How to Track Your Teen on Social Media (Ethically)

We all worry about the amount of time our kids spend on social media, how much of their energy it consumes, and how it effects our their behavior and emotions. Typically, a parent’s go-to is to fear the worst. When fear gets in the way, we go into control mode. We are constantly chasing the answer to, How much is too much? When and how do I put a stop to this madness?

When your kids reach the teen years, you have much less say over how they spend their time, and you worry and fear more than ever. Yet at the same time, having a connected relationship with your teen is paramount.

Andy Earle (https://talkingtoteens.com/), a researcher into teen life, has written this piece for me on how to stay aware and in charge of your teen’s social media time while maintaining trust and that all-important connected relationship.

How to Track Your Teen on Social Media (Ethically)

Losing track of what your teen is into online? Here are three ways to (ethically) track what your teen is doing. Parents today need to get more sophisticated on social media because teens are getting very savvy. We have to go beyond basic tools like SafeSearch and iPhone parental controls.

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Jan ’20 Q&A – When Correction Feels Like Criticism

Q. How can I help my 8 year old son understand that I love him just the way he is AND I want him to grow, learn and improve? He says he feels humiliated and ashamed every time I ask him to learn something new because he feels like I’m saying he needs to be better than he already is. His resilience is low and I’m trying to help him using all the techniques I can find. The school is trying to help also but last term he got a detention for not following instructions and then was so ashamed of himself that it really set him back again. 

A. It sounds like you have a sensitive son, which means he’s probably quite perceptive and intuitive in ways many kids aren’t. If that’s true, he will be extra sensitive to criticism and might perceive criticism when you don’t intend it that way. He may read you as telling him what to and then think you will be disappointed in him if he doesn’t do it or learn it the way you think he should. It’s especially important for you to encourage him in ways that allow him to make decisions about what he does and doesn’t do whenever you can — within your parameters of course.

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Less is More in the New Year

The key to becoming a better and happier parent is NOT to add on more to-dos. Especially expectations of yourself and your kids none of you can be successful meeting. You’ll all feel worse. You may want to do things better, but I promise that most likely means doing less—worrying less, fearing less, nagging and shouting less.

We are doing so much more “parenting” than in past generations, and then giving ourselves grief about all we’re not doing. Think about all that stuff in your head telling you what is going wrong, why your child is a rotten monster, and why you are a terrible parent. That’s the stuff I’m talking about. This is what exhausts you and what you would do better leaving behind. Easier said than done, I know.

Here are some of the things my Facebook followers want to drop:

~ feeling less anxious

~ hovering

~ always being in control

~ worrying about what I’m doing wrong

~ impatience

~ trying to get him to be the person I want him to be

~ yelling, dictating, interfering, and catastrophizing

~ so much screentime for all of us

And add:

~ more adventures

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Dec ’19 Q&A – When Expectations are Off and Trust Gets Lost

Q. I am currently feeling like a failure as a parent. My 12 year old daughter is smart, well behaved, does well in school. However, there are 2 main areas where we fight and tempers flare resulting in a tense hostile environment at home. 

1) She sneaks food. She loves junk food like cookies and chips. We have a policy at home where the kids get to choose 2 junk items from the pantry as snack after school. And the deal is they don’t eat anything later. It works in most part, but she ends up taking 1-2 extra things on the side to her room. I am worried about the impact of constant junking on her teeth & overall health. She just cannot stop herself from eating. I cannot constantly monitor her and increasing the ‘allowed’ unhealthy stuff on a daily basis is not an option. 

2) The other is her watching You Tube, again without my knowledge. She has to use the laptop for homework, and I cannot baby sit while she is doing that as I have another kid and work to take care of. And mainly I want to give her the independence of making the right choices in the long term. Watching screen distracts her from homework, impacts the quality of her work so it takes till dinner time to complete! Plus, I don’t approve of what she watches. While age appropriate they are a waste of time and not shows that will enrich her, improve her skills and help her grow as an individual. 

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How to Raise a Generous Gift Giver

“You can’t open the green package we’re bringing you until you put your tree up,” my grandson told us over FaceTime with the authority of the “knower of the gift”. It hasn’t been long that he’s been able to contain the secret of what’s in the package. It’s close to impossible for my grandkids to give me a gift without fighting over who will give it and ripping the wrapping paper in excited anticipation. They can’t possibly want the jar of face cream and soap they know is inside, so it must be the look of surprise and joy on my face they are anticipating.

There is no magic age when children suddenly start thinking about giving gifts to family members or friends on their own, but parents can prime the pump long before children can be expected to think about it.

Young children:

As do my grandchildren, most little children love giving. This is the time to build on their excitement by including them in your gift giving. Perhaps a shopping trip together while you buy gifts for the other parent or grandparents, bringing them along when you take a meal to a sick friend, or going out of your way to give someone a lift. When they witness the appreciation of others, the meaning of generosity takes root.

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Nov ’19 Q&A – Managing Family Disapproval at Holiday Time

Q. I have worked hard to raise my boys, 5 and 8, very differently from how I was raised. I have followed your principles of Connective Parenting and want to stick with them. One of my boys is very strong-willed and, as you say, “won’t take no for an answer”. The other is a gem, so easy to get along with. With holiday gatherings coming up with old-school parents and in-laws, do you have advice on how to handle unwanted, critical remarks that leave my 5 yr. old feeling angry and reactive whenever they are around—not to mention what a failure I feel like.

A. When you choose to parent differently from the methods of your parents, you are always at risk for being criticized. Your parents and in-laws likely feel threatened by how you are raising your boys and assume you disapprove of how you were raised (this may be very true). If you are not asking their advice and following their traditions, you are clearly going your own way, and they may feel discarded and even wronged. The hard part for you is to stay neutral and not take their criticism personally—it is all about the one giving the criticism. You do not have to buy into it.

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What to do When Your Button Gets Pushed

We all know what it’s like to lose it with a child. When that button gets pushed, you see red, your authority and sanity flies out the window and you say and do things you swore you never would. It feels like there’s nothing you can do about it—but there is. Once you know that button belongs to you, and your reaction is your responsibility, not your child’s to change so you can stay calm, the job of uncovering that button and identifying it is the next step. It’s a peeling away process, and the layers to be peeled are not at all obvious for most of us.

After a button-pushing situation, take the time to dig. It’s easiest to start with your reactions. If you didn’t like your reaction, write down what you did.

Reaction: When that happened, I blew up and screamed.

Then think about how you felt. Your emotions are one word. I felt like I was a terrible parent is a thought. The feeling might be hopeless.

Feelings: I felt used, resentful, unappreciated.

Okay great, you have identified your reaction and your emotions.

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Oct ’19 Q&A – The Rise in Suicide: Can strong boundaries make a difference?

Q. There were recently two child suicides in neighboring towns to us in less than two weeks, one of them a 13 year old. How does this happen? How can I protect my tween from a similar fate? I am at a loss. What is happening in the world??

A. Too many children all over the country seem to be feeling so forsaken that ending their lives is the only answer. How does anyone, much less a child, come to this conclusion? I cannot presume to have the answer. What we are left with is the question: How do we protect our children from such devastating despair?

In 2017, the suicide rate for 15-19 year olds was up 47% from 2000, the highest level in two decades. This doesn’t include 13 year olds. Much of the rise has to do with increased drug use and the effects of social media. But the question must address more fundamental layers. Many young people can resist drug use or moderate it. All are subject to social media. Some have addictive tendencies that are more vulnerable to drug use and some are victims of cyber bullying. This is not the result of poor parenting.

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Don’t Take It Personally

What happens to you when your child behaves less than perfectly? When he ignores you or she screams, “I don’t have to listen to you.” Some of you can respond effectively by changing your behavior and addressing whatever the situation is from a different or calmer place, with a different attitude, tone or posture. But probably many of you get your button pushed, think your child is out to get you and yell back behaving just the way you don’t want your child to behave.

The difference is the parent who takes it personally and the parent who doesn’t. So what makes the difference?

When I’m working with parents on this, I often describe the cartoon in my book “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons” on p.86. The mother is trying her hardest to deflect those oncoming critical remarks with a shield, but the onslaught catches her off guard, and she doesn’t get her shield up in time, so the remarks hit her hard. This perfectly illustrates taking it personally. Once those remarks, attitudes, behaviors are allowed to get past your shield (your boundary), it’s next to impossible to respond neutrally and effectively.

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Sept ’19 Q&A – What to Do About Lying

Q. My 9 yo son recently stole some money, told me he didn’t, and that his friends must have. Then he planted the money in his sister’s room to frame her before telling me to, “search my room”. I’ve no idea what to say or do. I asked him repeatedly. I left a pot out for the money to be put back anonymously, and then he hides it in his sister’s room.

A. This is a tough situation for all of you. I’m sure there are deeper issues besides the coverup of the money that have led to this situation and need to be addressed. I suspect that underneath the behavior (lying), which is always a signal to a deeper need, there are trust issues. Namely that your son doesn’t trust you because he has learned that you don’t trust him, and therefore he is doing what he can to get away with what he wants. Nothing wrong with a child trying to get what he wants. But when he becomes devious to do it, then there is a problem. The deviousness comes out of a fear that he can’t get what he wants otherwise. There is not trust.

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