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Entries in Teen (3)

Tuesday
Jun242014

Do You Raise Grandchildren or Guide Them?

The text had a sense of urgency.

“Gary, I need a phone call to talk about parenting skills. Or grandparenting skills. It’s going to be a long hot summer.  Please let me know when you are available. THANKS!”

 The note came from a dear (former work) friend…someone who, generally speaking, had spent a great deal of time talking me off career ledges.  We quickly arranged a time via text and we spoke in the evening.

 “I really don’t know what to do.  I am having an issue with my grandchild who is visiting for the summer.”

 As someone who is generally calming influence, it was surprising she felt uncomfortable.  My mind started to race with what calamity she could be facing… drugs, pregnancy, undesirables, suicide, police….and my responses were already forming for each of these issues.  “How old is your grandchild?”

She kept talking without skipping a beat.  “She’s 12.  It is really getting bad.”

My friend was just talking out loud; she is not one embracing a dramatic tendency.  The build-up was concerning.  Teenagers are always tough.  I wasn’t sure where the conversation was going, and was concerned the salient point was so heinous my friend might not share it.  “Are you feeling threatened?”

“Oh goodness no.  She wants to be alone.”

Pause.  “She wants to be alone.  Is she sullen?  Self-destructive? Playing with matches?  Anything you would find concerning?”

“No, she just wants to be left alone.”

“Then leave her alone.”

Another pause.  “You mean I don’t need to raise her?”

At this point, we had a long winding discussion where my friend regained perspective.  Her grandchild was visiting for a couple months.  This was not a case of the grandmother having to raise the child on behalf of the parents.  Mom and Dad are still in the picture.

It’s the parents’ job to raise a child, and grandparents can provide child raising suggestions when asked (I find it’s better to offer suggestions when asked rather than a continual spewing of child raising advice.)

“Your grandchild should know you love her, care and support her….and if she needs a little alone time (provided you have no reasons for concern) then leave her alone.  You don’t need to be a super parent hovering every moment of every day…your granddaughter just wants some private time.  Of course, keep an eye on things in case there’s something at play we’re not aware of so you can intervene.”

In a couple days a follow up call was met with my old friend and her customary confidence.  “I let her be alone for about an hour and she came around for dinner.  We watched some TV together.  Since then, she’s been great.”

My friend also reinforced my belief a community can help with differing perspectives on raising a child…parents are not alone.   By reaching out and talking, a conversation was had on various approaches…making it better for both my friend and her grandchild.

Thursday
Dec262013

7 Steps to Surviving the Teenage Years

This post was originally written in 2012, and as I’ve had so many friends with kids entering their teenage years decided it was time to update.  The truth is the original post didn’t say anything definitive, perhaps reflecting the confusing/frustrating times your child’s teenage years impart to parents.  Far from an expert on the topic, my perspectives are gained from raising four teens in my household.

Children make some of their biggest personal growth advancements during their teenage years.  And it is not easy. 

The “terrible twos,” are, in reality, pretty darned great.  The little people are out trying to explore and develop themselves.  One could argue the same occurs during the teen years…but it is different.  Very different.  While there are times they will be delightful, at other times it is miserable to be with them. 

The negatives begin to emerge either when they discover the opposite sex OR get a driver’s license….someone once said it is when they discover “freedom.”  Another friend submits it’s hormones.  Whatever the root cause, it is inevitable.  It does seem to be a global phenomenon; parents in the US, Hong Kong and India report the same thing.

Here are seven concrete recommendations for surviving the teenage years:

  1. Remember, you are still smarter than your teen - As a parent, you are not about to become very stupid.  You may very well feel that way.  Teens will test you often, and you may find yourself questioning your judgment and feeling very isolated.  Your values are needed to guide you. 

    This is where the adage, “Trust, but Verify” comes to mind.  You should trust your teen, and check to make sure they are doing what they say they are doing.  You shouldn’t become a helicopter or snowplow parent, you need to be discrete.  Calling another parent to make sure a party is supervised isn’t unreasonable.

  2. Stay connected with other resources - In the age of Google, a large number of resources are available to you.  So large you can get conflicting advice on any topic.  Use Google and other resources like Baystate Parent or parents’ groups as inputs to your process, not as definitive sources.  You know your situation and your values best.  If it doesn’t feel right, discard it.

  3. Breathe - There will be times you want to react immediately.  This is often how things escalate and become untenable.  So take a deep breath. 

    Count to whatever number you need to count to so the initial flush of the moment can pass.  Then consider your reaction.  There are times when no reaction is your best and most impactful reaction….so use it appropriately.

  4. Set boundaries - Your pet dog knows its crate is a safe place to be.  Your teenager needs boundaries, too.  (Only a minimal apology for comparing your teen to a dog!)  Boundaries are not something set at the height of an argument.  They need to be set in advance…and it’s best if set long before needed. 

    What is the list of things you cannot support, “under your roof?”  Make this list, and then sort it from “fist pounding on the table” passion to “preferences.”  When you know the non-negotiable boundaries and behaviors, you can articulate them more effectively.

  5. Use positive reinforcement – Good and appropriate behaviors deserve acknowledgement.  You don’t have to BUY anything.  It can be a simple thank you. Or sometimes can be more tangible.  For example, driving a car is earned and not a constitutional right.


  6. Negative reinforcement use - There may be times when negative reinforcement, non-physical reinforcement is needed, the logical equivalent of sending the child to their room for a time out.  Today, this must be met with turning off electronic devices, otherwise the teen is being sent to Disneyland.  Shutting off the internet at the router, and turning off cell phones at the carrier are alternatives.

    If your teen’s role includes emptying the dishwasher, try not serving meals until the dishwasher is emptied.  While the dishes in the sink may make you vibrate for a couple days, eventually the teen will participate and do the right thing.

  7. Professional help – there are times when the situation warrants use of professional help.  Professional help comes in many forms, be it the school, learning centers, or psychological assistance.  Sudden behavioral changes or physicality are indicators.

You and the teen will emerge from this.  You will learn to converse and not hear, “whatever.”

If you have any suggestions on surviving the teen years, please share!

Wednesday
Mar282012

Surviving the Teenage Years

My kids made some of their biggest personal growth advancements during their teenage years.  And it was not easy.  There is no sugar coating it; and this post shares some stories and frustrations.

I loved the “terrible twos.”  The little people were out trying to explore and develop themselves.  One could argue the same occurs during the teen years…but it is different.  Very different.

When I ask someone how old their kids are, and I hear “x-teen”, I shake my head.

If early teen, I assure the parent they are NOT about to become very stupid.  And they need to say goodbye to their kids for a decade or so. 

Late teens, the discussion becomes “how bad is it?”  And it is the same around the world; I’ve checked with parents around the US, Hong Kong, and India.

While there are times they will be delightful, at other times it is miserable to be with them.  I observed the negative begins to emerge either when they discover the opposite sex OR get a driver’s license….someone once said it is when they discover “freedom.”

Two working parents recently shared stories of physicality and verbal torrents. One mother countered a male son who was saying “Fuck you” with “Do you know what that means?  Is that what you really want to do.”  Of course, this question was met with, “That’s perverted.”

When one offered removing a door because of slamming, the other immediately shared they had done the same thing.

Door and door jam replacements were experienced due to damage.

There once was a time when sending the child to their room was a bit of a time out.  Today, this must be met with turning off electronic devices, otherwise the teen is being sent to Disneyland.  Shutting off the internet at the router, and turning off cell phones at the carrier were shared.

I can truly say I don’t know how to survive the teen years harmoniously.  I often wonder if I was just the same (I do remember breaking down a door to get into a locked house when my parents were away….)

You and the teen will emerge from this.  You will learn to converse and not hear, “whatever.”

If you have any suggestions on surviving the teen years, please share!