This is a question I recently received from a concerned mother: “My son (14 years old) confided in me that his best friend is doing something that his mother would totally not approve." "With a heavy heart I told the mother - who is also a friend of mine, because I would want to know." "My son’s friend got into trouble and now my son is very upset with me.” “Did I ruin the relationship with my son?” Click Here for my answer:
I like to tell parents that there are only two kinds of trouble teenagers get into…. The kind you know about and the other kind. I know this doesn’t bring much comfort, but what does? Some parenting experts will tell you that the path to worry free parenting is to become informed. Worry and anxiety, they will tell you, come from a lack of information, or to be frank, just plain ignorance. According to this logic therefore, the more you understand, the less worry and anxiety you will have. And in truth, with everything else in our lives, this theory sort of works. However, when it comes to parenting, the only people who seriously think they have a shot at knowing what there is to know about raising children are people who don’t have any. I have yet to meet the parent who proclaims they have figured it all out. Parenting ignorance is in its own league. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a criticism. In fact, to be a healthy parent, it’s important to appreciate that parents have what I call “perfect ignorance.” Why?
"Only you” should talk to your kids about drugs. Listen I don’t want to scare you or anything, but we are talking about drugs. If you were the only one talking to your kids that would be just fine. But that world doesn’t exist - your kids talk to many other people. Unfortunately, parents often fail to take into account the other "advice" their children are getting. To fully appreciate what you are up against, we have put them side-by-side, comparing what the “experts” recommend with what your child's friends are telling them: This is what the experts (D.A.R.E.*) tell you: “Tell your children that you love them and you want them to be happy and healthy.” Now this is what Your Child’s Friends (Y.C.F.) tell them (sometimes more than you): “Ditto.”
A lot of what you hear on parenting sites about kids being online can be described as something like the bubonic plague coming to a town near you. Most parents' attitude towards social media is akin to holding back a slowly crumbling dam. They would like to stop the flood, but they also know it's a losing battle. However, I'm here to tell you that social media (if used correctly) can be one of the best parenting tools since Sunday morning cartoons. Ever since human beings could scratch their heads trying to figure out what their progeny was up to, parents have wished for a daily report on their child's thoughts and actions -- something like the daily security assessment the President gets from the CIA. Your child may think of Twitter, Facebook, et. al., as the latest cool experience. But for a parent, they are better than satellite pictures over Iran. The problem parents are facing is they don't know what to do with the information once they've got it. Sounds like the old Chinese proverb of being careful of what you ask for. Therefore, I present here some practical approaches to the new era of what I call Facebook Parenting.
This question comes from Julie Harnish: “My sister wants to do a 5 minute 'huddle' with her 16 year old son every morning to 'check in' and hear what might be challenging him that day. Looking for 3 questions that would maybe help to prompt his memory or what he has on his agenda for the day...” Winston Churchill bemoaned trying to understand what was really going on behind the scenes in Russia. Obviously he didn’t have teenage boys.
I have to confess and I don’t remember how old I was, but when I was a little boy I was always getting lost. It wasn’t that I was trying to run away or sneak off, it’s just that other things easily caught my attention and I was soon walking in a completely different direction. I tell you this because I still remember what it was like to realize I was lost, and it’s not pleasant. After one particular episode, this time in a foreign country, my father in his wisdom realized this was probably going to be a regular occurrence and therefore told me all I needed to know.
Please don’t think I am bragging, but it’s more than a couple of times during my week that I say to myself, “I live a charmed existence.” I know what you are thinking, “Aren’t those pills illegal?” One of the aspects that is a real treasure is the varied and interesting people I have the pleasure to teach and talk to. It ranges from teenagers to seasoned multi-millionaire businessmen and everything in between. The consistent issue teenagers have is this -- they think they are not going to end up like the rest of us – now there’s a joke. Which is pretty much what I tell them. The issue with everyone else is that they can’t remember what it was like to be a teenager.
This is not the article you think it is. “Why do I always end up nagging my kids?” That’s got to be one of the most common parenting questions I get. Plus: “Why can’t they just do what they are supposed to without me having to constantly ask again and again?” I know it’s going to sound a little counter-intuitive, but even if you spent 15 years studying philosophy at the Sorbonne, and a similar length of time pondering the great questions of literature in Harvard, you would still nag your kids. It’s what mom’s and dad’s do best! For some reason, parents seem to think nagging is a problem. They fail to realize this is the only effective tool at their disposal, which is unique to them, so why would you want to give it up? Let’s think about this from a different angle. If being reasonable was effective, then parents would be redundant. In such a case, children would simply pop out the womb and the attending hospital lawyer would hand the new world visitor a life manual (after he signed the various legal waivers) and we (the parents) could all go on to enjoy a life, care free of the various stupid mistakes our children seem to get themselves into. Let me try and be a little clearer. A parent’s job is to nag. I know, it’s a tough job, and we are the only ones who are going to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not telling you to let all nagging constraints evaporate. Nagging can be overdone and obsessive, but zero nagging can be totally counter-productive, at least for your children. Why?
3 simple ways to connect with your child. The writing is clearly written on every despot's Facebook wall – bribery and tyranny just don’t work the way they used to. Yet maybe even a greater seismic shift has occurred in parenting, although many parents, just like 3rd world dictators, haven’t quite got the Tweet message yet. First, let’s get clear. Doing more of the same in the age of social media, whether you run a small country or large family, is not going to cut it. MORE, whether that be more careful, more strict, or even more worried, isn’t going to solve the problem. In March 1932, the son of Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped and murdered. The country was thrown into a frenzy of safety awareness. Parents engaged in a level of protection they had never before considered. Knowing where your kids are may have been a meaningful reaction to the new realities of modern living in the 1930’s, but for the 21st century, it’s hardly going to help. If no country in the Middle East can keep hidden from its citizens information it would rather they not have, then what chance does a parent have? Although you should attempt by all means possible to protect your children from the seedy aspects of life, you have to assume your child has access to everything you don’t want them to. As such, we have entered a parenting paradigm shift and these 3 simple techniques are going to help you stay in the game: Simple Way #1: Eye contact Don’t worry, this isn’t about getting your teenager to sit opposite you and stare lovingly into each others eyes. These are simple techniques, not impossible ones. All that’s needed is a very short glance, looking directly into their eyes. The value is that if they are up to something they shouldn’t – you will almost certainly know about it. A little background. It takes years of training to be dishonest and pretend everything is OK. That’s why your average brutal dictator is usually well past the prime of life. They need many years learning the tricks of lying, cheating, and the favorite of ruling thugs, back-stabbing – both literally and figuratively. Kids not only haven’t had the time to hone these skills, but more importantly they usually pride themselves on being true to themselves. They might rationalize and tell you a lie or obfuscate what is happening by failing to inform you of key details. Nevertheless, the eyes tell all. The effective focus of parents today has shifted from protecting, to awareness. The wall around your house is a fiction. Your carefully chosen neighborhood is as close to the ghetto as a right-hand click. So if you don’t know what trouble your children are in, you will certainly find out…. when it’s too late. Our Sages tell us, the eyes are the window to the soul. If something is going on now, you will see it in their eyes. I know this next “way” is going to fly in the face of every parenting expert out there, but Facebook is the best thing to happen to parenting since maternity leave.
Simple Way #1: Show them how important they are. In pictures. More than once have I counseled a businessman about his daughter who feels alienated. "No wonder," I tell him, "If I were your child and walked into your office I would think I didn't exist!" What would a detective examining your office space right now conclude are the three most important things in your life? This is what I see displayed all the time - trophies and awards for business or sports - all current and prominent. At best, there's the token family picture in the corner to look well-rounded. The point is, your office should reflect the values you should have, even if you don’t feel it. To misquote a famous saying: If you display it, you will feel it. This is how your office should look: a) On the desk should be at least one picture of your spouse. Extra points if your kids are there too. b) Your computer should have embarrassing decorations or "art" that your little kids have made for you. c) On your wall should be the typical family pictures. It's OK to have displays of other things you are proud of, but your family pictures should get the quality and size befitting them. The key here is that if your son or daughter were to walk in to your office, they would immediately feel that they are the most important part of your life. Doing this gives them a sense of importance and thus confidence. d) PLUS, your wall has to display your kids art. It's OK if they are now 35 years old, you can still keep it on your wall – tell your co-worker it covers up a stain. Variants on this theme: your car or your laptop.