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.
When I was a mere lad, you actually got what you thought you were buying. Today, cereal boxes advertise giant chunks of cereal with massive strawberries. To be fair, it doesn’t really bother me that they aren’t really that size. What I do find interesting is the little asterisk pointing to a note that the fruit isn't there, and it isn’t that big. It seems a lot of businesses are afraid of disappointing you. Everyone that is, except the High School dope pusher. He’s happily misleading his customers.
“You won't see it coming” Some advice is bad because it’s wrong, and some is bad because it isn’t. I doubt anyone can look at a three year old child and predict a future sociopath, drug addict or any other deviant, and that’s without a parent’s rose colored glasses. With that, I strongly caution every parent to watch this (please be aware it’s very disturbing): Teens On Heroin
Answer: The wall is more rational. A lot of parents in T.V. land think of their teenagers as a life form on par with a highly sophisticated tree, and some even think certain trees have the advantage. Nevertheless, I’m here to tell you, you can actually understand them – teenagers that is. Now before you revoke my visa, hear me out.
That should be easy enough. Not. Now and again I make a mistake and ruin a perfectly good elevator ride by reading one of those sanguine parenting blogs that give immensely simple answers to the most pressing parenting issues. Of course it’s easy for these so-called parenting experts to tell a worried parent that all they need to do is count to ten before they respond to their unruly teenager and things will miraculously work out. That’s because by the time the issue becomes worse the website has closed down. Similarly, isn’t: talk to your kids about drugs, a simply good idea? In fact, people tell me they do it all the time.....
Unless you are reading this by candle light on a piece of paper in a cave in Afghanistan (you never know these days) then take a good long look at everything around you. What do you see? You see the culmination of countless people who thought life should be better. They said, “This stinks. There’s got to be something better than reading a piece of paper by candle light in a cave.” Everything you see around you is a result of this human condition. Go to the zoo, monkeys don’t say, “This stinks.” Even though it does, really! It doesn’t matter what they have, they seem pretty content. That also goes for the lions, tigers and probably the panda bears as well, although it’s hard to get a good read on their facial expressions. Very few people I meet can go longer than a few days without expressing dissatisfaction with their spot in life. And none of them like the fact that they have to say it. However, as much as you think that living a life bereft of ever saying “Why me?” would be great, allow me to show you otherwise.
(More on Drugs) I really don’t mind generalizations. I know generalizations are not politically correct these days, but it just makes life easier when you can group everyone into nice little packages and label them with predictable behaviors and buying patterns. Living in Washington DC, I think the average person would probably be amazed at how many people make a living out of predicting what the rest of us will do. I am not saying they are right, but they do drive nice cars. I once took a course on stand-up comedy at UCLA. The instructor made a very important point -- you can poke fun and say anything about any minority as long as you fulfill one simple rule. You have to be part of that minority. It was amazing the abuse, in the name of comedy, everyone made of their marginal status. The things they said no one else would ever think of saying. In the name of that rule therefore, I as a parent would like to add my own personal generalization. “Parents are delusional.”
Parental and vitamin advice are very similar. For starters, it’s almost impossible to know if it helps. Then, even if things start to deteriorate, it’s just as hard to determine which suggestion or pill was the culprit. Therefore, pointing out the really bad advice is no small trick, but here goes anyway. “Don’t argue in front of the children.”