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Posts Tagged ‘Parental Advice’

One quarter of our teens are alcohol abusers by the time they leave high school. They are teens whose drinking habits produce poor work, excessive absenteeism from work or school, and complaints from friends and family. Alcohol-related accidents remain one of the biggest killers of sons and daughters until they pass college age.

Often a parent first discovers a teenage drinking problem on the morning after:

“Boy, do I feel terrible this morning!”

“Are you sick? What did you have when you were out last night?”

“Ah, just the same old stuff.”

“Todd, you must have had something different from the same old stuff.”

It will probably turn out that Todd was tempted by a few beers for short-term fun and now he has the day-after long-term misery.

Looking beyond the short- to the long-term consequences is one measure of growing up. Even parents can have trouble looking ahead to drinking problems:

“Let him have a little beer, what harm can it do?”

“As long as it’s in the house and nobody is going to drive, it’s OK.”

Drinking habits often produce strange excuses: “I couldn’t help it, I was drunk” is a common teenage misunderstanding of responsibility.

Traffic laws don’t excuse the drunk driver of responsibility and often teens don’tseem to understand that drunkenness is not an excuse for stupidity; it is stupidity. Nevertheless the most common excuse a teenage girl gives for getting pregnant remains, “I was drunk.”

But drinking and driving remains the most dangerous part. All parents dread that terrible phone call in the middle of the night: “This is Officer Jones of the West Virginia State Police, your son has been…”

While teens make up only 6.9 percent of the driving population, they account for 13 percent of the alcohol-related fatal crashes. In 2003, expect 17,000 deaths nationwide due to drunk driving. About 350 will be from West Virginia and 40 of those will be teenagers.

West Virginia’s legal limit of blood alcohol that defines DUI is now set at .10 percent. While our state ranks fifth with 8.24 alcohol-related traffic deaths per 100,000 population each year, our legislature refuses to lower the limit to .08 percent as most states require. Even that’s equivalent to four shots of hard liquor within one hour on an empty stomach, but our legislators evidently feel that is all right for drivers coming down the road at you.

What can parents do?

First, stay informed, on every occasion, about how your son or daughter is going to get home from a party or other activity.

Second, disallow all social events with alcohol.

Third, support and respect the laws concerning drinking and driving and the officers who enforce them – the next car they stop, just in time, may have one of yours inside.

Strict laws do work as I found out during a celebration with my wife’s large family in Norway. Her cousin accidentally picked up her husband’s wine glass by mistake and touched it to her lips. Her face showed near terror as she realized what she had almost done! She was the designated driver for her part of the family that evening and, in Norway, the road blocks and breath tests for any alcohol consumption are almost inescapable.

In the Norwegian courts, any evidence of alcohol and the automatic fine is two months salary! That can’t be brushed off even by the wealthy. Results of behavioral tests and blood levels determine the jail sentence (up to one year) to be added to the fine. The law is strict and drinking and driving is very rare compared to the U.S.

Our legislators have a responsibility to provide an effective law beyond unenforceable suspensions and trivial fines manipulated by DUI lawyers.

Some will say their freedom to judge their own drinking and driving is more important than a few deaths, but they are wrong and we should say so.

It only shows a prejudice against the young to crow about getting tough with teens because of their 14% of the drunk driving fatalities and then wring our hands and coddling the adults responsible for the other 86%.

Copy, fax, mail, or e-mail your support of more strict drinking and driving laws to your legislators today. Send your elected judges the message that enforcing the drinking laws will get your vote.

 

Dr. McIntire is the author of Teenagers and Parents: 10 Steps to a Better Relationship and Raising Good Kids in Tough Times: 7 Crucial Habits for Parent Success. Contact him through Parentsuccess.com.

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Christmas is less then a week away and I, as usual, have put off getting gifts for my grandchildren right down to the last days. I want to get them something that will teach and benefit them, not just another splashy piece of plastic in its little molded card that will hold their attention only until the next gift is opened.

It’s not easy to find a lasting gift in the newest list of plastic heroes with special powers that are the rage of the 6 to 12-year-old set. Last year Pokeman cards, lost out to Harry Potter books, toys, games, and t-shirts. But Harry Potter might not make the top ten this year. No customers are as fickle as children, so with six days left, who can predict the next best seller.

I remember very few gifts from my own childhood. One or two stand out, but most were broken, lost or in the trash after only a few months. I do remember my Aunt Emily’s card promising me a trip to the Science and Industry Museum in Chicago. She didn’t have a lot of money, so she gave “services.” We went while school was still out for the holidays, and I still remember where we had lunch. I don’t remember any other gift from that Christmas.

Memories of gifts during my teenage years are also a blur except I remember that my older cousin, Harold, picked up Aunt Emily’s idea and took me bowling one year. The next year, he took me back to his old college for a day just to show me what college was all about. I graduated from that school years later.

For our own nieces and nephews, we have taken the hint from Aunt Emily. My wife, Eileen, gave a card to our niece, Ashley, that said, “Good for one lunch and adventure trip with Aunt Eileen.” During lunch at the Smithsonian Ashley said, “This is great. I wish you would always give this kind of gift.”

But lunches, museums and other special trips are not easy gifts to give. Often they don’t make a big impression at first and they may be inconvenient, time-consuming, and costly later on. If you think a regular gift needs to be part of Christmas morning, maybe you could make a secret promise to yourself to give a special “services” gift later on.

Time is the most precious of these gifts we give our children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces. It is truly irreplaceable and the memories will last into their adult years.

So this holiday season consider a gift of your time – time to listen without jumping in with criticism or advice; time to seek out one of the many capabilities or likable characteristics of the children and let them know you found it; time to give over more responsibility so the child-rearing moves along toward adult-rearing; and time to show tolerance so that tolerance will be admired.

For the Christmas morning gift under the tree, my guess is no better than yours, but gifts of time will make the lasting memories.

Dr. McIntire is the author of Teenagers and Parents: 12 Steps to a Better Relationship and Staying Cool and In Control. Contact him through Parentsuccess.com.

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High school students looking forward to their senior year cannot easily get excited about more school work after that. Yet for those considering college, the choices after high school require attention now.

As associate dean for undergraduates at the University of Maryland, I met many students who at first resisted this idea of visiting colleges saying, “I don’t even know what I want to do.” But your student shouldn’t put off college visits because no main field of study has come to mind. Most entering freshmen are only aware of a dozen or so of the 100-plus programs most colleges offer. College is for learning about yourself and how your own special talents fit the possibilities.

Few students stick to their first career notions. Over 90 percent of college students will change their major during their college years. Half will change more than once as they explore the details of subjects in college courses.

Other students may resist these first steps toward college by flatly stating, “I don’t want to go to college,” just to put off parents’ questions or because they have only a TV view of what college could be.

To get enthusiastic about college, your high school junior needs some first-hand information. The spark of excitement won’t come from just talking with Mom or Dad about the choices of work, local college, or a school far away.

This summer is a good time for soon-to-be seniors to visit colleges. In the fall, it will be time for applications so chances for visiting will be nearly over.

Driving down to a college to “just look around” can be frustrating for both student and parent if no arrangements have been made in advance. Have your budding college student call ahead to the college admissions office and set things up. A parent can help a balking 16-year-old by providing a short list of things to say:
1. Tell them you are going into your senior year and you would like to visit the campus and talk to an admissions person.
2. Mention the major subjects you are interested in.
3. Ask what events are going on that weekend. Special events may make it difficult to see facilities and faculty, or the events coming up might give you a special reason to make an effort to go on a particular date.
4. Ask about visiting a dorm.
5. Ask about talking to someone about financial aid programs (next week’s topic) and filling out the required Student Aid Report while you are there.

Your student might also ask about meeting with students in majors that are of interest. If the admissions office can’t help with that one, you or your teen may know someone you could look up during your visit.

Ask your college-bound student to begin a summarizing chart so that both of you will have a good review sheet when the time for the final decision comes. Include places for his ratings of the programs and courses, the college town, dorms, and job opportunities. What do students say about the different meal plans available and the size of the classes? How convenient is the traveling from home to campus?

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Excerpt from: Raising Good Kids in Tough Times

Kids starting middle school next month take a big lonely step out on their own. With the challenge of new friends, values, and temptations, it may be the biggest culture shock of their lives. Yet parent involvement both at school and at home seems to taper off in middle school – just when it’s needed most.

Most of the tragic stories of kids gone wrong at this stage begin with a surprise – a surprise to the parents that the kids even had a problem. But as the review goes on, it turns out there were signals: isolation, anger, following the lead of new friends or new models in the fantasy of TV, movies, or social media.

It’s a time when parents are tempted to view every opportunity as a chance to “get in their licks.” But the kids are thin skinned, defensive, and easily embarrassed. They don’t have the verbal abilities of adults and can’t express their ideas and feelings in words so easily.

So if parents are to keep up with how it’s going in middle school, and the kids are to stay around long enough to hear some parental advice, us parents will have to slow down. You can avoid quick parental advice by asking questions and just repeating your child’s last remark instead of always centering the talk on the quick fix:
“Boy, is that school boring!”
“Gets pretty dull sometimes, I guess.” (Instead of, “You have a bad attitude.”)
“It’s like that all the time over there.”
“What bothers you most?” (Instead of, “It can’t be bad all the time, You shouldn’t be so…”)
“Math is really tough.” (Parental patience has allowed the real topic to come up.)
“It was tough for me, too.” (Instead of, “You just need to apply yourself.”)

Body language also makes a difference. Face your conversational partner. Put down the paper and turn off the TV. It won’t help to be right in their face, but talking while keeping one eye on the TV commercials so you can turn off the mute when the program resumes will make the talk hectic and the child discouraged.

Children need confidence to take chances and tinker with ideas in their talks with you. Avoid “Why would you think that? That shows that you are (to blame, wrong, or off-base).” If the talks always center on the child’s defects the child will just want out.

Talking doesn’t make a good competitive sport. If every conversation is treated as a tennis game where each return requires yet another return until someone wins, kids will harden their defensive style early and the exploration stage will be short. Once the score card is started in a conversation, the tallies get more attention than the ideas.

As the kids encounter the new school, you may feel that you’ve lost your influence over them. The children may try to give you that impression, but as every teacher, counselor and minister knows, you have an effect, even when the kids react with, “You don’t know anything.” and “It’s not the same nowadays.”

In the everyday rush to jobs, shopping, and school buses, it’s easy to miss your chance to hear what’s going on. Watch for it and use it, it can help you keep up.

Dr. McIntire is the author of Teenagers and Parents: 12 Steps to a Better Relationship (5th revision out (9/15/16) and Raising Good Kids in Tough Times.

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Marguerite Keely’s column in the Washington Post on Friday answered a mother’s letter. She has three out-of-control four and unders, and Marguerite says more than once, “The more you say no, the more they will argue with you.”  She says Mom should stop what she’s doing and read to the little ones, “because you’ve been so good today.”

            It is a good idea that has to do with what happens next. They argue- she says “No.” They do nothing in particular, she sometimes reads to them, Kelly advises. But the advice needs to be more specific: better to stop the feedback for arguing and read to them when they do something well, “That was a nice thing to say to your sister, maybe we should read a story now.”

            The letter also implies that Mom is giving way too many random consequences for the children to follow any strategy but their whim. Tine to slow down and give thoughtful consequences.

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