Posts Tagged ‘Teenagers’

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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“Duncan has taken to helping in the kitchen! He’s four and yet he can really do things! He made his own scrambled egg the other morning. I told him how impressed I was, and he made one for me!”

What fun it is to impress your parents! Duncan loves to help with cooking, doing a little on his own and having his parents say how great he is. One woman counselor I know speaking at a PTA meeting said every child, teen, and adult longs to hear their parent say, “You are the fine son/daughter I always hoped for; you’re doing a great job!” There was not a dry eye in the house. Evidently many had never had the experience.

Since parental approval is such an emotional high point, it is a shame some parents often begrudge their children “too much” reward. Reward and reinforcement are terms that may sound too mechanical because the words imply a contrived influence on behavior. But the most frequent reward children receive is the admiration and appreciation expressed by parents. Parents who are generous with these “rewards” are more effective.

Yet many are still uncomfortable with the notion that selfish benefit is required to get children, or anybody else, to do the right thing. “They should do it because it’s right, shouldn’t they? They know it’s good for them! They had better be glad they have a good home and a chance to learn and get ahead!”

Isn’t this the way we all feel sometimes? It seems unbelievable that kids would pass up an opportunity for personal growth or fail to contribute to the family out of appreciation for the care they get.

It’s children we’re talking about, of course. Employees who are asked to work a little longer or teachers asked to carry a larger load deserve rewards for their extra work. And our boss who expects something for nothing just doesn’t understand our personal economic situation!

As a matter of fact, the higher you go, the more reward is expected for any effort – managers and school principals don’t feel respected unless they make more money. Corporate officers and members of Congress worry that lower salaries for them would bring in people less competent than themselves; and CEO’s demand golden parachutes of stock options so they will have the “proper incentive” to do a good job up there on top. So the higher ups commonly get more money and appreciation while both money and appreciation become scarce for the “less deserving” and, of course, for the kids.

Some parents object to the idea of rewarding children because it might spoil them. But remember a spoiled child did not get that way because too much was provided. Many children in families with small incomes are spoiled, and many children with the benefits of wealthy families are not spoiled. The parent’s routine reactions to the child’s behavior determine the habits. Parents who pay attention to the highlights in what their children do, will find plenty of opportunity to provide a deserved compliment. But if obnoxious behavior is “required” to get attention, then obnoxious behavior will be the rule.

Dr. McIntire is the author of Raising Good Kids in Tough Times and Teenagers and Parents: 12 Steps to a Better Relationship to be published on September 15, 2016.

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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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Raising Good Kids in Tough Times

By Dr. Roger McIntire

When it comes to those dangerous behaviors, drugs often produce the most tragic stories, but in number of abusers, alcohol wins. Alcohol abusers are defined as persons whose drinking habits produce poor work, excessive absenteeism from work or school, and complaints from friends and family.

One quarter of our teens are alcohol abusers by the time they reach college age. And alcohol-related accidents remain one of the biggest killers of our teens until they pass college age.

What’s a parent to do? You can’t protect your kids from every temptation, but you can make sure the right messages are sent:
1. Don’t send the message that alcohol is a problem solver: “I’ve had a tough day, I need a drink.”
2. Don’t send the message that alcohol is necessary for social situations. Using alcohol for its relaxing effect only postpones learning better social skills.
3. Don’t send the message that behavior under the influence is somehow more genuine, natural, or free because it’s more emotional and less thoughtful. Just because behavior is less filtered doesn’t make it better.

Inhibitions have been learned from experience, and thoughtfulness is the most human quality. When teens depend on alcohol to break down social inhibitions, the breakdown of sexual inhibitions is the next bad habit. Intoxication is the most common explanation given for unsafe sex in surveys of teenagers.

Now, about those drugs: Watch the money. The drug business is about money. Where can an unemployed addict get $75 a day to support the habit? Recruiting a new user – your teen – is one of the best sources of money. Pay attention to the amount of money your teen has. Drug pushers look for teen buyers with extra money, so your teen should carry only the needed amount to school or stores.

Watch your model. They are always imitating. Set an example for your teen to follow in the use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs – including medications. Teens copy. Review your habits for the sake of your teen.

Watch your teen’s habits. Paying attention can keep you up to date on any temptations. In addition to the money situation, changes in sleeping and eating habits, friends or secretiveness about friends can be a sign of trouble.

One dad recently told me he made a point of regularly calling the parents of his daughter’s friends. As a single parent he liked to compare his experiences with what others were going through.

As much as you think your teen will never abuse alcohol or take drugs, you need to know the signs. Unfortunately all teens show some of these signs from time to time, and it doesn’t indicate drug use. The difference that deserves attention is a cluster of abrupt changes in these signs:

1. Unusual, unexplained need for money, or money missing from the house.
2. Changes in friends, eating habits or sleeping that don’t make sense.
3. Lack of concentration, extreme agitation.
4. “Cold symptoms” that just don’t go away -red eyes, runny nose, increased infections.
5. Changes in appetite, cravings.
6. Changes in fatigue, hyperactivity, appearance, becoming sloppy.
7. Unusual clumsiness, shortness of breath, coughing, peculiar odor to breath or clothes.

One mother’s story began: “John started going with those older kids last summer and suddenly he didn’t care how he looked; he was sloppy, always sniffing, getting up later every day, and he lost interest in everything – even soccer!”
This mother found drug paraphernalia in her son’s room the first time she looked! The cluster of changes in social habits, attitude, and self-care was enough for her to investigate.

Send your parenting questions for Dr. McIntire by e-mail to sumcross@aol.com or visit ParentSuccess.com on the net. He is the author of Raising Good Kids in Tough Times and Teenagers and Parents: 10 Steps to a Better Relationship.

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Imitation is the most common human behavior. Not that we don’t think for ourselves, but in the volume of everyday activities we follow habits and leads from others. The family atmosphere develops from these regular reactions and imitated attitudes.

Parental reactions, critical and angry or fair and loving, are copied by the children in their responses back to the parents and on to others. These recycle through the family, and everyone reaps a little of what they sow. Give a Nice Day!

Everyone has seen parents who are always riding their children: “Blow your nose.” “Tuck in your shirt,” “Don’t touch,” and so on. On the other hand, we have all seen parents who never react and let their children run wild with no consideration for others or their property. Both extremes lead to problems.

Where, in the middle ground, is the right style of correction?

Most parents know what bad behavior is and they have no trouble recognizing it. But when asked what good behavior is, their answers become vague. A good exercise for parents is to list the specific good behavior they are looking for: doing something for his little brother, taking his dishes in from the table, getting dressed in the morning. With such a list of specific actions in mind it’s easier to “catch ’em being good!”

Parents can also develop a better feeling in the family by planning their responses to the childrens’ behavior. They can select which behaviors to encourage and which to discourage and decide to ignore the other troublesome behaviors for the time being. This plan cuts down on the temptation to constantly ride their children with complaints and criticisms.

Parents who frequently praise and encourage their children usually have a positive, and less frantic, family situation. A mother who balances criticism with encouragements and frequent compliments is more influential and closer to her children than Mom, the critic.

If you are a single parent, it may be all the more difficult to say to yourself, as a spouse might: “Don’t let me pick on the kids; stop me and point out the good things I do.”

In reacting to everyday problems, children most commonly imitate the adults they are with at home and school, and they imitate the style more often than the actions. Attitudes toward others, conversational style, and temperament are the durable characteristics of teachers and parents that are copied.

The disposition to punish and correct others can be learned just as easily as the disposition to encourage others but the results are vastly different. Punishment creates tension and sour feelings in the home and only shows that out of all the responses the child could have made, he has chosen a wrong one – try again. Little information is available in that.

Praise and encouragement makes for a happier home and tells the child that of all the things he could have done, this is one of the right ones.

A rewarding reaction is more difficult for parents because it takes time to decide what to reward and how to do it, but you will have a more pleasant job as a parent and you will have a child who is still informative, friendly, responsive, and not always wanting to go somewhere else!

Careful, the children are always watching.

Dr. Roger McIntire is Retired Associate Dean from the University of Maryland and author of Raising Good Kids in Tough Times, Teenagers and Parents. Contact him through CCBS or go to Parentsuccess.com.

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What is the top priority of most teenagers? Adults would put family, security and friends near the top, but most teens I know also assign high priorities to being liked, competent, and “cool.”

As for the greatest fears, teens usually put fear of embarrassment, mistakes, and failure at the top of the list. Memories of our own teenage experiences include these same concerns–yearning to be liked and worried about embarrassment.

The next teen you encounter will probably have all these priorities and fears – all disguised or covered by an attitude that says everything is just fine. That teen needs you to confirm his or her competencies, likableness, and “coolness.” Look for chances to ease her fear and bolster her confidence. Even though you may find plenty to fix and teach your teen, keep to the positive and avoid the urge to work for perfection. Many adults have sadly told me: “As far as my parents are concerned, I always felt I was never quite good enough.”

So while talking to your teen, remember that criticisms, quick-fixes, advice, and focus on shortcomings hit vulnerable buttons. Admiration, compliments, and respect for who they are and their successes are always gratefully received even if they are too “cool” to acknowledge it.

Be generous with your positive support, find the good points. Encourage your teen to value himself and you will help insulate him from the temptations to try dangerous “S.A.D.” behaviors: sex, alcohol, and drugs.

Since “coolness” is related to being “non-parent,” your teen may also worry she will be accused of being similar to an adult such as a parent, perish the thought! Still most of us are surprised to eventually hear ourselves say, “I can’t believe I said that, I sound just like my Dad (Mom)!”

Teens are always struggling to be their own adult and yet still tempted to be reckless, irresponsible children, too. This preoccupation with who they are and whether they are properly cool makes life tough for your teenager. They must always be on guard, questioning each comment from their parents and wondering: What are you saying about ME? Are you challenging one of my desires to be cool (hep, with it, in, or whatever the word for the upcoming generation is)? Are you endangering me with one of my greatest fears of embarrassment, a mistake uncovered, a failure?

Parents try to make their children and their teens as similar to themselves as possible; they try to instill their standards, their view, their attitude towards community, work, family, religion, and values. It’s the way we pass along our culture.

Children and teens try to make themselves as different from their parents as possible! They feel a drive to get out from under the umbrella of protection and influence of their parents. That’s the way we change, and hopefully improve, the culture!

As your teenager approaches adulthood, positive comments to your teen will be your most effective influence. Let it never be said by your son or daughter, “I always felt I was never quite good enough.”

Dr. McIntire is the author of What Every Parent Should Know About Raising Children, Raising Your Teenager: 5 Crucial Skills for Moms and Dads and Raising Good Kids in Tough Times. Review his books on Amazon.com. Write him through http://www.ParentSuccess.com

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             If your son or daughter is disrespectful, maybe your brother or sister could say: “Hey, don’t talk to your mother like that!” It’s not a happy moment, but as the parent on the firing line, you might feel more supported and your child might get the message that some talk is not tolerated.

            Joey: I’m going to watch TV now.

            Mom:  How about your homework?

            Joey:  Later, I’ve got plenty of time.

            Mom:  Didn’t you say your history paper was due tomorrow?

            Joey:  Mom, you don’t know anything about how long the paper will take.

            Aunt Sylvia: Be careful how you talk to your mother.  She’s had many years of school; I think she knows.

            Joey:  I’ll do it when I’m ready.

            Aunt Sylvia:  Well, I can’t ride you over to your practice until your mother says it’s okay.

            Joey:  You didn’t even know about the history paper until Mom brought it up; what do you have to do with it, anyway?

            Mom:  Don’t talk to your Aunt Sylvia that way; she’s concerned about you, too.  Now get to that paper so you can make soccer practice on time.

            Your best protectors are your own spouse, relative, or friend who comes to your aid when it seems parent abuse is likely.  They should protect both Mom and Dad from mistreatment, even by a child.

            Jenny: Mom, tie my shoe!

            Mom: Just a minute. I’m talking.

            Jenny: Do it now!

            Eric (Mom’s close friend): Take it easy, Jenny, let your Mom finish.

            Two adults can be stronger than one, and they can be an example about how the members of the family should treat each other. Eric wouldn’t let a stranger barge in and make demands of his friend at a restaurant, and he’s not going to sit by when her child does it at home either.

            Extended family can help, like Eric and Aunt Sylvia, or they can be part of the problem.

            Eric: You can’t find your keys?  I can’t believe it!

            Jane (Mom): Just a minute, here they are.

            Eric: I swear, you would lose your head if you didn’t have …

            The kids can easily absorb an adult game of “I-can’t-believe-you’re-such-a-klutz!” It’s no help to have an adult friend or relative show the kids how to abuse or show disrespect for their parent.

            Eric:  This car needs some work.       

            Jane:  Why don’t you take it in Monday.

            Eric:  Me?  You’re the one who drives it most!

            Jane:  I have to get to work early.  You just lounge around until later anyway.

            Eric:  Hey, that cushy job of yours…

            Jane:  Wait, wait, let’s get the car fixed , OK?

            You may think this argument is about car repairs and who should see that it gets done. But a child listening on the sidelines doesn’t understand, and doesn’t care to understand, the details of dropping a car off for repairs. As with their friends, children have their “antennae out” and are more interested in what the conversations say about how people feel about each other rather than the content. They often get it wrong.

            So after a simple disagreement on the car, Eric may be surprised to hear Jenny say:  “You don’t like Mommy, do you?”

            “What!  Of course I do, whatever gave you that idea?”

            The misunderstanding can be corrected, but the temptation to imitate the attitude Jenny heard will linger on.  The impression will only be corrected by future examples from Mom and Dad and from the Erics and Aunt Sylvias of Jenny’s world.

            So on your next visit with the family, in addition to recognizing the next birthday, donate extra time for talking– ask good questions, take time to listen, and keep the pace slow.


Dr. McIntire is the author of What Every Parent Should Know About Raising Children, Raising Your Teenager: 5 Crucial Skills for Moms and Dads and Raising Good Kids in Tough Times. Write him at sumcross@aol.com


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