Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Calling all Parents of Teens

So, this week, I was approached by the Partnership for a Drug Free America to be a guest blogger on their site. I will be submitting four articles about "decoding teen behavior" or something along those lines. Basically, they want my take on what makes teens tick and how we can parent them better.

I have taught teens for a number of years and I have a young one of my own, but I'd love to go into this guest blogging thing with a little backup from my peeps. If you have teens or adult children, I need your help.

What from ScreamFree has been helpful to you as you've parented your teens? Have their been some principles that have really made a difference to you? What is the best advice you've heard about teens and drinking or drug use? What kinds of things would you like to see someone in my position address?

I've already written one and I'll share it with you soon. But I know that there is strength in numbers. If you know someone who might have some insight, send them a link to this. Let's see what we can come up with together for the sake of all of our kids.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tip of the Day: Fear of the Unknown

I was talking to a woman the other day who had huge bags under her eyes. She was pale and worn thin from a lack of sleep. Her seven month old baby took an hour to be put to sleep, and then he was waking 3-4 times a night. He would only nap if she held him, and even then, only for 20-30 minutes. He cried every time she tried to get him to sleep.  

Both mother and child were miserable from this pattern, yet the mother wasn’t sure that she was ready to teach her child to go to sleep on his own. Her reason? “I just don’t know how he’ll react.” Ummm…He’ll probably cry at first, but how is that any worse than what she’s going through now?  

If you’re in a pattern with your child that you don’t like, make a decision to stop complaining and do something about it. Do some hard thinking about what your child really needs in the situation, then jump right in. You won’t always do things perfectly, but that’s ok. Kids are resilient. What isn’t good for them is a long suffering parent too afraid to take chances with something new.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tip of the Day: Too Much of a Good Thing

Kids will have you believe that they don’t enjoy structure. They will tell you – just as soon as they are able – that they want to sit around and play all day without having to do anything. Don’t believe them, for they know not what they say. As George Bernard Shaw said, "A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell."

Kids (and parents) thrive on structure. Every now and again, a day off in pajamas is a fun treat. But taken too often, this treat will make everyone sick to their stomachs. Kids like to feel a sense of accomplishment every bit as much as adults. Give them chores, set aside time for study, set limits on tv and computer usage. Sure, they’ll gripe at first, but remember – what kids say they want and what they really need are often two very different things.

Flippin Brilliant

By now, most of you may have already seen the Swagger Wagon video. If you haven't, you must. It's the perfect combination of self-depricating humor and marketing. Love it. I love it so much that I temporarily forgot about all of Toyota's legal and safety issues....for a minute.

No offense to the dad in the video - I'm sure he's a great guy and all - but enough with the hot moms on tv being married to goober guys already. It's just depressing.

Brain Function Related to Stress Levels?

In prepping for my new adventure this fall (I'll be returning to the classroom full time) I've been doing a little research. There's a new class for juniors and seniors that I'm developing called "Communicating in the Digital Age". 

In my studies, I ran across a very interesting article published by the University of California Berkeley. Their research was centered around the connection between poverty and the development of children's brain function. We all know that kids from middle and upper class homes tend to do better in school. There are a variety of reasons for this. What we didn't really know before this study (or at least, what I didn't know before I read this study) was how malleable our kids' brains really are.

The study indicated that the prefrontal cortex (the part responsible for choosing between right and wrong, governing social control, and controlling emotional urges) of lower income students resembled the brain scans of adults who had suffered frontal lobe damage from trauma. 

The researchers say that this is likely the result of two things: 

1. The lower level of cognitive engagement (fewer books, more television, less time in conversation) in poor homes.

2. The higher level of stress. 

It's pretty astonishing to see how environment and biology work together like this. The fact that our kids brains actually change their makeup based on what we do is humbling. I guess the good news is this:

It stands to reason that if we can increase the level of thoughtful engagement (giving them choices, actually seeking to understand where they are coming from, heck - simply talking to them at the dinner table) and decrease the level of stress in our homes, that our children will reap tremendous benefits.

That's pretty cool.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tip of the Day: What You CAN Do

Do you ever get paralyzed by the “big picture”? You know, the one that you really cannot control? I know that I do. And when I do, I ignore the smaller things in my day to day habits that I actually can control. Ironically, it’s the smaller things that usually lead to big results.

Tip of the Day: Eastern Wisdom

There's a famous quote attributed to JFK that I've heard isn't quite accurate in its translation. "The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis'. One brush stroke stands for the word danger; the other for opportunity."   Any of you out there fluent in Chinese are welcome to set me straight. But until then, I'm sticking to this one. I like it because of what it teaches me about parenting...  

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Death of a Doormat

I am not one to cause a scene. I am married to one who enjoys causing scenes, and thus I avoid them like the plague. I have been known to drive away from a fast food establishment knowing that my order is wrong just because I don't want to make a fuss. Yeah, I know. It's pathetic. But something is happening to me the older I get...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tip of the Day: The Best of You

When your kids make a mistake - and they will - assume that they want to do better. This is especially true as kids start lying. Try this the next time you suspect that your child is twisting the truth: Look them straight in the eye and tell them...

To (Go) Nude or Not To (Go) Nude...

I just read an interesting article this morning called "El Mirage nudism case raises parenting questions". Apparently, an Arizona woman and her husband are being investigated for living the life "al fresco" around her two adolescent boys from a previous marriage. The best line of the article is this one:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Tip of the Day: Let's Get Ready to Rumble

While in a fast food restaurant, a friend of mine saw a tyrannical preschooler running away from his mother and knocking food off of other people’s tables. As he screeched past her, she glimpsed his tshirt. It read: “Center of the Universe – and I know it.” 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tip of the Day: DO Get Carried Away

As parents, we have the tendency to take life a little too seriously. We allow the urgent things to consume most of our energy and passion while we stuff the important things to the back burner. This struggle is obviously not unique to our generation, but it is unique to the world of adults. Malcom Forbes once said, "A man who never gets carried away should be."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tip of the Day: Power Play

"If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment."

Marcus Aurelius Antonius (121 AD - 180 AD)

Often it’s the meanings that we attach to events or conversations that cause us the most pain. Think about it: Someone else’s child gets engrossed in conversation and forgets to pick up their plate after dinner. You playfully remind them to do so. What happens when your child does the same thing? Suddenly it MEANS something. They don’t respect you. They are lazy. You haven’t done a proper job in getting them to take responsibility around the house.

If you can extract yourself from this kind of thinking, you can free yourself up to look for the good in your child rather than squint for the bad. You actually give yourself the choice as to whether or not to take something personally. That's why taking just a moment – in the heat of the moment – gives you tremendous power.

A Little Perspective

My good friends David and Angie Fann lost their home and all of their possessions in the Nashville flood earlier this week.

I see these kinds of natural disasters on television all the time and I feel for the people affected. My heart hurt for those in Haiti. I prayed for those miners in West Virginia. But now that I actually KNOW the people involved in this disaster - everything has changed.

I have been in this home. I have sat at that table. I played that piano. I love these people. And everything they own is just gone.

I look around my house and I cringe at the way that I've taken all of my belongings for granted. How many times have I barked at the kids to pick up their junk? How many times have I lamented about not having just the "right" throw pillows? How often have I complained about "having" to organize my pictures? My sweet friends would give anything to have those problems. And after doing what I can to help them rebuild, I'm going to do the next best thing I can think of - I'm going to take a good long look at the life I lead and I'm going to just be thankful.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tip of the Day: Choose to Choose

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose."

Dr. Seuss

Too many times in life, when we are faced with a difficult situation, we tend to think in extremes. We either shut down or we blow up. While this is definitely understandable, it is ultimately weak.

We are much more powerful than that and the people we love deserve better from us. When you are pushed, you have the choice as to how to act. When you are slighted, you have the choice as to how to respond. It’s not easy, but it is better. So, give yourself a chance to choose by pushing the pause button next time instead of simply reacting.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tip of the Day: How to Be Really Rich

"The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own."

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) British Prime Minister

When we teach our children right from wrong, we are sharing the riches of our wisdom. That kind of teaching should be a vital priority for all parents. But it shouldn’t be the only priority. As parents, we should be looking for the unique qualities that our children seem to exhibit and we should be encouraging those as much as possible.

I think that many parents feel as if “looking for the good” in our children means ignoring the bad things they may do. Quite the contrary. Those things need to be addressed, but they don’t need to dominate your interactions with your child. Spend more time helping them find their own riches and watch them soak up yours as well.