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The Great Sleep-over Debate

Andrea Ramsay Speers - Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When I was a teenager, sleep-overs were an integral part of my social life.  And, to be honest, they were pretty harmless.  No boys, no drugs, no sneaking out...the average sleep-over with my friends consisted of lots of junk food, staying up late, and watching a Val Kilmer movie. 

But I'm running into more and more parents now who are hesitant to let their kids sleep over at friends' houses.  They worry what is going on over there, they worry that the parents won't actually be home, and -- even worse -- they worry that their kids aren't actually where they say they are.  The sleep-over experiences of some parents were more...illicit than mine were, and now that these people have teenagers themselves, they haven't forgotten the things their own parents never knew about their social activities.

So how does a parent ensure that their teenagers' sleep-overs are more PCP (pop, chips, and parents) and less COPS?

Of course, there's no way to guarantee anything when it comes to people with their own cell phones and a budding sense of independence and autonomy.  But the best safeguard you have is to get to know the parents of your teen's friends.  Don't be afraid to get in touch and confirm that parents will be in attendance for the whole night/there will be no drinking/there will be no co-ed sleep-overs, or wherever you draw the limit.  It sends an important message to your kids about how involved you insist on being in their lives.  And it also gives them a built-in excuse to avoid mayhem that they may, in truth, not be that comfortable with: "Sorry, guys, I wish I could go, but my mom will check up on me and she'll freak if she finds out I'm not where I said I'd be."

Video Games as the New Books?

Andrea Ramsay Speers - Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I read an interesting article on boys and video games, discussing how literacy rates are dropping for boys, but some researchers aren't concerned because they feel video games are raising another kind of literacy for today’s children, boys in particular.  They call it digital literacy, and because of the changes technology has made to our lives, they think boys might be better equipped to meet workplace challenges later in their lives due to this type of literacy.

It's an interesting idea.  But any parent who has had a son park himself in front of the XBox for hours on end would argue that there have to be other, perhaps better, ways to prepare for the world of work.  Such as getting a job, meeting responsibilities including homework and chores around the house, and making social connections. But we don’t worry too much about kids who spend a great deal of their time reading, it’s true, so should we worry about a similar use of video games?  Maybe.  I’ve never heard of a child with a “reading addiction”, but video game addiction is clearly on the rise.

So, as with most things in life, it would appear that moderation is the key.  While there appear to be benefits to video game use, there is a real potential for abuse there, too.  And although technology may change our lives to require more digital literacy, children are hardly lacking opportunities to develop those skills.  And the skills developed from good old fashioned conversation and engagement in the living world will never be replaced or out of style.

Taking Their Behaviour Personally

Andrea Ramsay Speers - Thursday, May 16, 2013

Raise your hand if you've ever felt personally responsible for something your child has done.  We have some laws in Ontario that make a parent legally responsible for their child's behaviour, in some cases, but I'm talking more about the run-of-the-mill, everyday behaviour we see in kids.

If your kid has never written a thank you note -- or even bothered to say thank you at all – or said hello back when greeted by an adult, or commented tactfully when asked for an opinion, you know what I'm talking about.  As parents, we see our kids as a reflection of ourselves, and their poor behaviour a reflection of not only our parenting skills but us as people as well.

The thing is, we can't control our kids.  Sure, we can put limits and boundaries on their behaviour to a certain degree, but at the end of the day, they are independent, free thinking beings...which, really, is exactly what we want them to be. 

So the next time you want to crawl into a hole at your child’s embarrassing behaviour, remind yourself that YOU have nothing to be embarrassed about.  She is just experimenting with ways of being in the world, and you don't need to worry about taking ownership of her behaviour, because we can only be responsible for ourselves.  If we have done our part, they'll catch up eventually.  The only question you need to ask yourself is, how is my behaviour in relation to their behaviour?  Am I providing correction or education where it is needed, or am I wasting time worrying about what others may be thinking of me and my skills as a parent?  If we're doing our part, then we can sleep easy at night. 

We worry about being judged, but the reality is that we are our own harshest critic.  The truth is that most parents are sympathetic because they've been there, too.  We're all in this together, and frankly, social niceties are something we grow into – even though it’s painful to watch sometimes, kids will be kids. 

Don't worry. Keep setting a good example, provide instruction and correction when needed, and don’t let it get you down..

Hate The Sin, Not The Sinner

Andrea Ramsay Speers - Tuesday, May 07, 2013

As parents we are so often gobsmacked by our teen's behaviour.  We expect toddlers to write on walls and to throw their spaghetti across the kitchen, and we try our hardest not to let that get in the way of the love we are sending to them.  And yet once our kids reach the teen years, we seem, in a way, so much more vulnerable to their behaviour, and take much more of it personally than we did when they were younger. 

And in the face of body piercings, failing grades, and a stand-offish attitude, it can be difficult to remember that our teens need our love and support just as much as they always did.  While they can be harder to forgive, and while it can appear that they couldn't care less what we think about them, it is still critical that they understand that our love for them is not conditional. 

As a psychotherapist, when I see a kid sulk into my office, glare at me suspiciously, and refuse to speak, I see a kid who needs to feel valued, appreciated, and needed.  But that's easier for me to see, because I'm not the one dealing with broken curfews and rude friends making short work of my house. 

Jane Nelsen, in her great book Positive Discipline book poses the question, "Where did we get the idea that in order for our kids to do better we have to make them feel worse?"  And I think that's really key for dealing with teenagers. 

It's easy to love compliant, helpful, cheerful, communicative, responsive kids.  But when our kids aren't all these things, that doesn't mean that they need our love and concern any less.  I would argue, they actually need it more.

What challenges have you had in this area?

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