5 Online Good Citizenship Lessons for Teens & Their Adults

Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Kids & Technology, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 1 comment

Slow!

This is not another post about online safety. Instead, this time I’m talking about road rules, or ways to make the internet a better place for everyone. There are a few behaviors I think kids need to learn as they make their way into the interwebs. And to be honest, every one of the points below is on my list because I know a few adults could use these suggestions, too. I’ll put down my smartphone an hour early for the next week for every reader who can run through these points and honestly say he or she can’t see him or herself in any of them. I’m safe, aren’t I?

  • When writing an emotional and/or important email, fill out the “To” field last. This will save your butt when you are furious with a friend or colleague. You vow it’s the last time you’ll let yourself be treated that way and you fire off a few paragraphs so hot they make your computer sizzle. Or, over the course of two hours, you draft a careful cover letter for a job. But then you rethink your words as you write or you’re not quite satisfied with the letter, but the cat walks on the keyboard and…oh, crap. You realize you never should have sent that email. If you hadn’t filled out the “To” field yet, you wouldn’t have.
  • Should you really, REALLY use “Reply All?” The teacher sends out an email asking which families can make it to the class picnic on Friday. Or the manager wants to know who will be at the staff meeting. Suddenly a tidal wave of “Joey will be there,” or “Sorry, I’m having a root canal,” times thirty similar messages floods your inbox. Why? I don’t know. But I do know this: just because an email goes to a group, the answers don’t have to go to the whole group. Stop before you hit “Reply all” and ask if everyone really needs to know the information you’re sending, or if it only needs to go to the person who asked the question. Let’s try to cut down on litter on the information superhighway.
  • Remember that no one can hear the inflection in your head when you write.
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Is Your Child Special?

Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Parenting on a Daily Basis | 2 comments

Narcissism

Of course he is, you say.

Okay, let me ask you the question in a different way: Is your child different from every other child? Does he deserve special treatment? Is he better than other children?

Does he believe he is the center of the universe? Are you encouraging this belief?

I have now led you to the middle of an ongoing debate in the parenting world: are we, as parents, raising a generation of narcissists?

We are of a parenting generation that has been taught (by books, by articles and talk shows, by experts in every form) that positive parenting is the only way to go. So we praise our kids. We tell them not only that we love them, but that they are beautiful, smart, strong, kind, sweet, thoughtful and more. We tell them that they are special. We tell them that they are the best.

And we show them we mean it. We struggle to spend every minute that we can with them, sacrificing our work hours–or even our careers, our sleep, our time with our spouses, our hobbies (wait, what are hobbies?), time with friends, workout time, etc. We are present when they want us, and even when they don’t, because we know that secretly, they do. We run our lives around their whims.

A much talked-about study recently concluded that too much praise can turn kids into narcissists. The study indicated that parents who overvalue their kids by telling them how exceptional they are don’t build kids’ self-esteem. However, they do build their kids’ sense of superiority and entitlement.

Ick.

I’ve seen a lot of other discussion in this vein lately, much of it also suggesting that we ought to spend less time with our kids to show them that we have other priorities. Stop always putting their various events before our own.

I agree with the goal of raising kids who know they are not the center of the universe. The self-centeredness that was cute in my pre-school children is not at all attractive when I see it crop up sometimes in my tween and teen—even though I know all of us exhibit a little sometimes, and this is especially true for teens.

But…let’s make a crucial distinction. My kids should know that they are the most special people in the world—to me

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Teaching Your Tweens & Teens About Money

Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Education & Learning, The World We Parent In, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

SAKURAKO gets money from a cash register !

What did you know about money when you were a kid? Take a moment to think back; I’ll wait.

Maybe you grew up with very little money, and you developed an inherent sense of how precious every dollar was—a sense your adult family members affirmed on a regular basis. Or maybe you grew up surrounded by money and the things it can buy, and you were taught how to stay wealthy—or simply assumed you always would be.

For most of us, I suspect the answer lies somewhere in the middle. This is true not only for how much money with which you grew up, but for how much you knew about the way money works. Parents talked to or around you about the need to save money, tried to direct you toward careers that pay well, perhaps refused to spend money on foolish fads. (How are your Cabbage Patch dolls doing these days?) If you obtained a little money of your own—birthday money from Aunt Jill or Uncle Joey—a parent probably took you to the bank to open a passbook savings account. Remember those? In the pages of those little books you learned the small-scale lesson of compound interest. It was so exciting to watch your money grow.

But what about the rest of lessons kids need to learn about money before they go out into the world on their own? What about budgeting? How a credit card works, and why it’s important to avoid credit card debt? How, when and why to invest? What are benefits worth when you are looking at jobs? What are benefits? How do health care and insurance work? (Okay, so this one remains opaque to most adults to some degree.) In the area of discretionary income, how do you determine the difference between wise and foolish expenditures? When is it okay to blow a little money, and when is it not? How do you weigh decisions, make choices?

In my house, growing up, money was an enigma. It was discussed, but only mysteriously and in terms that conflicted with each other. One plus one never equaled two, and it’s small wonder that I found myself in a credit card hole as a young adult.

I vowed that my kids would learn about money earlier than I did. Money is a critical part of the world we live in, and kids need to have a firm grasp of it by the time they leave to live on their own.

Here are 11 steps to helping your tween and teen understand money:

  • If they haven’t already shown interest, begin to share with them the costs of everyday life. You don’t have to inundate them, but mention the cost of your weekly grocery trip, the price of gas and its fluctuations, the cost of your monthly utility bills, etc.
  • Give them insight into some of your family financial decision-making. Where will your next vacation be, and can you even afford to take one? Let them know how money factored into this decision, or let them participate in the process if you’re comfortable with that.
  • Explain how a credit card works. Show them a monthly bill, and how much you would end up paying in the end if you only made the minimum payments. That number always horrifies me. May it do the same for our kids.
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5 Links for Parents of Tweens & Teens

Posted by on Apr 29, 2015 in Kids & Technology, The World We Parent In, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

Uncharted Parent is away this week, but I haven’t left you without anything to read. Here are some articles that grabbed my attention recently and made me think. Comments? You know where to put ‘em!

“Teenagers, Dealing With Addiction, on What Might Have Helped,” by Jessica Lahey – Jessica is a smart writer and an expert to boot. This post on The New York Times’s Motherlode blog really made me reconsider how I talk to my kids about drugs. Specifically, I hadn’t thought about being forward about why some kids—and adults–like to use drugs. But this piece makes sense.

“Inhalant abuse: why and how parents should talk with kids,” by Shannan Younger – You’d think with all the horrors I’ve discussed with my kids, I’d have covered the whole playing field. Apparently not. Sigh. At ChicagoNow.com.

“To the Well-Intentioned But Ignorant Parents of Teenagers,” by Kayla Nicole – I must get better about monitoring my kids’ internet use. I must get better about monitoring my kids’ internet use. I must stop typing and actually go look at what my kids’ have been doing on the internet. At HastyWords.com.

“Rock On: Getting Your Teen to Talk,” by Elaine Reese, Ph.D. – Okay, I’ll try anything. Now how do I fit that chair in my kitchen? At PsychologyToday.com.

“Just Boy Banter or Tween Mean,” by Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D. – Kind of relates to the previous article. Boys this age often won’t talk about it. At PsychologyToday.com.

Now, after reading all of that, go play with a puppy or something.

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To Tell or Not to Tell Your Child?

Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

4012904148_ddded1b10d_oWe are all flawed beings.

Those of us who have been on the planet a few decades or so have presumably identified at least a few of our individual flaws and, hopefully, have taken some steps to ameliorate them. It’s a well-known benefit and irony of age that years bring wisdom that would have helped us in our youth. Oh well, at least we can employ our wisdom in our own lives going forward, and we can pass on what we’ve learned to our kids.

But what about the independent flaws we see in our children?

Our kids are as human as we are—as we once were. They possess flaws and weaknesses, some tiny personality quirks, some significant shortcomings, that interfere with social interaction or academic success or some other life skill or function. I’m not writing here of diagnosable disorders or disabilities, but rather of individual personality traits we all must learn to manage—once we identify them. Everyone has strengths; everyone has weak points.

What should a parent do when he believes he has identified something in a child’s emotional makeup that his child needs to work on? Should the parent tell the child (in a constructive, loving manner)? Or should he work around the edges, continually suggesting ways to handle one situation after another whenever he has the chance without tackling the underlying characteristic head-on?

Rather than subject any actual child to public scrutiny to illustrate my question here, I’ll pull an example from my own life.

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Giving a Teen Some Room–at the Doctor’s Office

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Growing Up, Health & Sleep | 2 comments

"Innocence"

All of parenting is a slow exercise in leaving the room, so your child can stand without you.

This withdrawal begins—when? The first time your baby picks up a Cheerio and puts it in his mouth, then thinks in whatever infant language he’s got, “Hey! I can do this by myself.” Or maybe it’s when she crawls away from you for the first time, and you wait for her to look back over her disappearing shoulder, but she doesn’t. Perhaps it’s even the that first time he cries in his crib, and you’re in the middle of doing something else—can’t you even go to the bathroom, for goodness sake—and you can’t get to him for a few minutes and a tiny bud of realization sprouts in his mind that no, you won’t always provide instantaneous solutions. It begins early, and you keep backing away, step after step, until your baby is an adult who has taken complete responsibility for himself.

One of the challenges of parenthood is trying to figure out which steps to take away from your child when. How do you know when to let a kid own a piece of her life—when to butt out? My kids are only thirteen and ten, and already I have found myself physically clapping a hand over my mouth to hold back words I want to say but have decided my kids don’t need anymore. You insist on wearing shorts when it’s only forty-five degrees out? You know what, son? You’re old enough to decide. If you’re cold, then you’ll figure that out on your own. I’m out. (On the other hand, if it’s five below and frostbite is a danger, then stop arguing and put on pants. You’re still young enough that I can require you to take measures to avoid hospitalization. Also, don’t be an idiot.)

A few weeks ago, thirteen-year-old “Jack” was scheduled for his annual physical. In case there is anyone who doesn’t remember, if you open a thesaurus to the word “awkward” or “uncomfortable,” you will find, “thirteen years old.” Overall, Jack seems to be handling the age light years better than I did, but still: a physical is about one’s body, and it occurred to me that the last person in front of whom a thirteen-year-old boy wants to talk about his body is probably his mother.

I spoke to him in the car a few weeks in advance. “Jack, you know I’m always happy to talk to you about anything, answer any questions you may have.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, your annual physical is coming up soon. This is your time with your doctor. After we talk about the basics and a couple of questions I have for her, if you want to ask her anything or talk to her about anything without me in the room, just say so and I will leave.”

“Grhmph.”

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7 Rules for a 10-Year-Old with an Email Account

Posted by on Apr 8, 2015 in Education & Learning, Kids & Technology, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

iPhone work

Approximately three years ago, then ten-year-old “Jack” asked me if he could have an email account. I reacted as any parent would when her first-born stretches into uncharted territory: I peered into the future, envisioned every kind of horror that lay in wait, freaked out, then accepted reality and gave the kid an email address along with a list of seventeen rules to guide his behavior. My elder child, who thrives on structure and always likes to know where he stands, has managed his account well, and we all survived.

Now my younger child has reached the age of ten, and it is time for her to acquire an email address, too. Not because ten is a magic number, but because my husband and I have begun to find ourselves in situations where we would like our daughter to be able to exchange texts with us. We don’t think Emmie needs a cell phone yet, but she can text us via wifi on her iPod if she’s equipped with an email address. (In case you’re wondering: yes, we are aware that we are providing the catalyst for what will undoubtedly be a lifetime of nonstop texting. Well, someone had to do it.)

“Emmie” likes structure, too, but not in the same way Jack does. Seventeen rules would overwhelm Emmie, and she would end up following none of them. So while Emmie receives her email address with the same expectations with which Jack received his, for Emmie I trimmed the list of rules to seven. I explained to her that these rules are designed to keep her safe and to make sure she treats other people with the same consideration with which she would like people to treat her. We discussed the meaning of each rule when I gave her the list, and I provided examples to illustrate my points.

Emmie’s 7 Email & Texting Rules

  1. Protect your personal information. Don’t send anyone your last name, phone number, address, birthday, social security number or anything else private via email unless we tell you to do so.
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