So far, he’s managed to land an unpaid summer job.

My son insists its almost impossible to get hired when you’re only 15 at anywhere other than a summer camp. (and even those jobs want to give you volunteer hours rather than pay.) The battle in our house continues.

Meanwhile I came across an article that lends some validity to my son’s argument.

Here is the article from an NBC station’s website:

Teens struggle to find summer jobs

(NBC – Montgomery, Alabama)

School’s out, summer’s here and the job search begins. Many teens are now looking for summer jobs as a way to make money, but these young students are struggling to find some.

The job market for teenagers has been struggling for a few years, and unfortunately, many teenagers are losing hope.

Students like Abby Stone are anxiously waiting to land a summer job.

“I’ve been applying to literally every job…I’ve been looking for like five weeks now…but I don’t know,” said Stone.

Stone had a summer job last year, but she says it’s harder to find one this time. She needs the money to attend her high school.

“I pay $85 dollars a week…they won’t let me stay in school if I don’t,” Stone said. “I do not ever want to leave school because I want to get through.”

A summer job means a stronger resume and gaining essential skills to succeed in college and future careers. But James Shipp, program director for the Workforce Investment Act, says students have to plan months ahead to get a summer job now.

“When they come over for Christmas break…that’s a good time to start looking for jobs,” Shipp said. “The sooner you apply the better chances of you getting a job. And network…it’s the best way…sometimes even better than applying early.”

Teen unemployment has exceeded more than 20% for the past four years. Sixteen to 19 year olds might have to go back to school without ever finding another job.

If anyone is looking for a job or other opportunities, there are many options available on the web. IndeedCareerbuilderMonster, and Snagajob are all great site to start your job search.

PR guru Jeff Crilley says:

Clearly, the job market is tight, but many employers complain that today’s teens just don’t have the work ethic of their parents and grandparents.

How much of the high teen unemployment rate is due to teens who just aren’t hustling? 

“I’ve had a number of employers tell me that they’re seeing more spoiled teenagers than ever before,” explains personal finance expert Clark Hodges. “They’re only half-hardheartedly looking for work because they’d really rather be home playing video games or texting with their friends.”

 

 

Parents, what do you think of teen summer employment? Do you think teens are trying hard enough to find paid work? Are there really fewer jobs available for teens? Do you think employers take advantage of teens by offering unpaid work and labeling it as volunteer hours? What age is realistic for a teen to land a paid job?

 

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.

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!

 

 

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