Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Tag: parenting teens

Why mothers of teenagers worry so much


I am on the phone with the mother of a three-year-old when she tells me that her son wants to play with her keys all the time. “I’m worried that maybe he doesn’t have enough toys,” she says. I suppress a laugh when she tells me this because I’m quite sure her toddler has plenty of toys but prefers the keys. I’m also quite sure that worrying over his play choices is the beginning of a long list of things this mother will fret about.

In most households, mom is the designated worrier. From the day a mother holds her little bundle of joy, the worrying begins, as does the expenditure of emotional energy on concerns that will seem both deranged and justified.

The worrying manifests in ways unimaginable to our former selves, and turn us into people we don’t recognize.  As our children grow, so does the list of things we moms obsess about. When are children are young, we  worry about school. Is my child making friends? Does he have a learning disability? Is he reading on grade level? These questions become the topic of conversation with friends, family and other mothers. Each Facebook post by another parent raises questions about our own child’s progress.

But it’s the tween and teen years that send our anxiety into overdrive. Along with adolescence comes drama. As mothers, we must decipher between real problems and normal teenage behavior. We worry about our teenagers’ choice of friends, whether they are lying about their whereabouts, whether their grades are good enough to get into college, whether mental health issues are a concern or just normal teenage moodiness. Of course, we worry about the mundane behavior too — boys spending too much time playing video games and girls being left out.

As the new school year kicks in, the typical threats that our parents agonized about — sex, drugs and alcohol — still are top of mind, but now there are additional concerns because of technology, higher academic pressures and gun violence. Each time we listen to the news, we learn more about cyberbullying, distracted driving, sexting and sex offenders using social networking sites — contemporary risks that scare the heck out of us. Social media posts about teen suicide or young drivers killed while texting and driving send our anxiety soaring. For some of us, high school is as nerve wracking for us as it is for our teens.

Now as Labor Day approaches, many moms are confronting the college drop off, an experience fraught with panic. Our minds are racing with questions such as …Will my teen ever wash his bedsheets or do his laundry? We also wonder about bigger concerns such as…Does my teen understand the risks of binge drinking or the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases? Does my teen know the difference between consensual sex and assault?

Social media feeds our natural inclination to fret.  As one mom said to me: “You go on the Internet, and it fuels your fears when you see images and read posts of all the stuff that is happening.”

In his book Worried All the Time: Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety and How to Stop It, child and family therapist David Anderegg makes the case that today’s parents are taking worrying to an unhealthy extreme. He argues that they worry too much about the everyday aspects of parenting, and says good parenting is about moderation and empathy.

To be fair, it is not just mothers who worry about their kids. Of course, fathers worry too. However, mothers seem to carry more of the emotional burden. In most households, we still are the primary caregiver, the parent who stresses about the logistics and the gender that most often gets judged over our parental decisions.

As my two older children leave for college, I want them  to be independent, to make wise decisions and to function on their own without my help.  I know as a parent, I can try to keep my teenagers safe, healthy and on a path toward total independence.  But it’s really in their hands. At some point, I will have to stop worrying,  but for now, I just don’t think I can. I have gotten pretty darn comfortable with being mom the worrier.


Surviving a teen break up

Apparently, my choice in outfit for the day is atrocious. Yes, that’s what my daughter has informed me. What was I thinking? I’m not sure what I was thinking when I put it on, but I can tell you what I’m thinking now. I’m thinking….”how do parents survive teen break ups?”

One way, is they choose better outfits. The other is that they brace for the grumpiness or moping that inevitably lies ahead. As a mother who has lived through two teen break ups, I can tell you that WHATEVER you say or do will be wrong. Whether you give sympathy, empathy or encouragement you don’t know what you are talking about. Whatever advice a teenage friend who has never had a boyfriend says makes much more sense than a wise parent with years of relationship experience. Just know that and you can save yourself wasted breath and clothing admonishment.

My other piece of advice for surviving a teen break up: Don’t ask questions. If you slip up and forget this piece of advice, get ready for shrugs and possibly even the cold shoulder. Oh, and don’t even try to get near  your teen’s cell phone, the center of activity post break up. The device will be guarded like a limb, just in case a parent like you wants to gather some intelligence. An extra layer of password protection likely will be added. 

Remember your first break up? This will be much more painful, regardless of whether you are the parent of a breakupper or breakee. The moodiness will go on for a least a week. And then, you will suddenly regain your ability to dress yourself to their satisfaction, or be considered somewhat less annoying. You will know you have reached this stage when you receive a text. It likely will be room-to-room communication and it may be a request for money but, hey, it’s communication. You will take whatever small, somewhat upbeat communication as a sign that your pre-break up teen is back and you are no longer an ogre. Then, only then, will you consider yourself a survivor!


Are we teaching our kids the wrong thing? Why being nice counts for something…

We teach our kids to do well in school. We teach them to excel in sports. We teach them not to murder their siblings. But how much time and energy do we spend teaching them to be nice? Is it something we as parents even think is worth teaching? Are we caught up in the “nice guys finish last” theory?

I just read an article by Cindi Bigelow, CEO of Bigelow Tea in the Huffington Post. It really made me think about the messages I send my teens. Lately, I’m finding it really challenging to teach my teens about self-worth, confidence and honesty, particularly my daughter who is gaga over a boy for the first time. I feel like my time to teach my teens good character has become so short-term and exhausting.

Cindi Bigelow talks about what she looks for when she hires an employee and what she’s tried to teach her own children. She writes:



My list of what I want my kids to be is actually much longer than merely “nice.” In no particular order, I want them also to be:

• Caring
• Hard-working
• Balanced
• Fair
• Resilient

I also have a list of what I don’t want them to be. I don’t want them to feel “entitled” or be disrespectful. And I certainly don’t want them to have an “attitude.”

And how do I impart this important information to my kids? By “messaging” to them continually (maybe similar to how a company tries to advertise its products). This kind of steady repetition of values is essential in raising our children. “Say please and thank you.” “Hold the door.” “Be kind to your brother.” “Be friendly to the kid who doesn’t have any friends.” “Tell the truth even when it hurts.” “Learn how to say ‘I’m sorry.'”

And the good news is it works. I’ve seen the results.

Bigelow believes young people actually want to be nice and are concerned with the direction the country is taking. As a parent of teens, it’s hard to judge whether this is true. While most of my teens’ friends are polite to me, they’re not always “nice” to each other.

I agree with Bigelow that being nice can help you get ahead in life. I am hoping this “entitled” generation will figure that out as they head into their 20s….

Bigelow writes:

What I find so inspiring is that the younger generation is already wired for success and committed to traditional values like kindness and compassion and integrity. We just have to keep reinforcing that message and not let our society’s love of professional and material success overshadow the importance of being a good and decent person.

Readers, what are your thoughts? Has it becoming challenging for you as a parent to teach the importance of being nice when being selfish is completely acceptable? Do you think other parents consider the trait worth instilling in their teens?



Can your teenager address a mailing enevlope?

I recently had my daughter Olivia write, not text, a personal Thank You card to everyone who gave her a gift for her 16th Birthday. I thought this was a good way for her to show appreciation to her family and friends and for her to appreciate each gift as she writes a personal note. We went out and bought the cards she liked and then I gave her return labels with her name on them to place on the envelopes. I sat with her at the table to get her to write out the cards because I knew she would need some motivational help to get started.

I gave her the list of names and an address book. As I got up to leave, she said,  “I just have to put the zip codes on the envelope right, not the city and state?” I thought she was kidding. I asked, “You’re kidding right? Do you not know how to address an envelope?”  She said, “No, I don’t write letters. I just put the number on my phone to talk with someone.”

I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe my newly 16-year-old daughter did not know how to address an envelope? How could that be? Was this my fault?The school? Teachers? How can these teenagers not know how to write and address an envelope? Has technology taken over every aspect of our lives, down to a handwritten envelope?

Well, after I realized she didn’t know, I showed her and told her I was so glad she was doing this if not for showing gratitude but learning how to address an envelope!

Have these teenagers gotten so far into technology that they are getting further and further away from the simple common things that for years and decades were common sense to dos – tell time with a clock, address an envelope, sew, use a land line, talk to people not text, etc.. etc..

I am now on a mission to get my daughter to do the simple things that I and generations before me grew up doing — whether it be more letter writing or just picking up the home phone and talking with her grandmother.  I do NOT want Olivia not knowing how to do these things.

Next week she leaves for NY to visit relatives and I told her to send me a postcard each week not a text! I want my daughter to appreciate the things that no longer exist but are important for her to grow as a person.

I’m interested in knowing if any other parent has “addressed” this issue with their teen. Have you had similar conversations?


Has Google Replaced Parenting? Ask Google Dad

Yesterday, my 10-year-old  son wanted to know what triumph meant. I immediately pulled out my pocket dictionary and tossed it to him. He looked and said: “Really mom?” He then marched over to the computer and put the word into Google.

I felt so old school!!!

It’s ben so hard to face up to the fact that my kids will do everything in their lives differently than I did. They will work differently, learn differently, play differently.

Today, my guest blogger is an old friend, Miami super attorney Spencer Silverglate. He shares his wise take and personal experience raising his teen son in the digital age.

Can dad keep up with teenage son?

Blood red.  Marbled to perfection.  Two 12-ounce slabs of New York’s finest, grass-fed, prime-grade, cut-it-with-a-fork, melt-in-your-mouth, beef fillets. Steak.  It’s what’s for dinner—at least it was last Wednesday. Except it wasn’t just another meal.

As I explained that morning to my 16-year-old son Cameron, it would be the night I pass on the manly pursuit of grilling dead animal flesh.  Just like my father passed it on to me and his, undoubtedly, to him.  Yes, that night I would hand over the apron and tongs to my son and reveal the family recipe for grilling steak.  He may have started the day a boy, but by nightfall, he would be a man. Barbecue Man!

Imagine my shock when I rolled into the driveway at 6:45 that evening, accosted by the unmistakable aroma of sizzling meat.  Impossible, I thought to myself. I hadn’t even begun the lesson.  I stared in disbelief as I entered the house and saw my son on the back patio, hovering over the open flames that caressed the tender underbelly of the New York Strips.

“What do you think you’re doing?!” I barked.  “You were supposed to wait for me.  And be careful, you’ll burn the steaks.  You need to cut ‘em open and check to see if they’re done.”

“No, Dad,” he objected.  “If you do that, the juice will leak out.”

“What are you talking about?” I snapped.  “I’ve always done it that way.”

“Chef Ramsey says cutting the steak will dry it out like beef jerky,” he responded.  “You’re supposed to press the meat and feel for the same firmness as the fleshy part of your nose.”

“The fleshy part of . . . who the heck is Chef Ramsey?!” I snarled.

“Really, Dad?  Gordon Ramsey—quite possibly themost famous chef on TV.  I just watched him on YouTube.  According to Gordon, this is an 8 ½ minute steak.”

I stood there slack-jawed for a moment and then walked away with the remnants of my male ego.  Probably just as well.  My son was putting the final grate marks on the best cooked steaks the old grill ever produced.

            The Steak Incident, and others like it, has caused me to question whether our role of parents has been usurped by computers.  There’s very little we can teach our kids that they can’t find on the Internet.  Only the computer generated lesson is “better.”  If you’re a kid, why ask a parent for help with homework when you can have a Stanford professor explain it online?  Why ask dad how to swing a baseball bat when Albert Pujols can teach you on YouTube?   Why ask mom for decorating advice when you can watch Martha Stewart on your smart phone?

What’s the capital of Iceland?  Wikipedia it. How do you spell “chrysanthemum?” Spell check it (I just did). How do you build a tree-house?  Google it.  How do you get to the mall?  GPS it. Who sings this song?  There’s an app for that. Where do babies come from?  You get the point.

We were at dinner the other night and a disagreement broke out over the ways in which one may become a U.S. citizen.  My son, who recently studied the issue, explained the process to my wife and me.  Poor lad, he left out the one about marrying a U.S. citizen. I figured I’d impress him with my mental superiority, so I laid it on him.  He respectfully disagreed, explaining that marrying a citizen would yield a green card, not necessarily citizenship.  As my blood pressure began to rise, I figured I’d play the dad card.  You know the one: “I’m right because I’m dad.”  Before I could utter the words, my son already pulled up the facts on his iPhone.

The computer was right, of course.  The darn thing is always right.

When I was a kid, what my father said was final.  These days what Google says is final.

But have we moved forward or backward? We seem to be floating around in our own, ear-bud wearing bubbles streaming only preferred content.  Why listen to top 40 hits when I can live in the land of perpetual Bruce Springsteen?  For that matter, why bother interacting at all?  I may be sitting next to you at lunch, but I’m texting someone 300 miles away.  Today our personal relationships are not centered around work or school or church, but Facebook.  So what if we never leave the couch—we can still have thousands of “friends.”

I take comfort in knowing that not everythingcan be replaced by machines.  Some things still need to be experienced, especially by our children.  They may be able to go online and learn about riding a bike, but they need a parents’ firm grip on the seat to steady the ride.  And maybe that’s the best metaphor for what parents provide their kids—a firm grip on the ride of life.

I realize of course that we won’t be getting rid of machines anytime soon, nor would I want to. Although technology has the potential to supplant relationships, it can also enhance them.  Anyone who has connected online to a forgotten high school friend can attest to that.

Like anything in life, there must be a balance.  A harmony between man and machine that enriches rather than detracts from the human experience. Which brings me back to my son…

Just the other day I was getting ready for a formal party and decided on a whim to sport a white pocket square to offset my black tuxedo.  Not being a hanky-in-the-top-pocket kind of guy, I had no idea how to fold the silken Rubik’s Cube.  Cameron happened to notice my struggle and casually suggested I go online.   Even though it wasn’t my first instinct, I had to admit it was a good idea.  A few minutes later I had a perfectly folded pocket square.

So there you have it.  My family, just like my ebony suit and ivory handkerchief, now lives together in perfect harmony—with a little help from Google.


( Google dad, Spencer, and son, Cameron)

Is your teen’s messy bedroom killing you?

I can’t stand to look at my teenagers’ bedrooms. A mere glimpse in that direction puts me in a horrible mood and turns me into a nagging, screaming, nutcase!

I tell myself I’m going to punish my kids by leaving the piles of dirty clothes, used dishes and crumbled papers until they can’t stand to see them in their room anymore. But sometimes, I can’t stand it anymore…so I go in when they’re at school and straighten it up…just a little bit. I know, what you’re thinking…that I’m an enabler.

I’ve just stumbled onto an article in the Wall Street Journal that nails the dilemma I’ve been having: Bet you’ll love the title: When a Teen’s Bedroom Is Incorrigibly Messy, It’s Time for Extreme Parenting.

Here’s one tactic suggested by parenting expert Jim Fay, co-founder of the Love and Logic Institute. He recommends saying, “I’ll take care of it.” Then, get the job done in some way that satisfies you but “creates problems for the kid,” Mr. Fay says. “Maybe you hire a neighbor kid to clean up.”

In another scenario in the article, one parent picked up all the clothes on her daughter’s  floor, stuffed them in two garbage bags and hid them in the attic. When her daughter arrived home from school to a bare bedroom, there was screaming, and shouting, ‘How can I live without my clothes?’ ” The mom required her daughter to earn her clothes back by doing chores.

My mom had her own tactic when I was growing up: When she couldn’t take it anymore, she would wake me up an hour earlier for school to clean my room. That meant the light would go on abruptly at 5:30 a.m. There’s nothing worse for a teen than waking up an hour early in the morning to clean their room!

One family sought help from Douglas Riley, a clinical psychologist, in getting their 14-year-old daughter to clean up her bedroom. Riley, who has worked with families for 30 years, suggested that since she wasn’t bothered by the dirty clothes all over her floor, perhaps the whole family could start using her room as a laundry hamper. Her attitude changed after her parents and younger brother started tossing dirty laundry into her room, including a few soaked and smelly T-shirts and socks

So parents, what strategies have you used? Or do you think the battle isn’t worth it and do you just shut the door to your teen’s room and live with the mess?

© 2017 Raising Teens

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑