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Tuesday
Jun242014

Cell Phone Contemplation: A Snapshot of Life Before & After

www.freedigitalphotos.netDeciding if/when you should offer your tween a cell phone can be a difficult decision. A cell phone represents both a mode of constant communication, and a connection to a world perhaps previously untapped by your tween. Before you decide to equip your tween, it is helpful to review the pros and cons that come with this decision. On first impression it might not seem like a big deal to provide your tween with a cell phone. Much of the potential life changing affect will depend on the type of phone you choose to present.

Smart phones as you know, offer the most access to the outside world. Although it is difficult to admit to ourselves, even the simplest phones put in the hands of a tech savvy tween can reach out and touch millions of anxiously awaiting strangers with the right app.

Once you put a cell phone in your tween’s hands life as you know it changes. As with most life changing situations, there are pros and cons. Perhaps the greatest pro is your ability to stay connected to your tween. The con? This only works if your tween is responsible and willing. Few stresses can compare to the paralyzing anxiety a parent experiences when a child is not responding to her cell phone. A quick reminder to keep his phone charged can quell some of this angst. In addition, it is recommended that you establish a check-in code word with your tween. Instruct your tween to text this word at set times as an easy check-in that signals that all is well. These days video chat apps also provide another pro. The visual connection presents a prime opportunity to actually see that your tween is okay. There are also a multitude of apps (ex: my favorite-Life 360) that can keep you abreast of your tween’s location even when/if he is so engrossed in something that he is not responding to your texts and calls. Again however, even these apps become useless if your tween does not remain logged in.

Offering a cell phone signifies that you are letting your tween take a few steps toward independence. As these steps increase the necessity of a cell phone indeed becomes vital. Smart phones provide an opportunity for your tween to make connections through social media. As a parent, trying to keep up with all the apps can become a daunting task. Random and frequent cell phone checks are not only recommended but also required. Keeping a collection of your tween’s updated user Id’s and passwords is also strongly suggested. When you are checking your tween’s cell phone, be mindful to focus on safety. Talking to your tween about the latest news her friends have communicated is not recommended. Your goal is to ensure safety. Once you try to connect with your tween by talking about the latest gossip you saw on her phone, you maybe dooming your ability to truly keep connected. Never underestimate your tween’s ability to use technology to his advantage.

A cell phone represents a gateway to a world filled with unknown entities. Although your tween’s intent may be to stay in touch with friends, it is easy to get sucked into the social networking vortex. As a parent you probably comprehend that a cell phone, a smart phone in particular is indeed a powerful tool. The difficulty is that as with any tool, if mishandled the dangers are infinite.

Most tweens have a false sense of security-they suffer from “I know better” syndrome. Their newfound ability for abstract thinking-to see beyond their immediate world, often results in a smug sense of security.

As a parent your best response is constant communication and monitoring.

It takes a lot of work to police your tween’s cell phone activities. It is important that you are up for the task. The good news is that research reflects the positive effects of random monitoring. Interestingly, some studies have found that ‘perceived monitoring’ is very effective. Translated this means that kids who believe their parents are monitoring their behavior are less likely to engage in concerning behaviors regardless of whether a parent is actually following through. Despite this revelation however you are of course best served following through.

A parent’s life before tween possession of a cell phone is comparatively easy. Cell phones represent a potential set of stresses that your parents were not required to manage. There’s sanctity in the solitude of a life without cell phones and social networking. Once you hand your tween the device, there is no turning back. Welcome to new age parenting!

Sunday
Jan052014

Parenting 2014: Tweens, Teens, & Technology

Image courtesy of photoraidz at www.freedigitalphoto.netParents of millennium kids are faced with challenges that their parents probably never even dreamed about. What is perhaps even more perplexing however, is that the underlying issues faced by today's parents have changed little from generation to generation. Parents continue to stress about school performance and completed homework. Parents want to know what their kids are up to, who they are hanging out with and where. In reality, it is the tools or vehicles parents use to garner this information that has changed and in most cases improved the capabilities parent possess to achieve these goals.

Technological advances have improved a parent's ability to get the information needed to ensure that a child is safe, well sort of.... We all know every coin has a flip side. When it comes to technology, kids today are offered ways to connect with a much greater pool of individuals in real time. Technology offers it's users a level of self-sufficiency and empowerment not previously possessed by past generations, to a parent the access can be quite scary at times. Even the word 'friend' has taken on a new connotation. Although in reality parents are still asking the same questions: 'who is this person,' 'how do you know him,' 'have I ever met her?'

Parents are afforded an opportunity to monitor their kids in more accurate and sophisticated ways. It is important for even the technologically savvy parent to understand that in an effort to gain ground on their parents, tweens and teens have devised ways to avoid their parent's detection and/or operate under the radar. This behavior is not much different than the generation of young people that came before them. After all, that tweens and teens believe they know better is nothing new. Put succinctly, defiance is indeed developmental.

Parenting in 2014 in many ways is all about technology. It is about parents using the advances around to stay one step ahead of their children. This is done through consistent monitoring. And yes, this can indeed be an exasperating and exhausting task, such is the job we all signed on for when we chose to become parents. Parenting in 2014 should however, also be about collaboration. When you work with your children they really begin to get that you are truly not against them, listening carefully completes this. Parents should look for opportunities to let their kids help them.  If you don’t understand how to get into the latest social media site, ask your tween or teen to teach you. You will not only afford him a chance to feel empowered, but you will learn important information you need to ensure effective monitoring.

Saturday
Dec282013

Parenting in the Age of Refusal: When Your Tween Says "No!"

You utter the words with respect and parental authority: “Please stop texting and do your homework; please make your bed; Let me look over your homework.” When your tween offers a simple “No,” you are incredulous. Could you have heard correctly? “No,” is not what you expected nor, is this response acceptable.

 

You feel your whole body tense, you fear what is coming next, a battle of the wills you do not have the time, energy or inclination to pursue.

You don’t need pointers on how to parent. If your tween continues to refuse after you have changed your requests into commands, consequences will have to ensue.

Sounds like any easy system to enforce, when you are a parent engaged in the thick of such things however, it can be exacerbating and exhausting.

It is difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that your tween seems so self-assured when she offers a negative response. This is not the caring, and compliant child you have raised.

What black magic took over when she entered her tweens? Who taught her that when something was being asked of her she had the right to refuse? Well, you had a hand in that sort of teaching, something about which you should be proud. “If a friend asks you to do something you know isn’t right, or about which you feel uncomfortable, simply refuse.” When you reinforced this rule however, you did not intend for it ever to apply to the requests of her that you put forth, after all, you are the parent.

We live in a world in which our children have been primed to believe that they have the right to refuse. At a time when all kids get trophies for playing the sport, not just the winners, we have created a sense of entitlement and expectation that is constantly reinforced. Turn on a typical tween targeted television show and you are sure to see an episode on your tween’s favorite sitcom portraying an instance of bucking authority. This is not only presented as possible, but acceptable. Children talk back to parents, teachers, and anyone else in an authority position. Tweens met with negative responses to their own requests negotiate the system to get what they want, or what it is they believe they deserve.

We live in an age that reinforces refusal. Certainly there are many positive aspects of this quality; humans refusing to accept maltreatment for example, or demanding equal access to goods, services and of course basic rights.

How then do parents re-establish respect and the understanding that asking translates into a firm expectation?

Communicating clearly and effectively is a good place to start.

1.) One mandatory mantra: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Toward this end consequences for refusals much be clear and consistent. When you fail to follow through the meaning of your message does not translate clearly to your child.

2.) Use down time to conduct discussions. Calmly affirm what you expect from your child.

3.) If your child protests make it clear some things are never up for discussion. Even if he offers the most astute suppositions on why texting his friend trumps homework time, rules are firmly implemented for a reason. Too many exceptions can lead to failure to follow through on expectations.

4.) Holding your tweens to the rules takes time and energy. If you stay the course however, you will shape your child’s behavior. Remember, they are egocentric by nature. They are also at a point in their lives when they are taking the first steps to affirm their independence. Coupled this means they are often insistent that refusal is their right.

Ultimately, when you just say “no” to “no” you provide the much needed structure, rules, and support your tweens need to negotiate the outside world.

 

 

 

Sunday
Dec082013

Holiday Gift Giving: Sometimes You Should Just Say No

Created by Toa55 at www.freedigitalphotos.netThe holidays can be a hectic time especially if you are the parent of a tween. Holiday giving can be tricky business when it comes to pleasing a tween. Caught betwixt and between the elementary school years and teen time, finding items that appropriately hold their interests can be difficult.

Your tween of course has no trouble offering a detailed wish list. How do you determine what to get however, when you have concerns about the appropriateness of almost all the items on the list?

‘That video game seems too violent,” “that clothes line is too sexy,” “does everyone really have a cell phone?”

It is at a time like this that you are reminded of how fast your child is growing up. You can still picture him talking on his plastic pull phone, or whipping up meals for you in her play kitchen.

A stark contrast to today, when you are contemplating if any of the items on her list are age appropriate. After all, you want her to feel like she fits in but not if the cost is dressing like she’s a Playboy bunny!

Of course you can confer with your friends. Get the dl (down low) from the other parents also placed in this position. Even if you get the green light on lots of the items, should you still get them if you don’t feel comfortable? It is indeed a difficult dilemma, well, not really. You are your child’s parent. Call it a stroke of fate, but he is tuck with you! And the good news, you not only have the authority but the right to just say no!

Who cares if Johnny’s parents are permissive, or Sally’s parents think you are a prude, you are the king of your own castle, and how you choose to rule remains your choice.

In reality, your tweens are at an age where they need limits. They look to you to let them know what is acceptable and appropriate. So don’t be afraid to tell him that you don’t care how old he is, that violent video game is not for him, ever; you don’t care if all her friends are dressing that way, she will have to find another way to make a fashion statement, one that involves more appropriate clothing is a start.

Sometimes the greatest gift we give our kids is by affirming our authority to say no.

 

 

 

Sunday
Sep292013

Tweens, Teens & Popularity: Is Peer Pressure Always Part of the Package?

www.freedigitalphotos.net by AmbroIf you talk to many parents of tweens and teens you may be surprised to learn that a portion of them actually cringe at thought of their child becoming popular. For many folks popularity signifies risk taking and maybe even danger. They envision the popular group drinking at parities or drag racing around town. The popular tweens are often depicted as mean and sometimes downright cruel. Now keep in mind that this picture has been painted in part by Hollywood. Tween and teen flicks seem to relish in the idea that the popular crowd is often up to no good.

Research however, portrays a different vision of what it means to be popular; one at which most parents would be pleased. Popular kids tend to be smarter, nicer, and more talented than their lesser-revered peers. They are natural leaders who speak their mind in way that can sway a crowd. Popular kids are often charismatic but not intrusive.

Part of discerning the difference between what researchers have found and what parents worry about lies in defining what being popular actually means.

For researchers, popular is synonymous with well liked. In middle and high school however, being popular is more consistent with the kids who have ‘it.’ It means the kids who have the ‘right’ clothes that they wear with style. These kids are considered cool without even trying. They run in pacts or gaggles. The girls have the look, while the boys ‘got swagger.’ The in-group is often exclusionary to a fault.

In Middle school the in crowd can be fluid. One day you are in, and the next you are out. The struggle to remain top dog can be stressful and overwhelming.

In high school an interesting transition usually occurs. Close-knit cliques often mark freshman and sophomore years. During the junior year however, as the focus begins to shift toward the future, cliques start to break off and open up. Senior year is often about unification. Classes come together as they look toward the future. The most popular students senior year are often the students considered the most successful. These students are going to the top schools and/or have the best prospects for a bright future. It is interesting that these students are the picture of what researchers define as popular.

Should you worry if your tween or teen is part of the ‘in’ group? Does admission require risky behaviors? Well thankfully, not necessarily.

Once kids become tweens parents have less influence on with whom their child will choose to hang out with. What parents probably don’t realize however is that they have far more influence over who their kids choose as friends than they think. Tweens and teens tend to pick friends who have values consistent with their parents. Just because they choose friends who are more like them however, does not preclude a propensity to engage in high-risk behaviors at times.

Peer pressure is certainly a valid concern. Continued conversation is the key to ensuring good decision-making. Your kids take their cues from you. What you say really does matter.

Regardless of where your tween or teen sits in the school pecking order, peer pressure is a part of middle and high school life.  A strong communicative relationship with your child offers the best opportunity to ensure that his judgments are sound. Although the pressure to fit in with friends can be strong, the values and lessons you teach directly and by practicing what you preach can have a greater impact on your tween or teen than she may acknowledge. In reality then, it is not necessarily the peer pressure that comes along with being popular that can cause your tween or teen to engage in high-risk behaviors. Tweens and teens are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors when they lack the support and guidance from their parents. The power of a positive relationship with your tween or teen cannot be underscored enough.