Tag Sex

Top 11 Tips for Parenting Teens

Why waste your time with a preamble? Just the tips, kip:

#1 Make an hour of one-on-one time each week to do nothing with your teen but (a) listen to what his on his or her mind, (b) affirm the positive things you think about him or her and (c) reflect back that which value regarding what you are hearing or seeing. During this hour avoid teaching, correcting or directing.

#2 Always know and approve of where he or she is, what he or she is doing and what responsible adult is in charge of monitoring, if only from a distance.

#3 If your teen wants to do something you’re inclined to forbid, ask yourself if that thing he or she wishes to do is physically dangerous, psychologically harmful or unduly taxing of your resources. If the answer to all three questions is “no” it may be important to let him or her do it, no matter how much it might drive you crazy. This strategy promotes adaptive decision making and independence.

#4 Always ask what her or she thinks first before sharing your opinion, even when asked. Then value aspects of what you agree with before stating alternative perspectives. And, when sharing those alternative perspectives, remember that your teen’s learning is facilitated when your sentences end with question marks–and are truly inquisitive and not declarative–instead of periods.

#5 Avoid getting in the business of trying to control who he or she has a crush on. You can and should control your son or daughter being in safe situations (tip #2) but trying to control his or her crushes will often cause the exact opposite result of what you wish for. Also, try to have discussions about sex, and sexuality, as often as you can (one of the world’s best teachers was Socrates, who always did the heavy lifting of his teaching by asking questions).

#6 Don’t let him or her sleep with technology in the bedroom. Charge it the kitchen instead. This will help to increase the odds that a proper night’s sleep is accomplished (i.e., 8.25 to 9.5 hours).

#7 Do what you can to promote an hour of sweating and breathing hard five to seven days a week. And, limit sedentary electronic pleasures to 2 hours a day.

#8 Try to have as few processed carbohydrates in your home as possible and model healthy eating. Our walk does more good than our talk, though both are helpful.

#9 Listen to your teen’s arguments for changing a decision or rule. Making a change, when your teen makes a good and reasonable argument, reduces his or her odds of lying to you at other times.

#10 Support and/or grow your teen’s capacity to do things whenever she or he doesn’t feel like it. Few things better predict a person’s success in our culture than this capacity. As this is complicated you may benefit from reading the strategies for pulling this off in my parenting book; while I wrote it for parents of younger children, you will get a lot of what you need there.

#11 Savor these years by keeping in mind that in a few precious years she or he will most likely not be living with you. Yes, teens can be aggravating as hell (and I have 2.0 of them living with me now). But, when we are at the end of our life, looking back, we’d probably give a lot to come back and live just one day as we do today.

Related blog posts:

Communicating with your Teens about STDs

Recent Research: Teens Need Parents to Monitor Them

A Chronic Health Problem in Teens: a Lack of Sleep

Is Your Kid Getting Enough Sleep?

Kids’ Physical Activity: 7 Thinking Traps

Should I Let My Teen Daughter Wear a Sexy Halloween Outfit?

The title of this entry is a common question this time of year. I will first offer three guiding questions and then address the issue specifically.

Whenever a minor you’re in charge of wants to do something that you’re inclined to disallow, I would ask yourself three questions. This thing that your child or teen wants to do:

Is it physically harmful?

Is it psychologically harmful?

Does it unduly tax your resources (e.g., time and money)?

If the answer to all three questions is “no” it is often advisable to allow your child or teen to do that thing, even if it drives you crazy. So often we parents say to our kids “learn to think.” But, what we really mean is “figure out what I think and parrot that back.” Following these guidelines promotes the development of effective decision making skills and discourages dishonesty and excessive dependency.

Let me now turn my attention to the title question. In this instance we’re probably not talking about a risk of physical harm or unduly taxing parental resources, at least most of the time. It’s most likely that we are talking about potential psychological harm. Regarding the latter, a primary question to consider is as follows: Does my daughter generally want to present herself in a sexually alluring manner?  Of course, there are always exceptions to any general principle, but often girls who typically wish to present themselves in a sexually provocative manner are suffering from significant insecurity about their value in other areas. It’s sort of like (and not necessarily on a conscious level) this: “people won’t find my personality or my skills appealing, so I need to draw them in with my sexuality.” If this is true of a girl she will often attract those inclined to value her primarily for this attribute, and likewise be less appealing to those peers who are operating at a higher level.

But what about a girl who wants to wear a provocative Halloween outfit who doesn’t generally lead with her sexuality, and who will be well monitored during the festivities? For such a girl there may not be much risk of psychological harm in dressing this way on one night. That said, and at the risk of sounding like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth, it’s been my experience that girls who are secure within themselves often don’t wish to dress in this way to begin with.

Let me try to read your mind regarding two additional questions:

How do I decide if an outfit is sexually provocative?

This brings to mind what Justice Potter Stewart said after he admitted that he could not offer a good definition of pornography: “…but, I know it when I see it.” That said, if you’re a dad you may have a stronger inclination to over-react to even adaptive manifestations of your teen daughter’s femininity (I know my tolerance starts being challenged once one of my daughters’ outfits travels above the knee). So, if you’re a dad it may be a good idea to defer to the determination of a woman with good judgment and a healthy self-esteem (hopefully mom).

What should I do if my daughter is someone who wants to lead with her sexuality?

I would consult with a qualified mental health professional to figure out if her self-esteem is fragile or in need of repair. If it is, there are a number of interventions that can be tried to strengthen her sense of efficacy and value. To find someone by you click here. In closing let me also note that I offer numerous specific and time-efficient strategies for promoting self-esteem, effective decision making and adaptive monitoring in my parenting book Working Parents, Thriving Families: 10 Strategies That Make a Difference. For now I hope you can have fun with your progeny this Hallowee. Afterall, they will all be living away from us soon enough.


Communicating with Teens about STDs

My various jobs call for me to read on a regular basis. However, there is only one book I’ve read that felt so important to my parenting mission that I interrupted my own reading of it and asked for my two teenagers to read the first chapter. That book is Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs by family practitioner Jill Grimes, M.D.

The national survey data on youth sexual behaviors indicate that teens frequently have sex, and in ways that put themselves and their partners at risk. For instance, the CDC’s most recent edition of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, indicates that 46% of high school students have had sexual intercourse (African-American youths reported the highest rates at 65%), with 34% reporting that they are sexually active and 14% indicating that they have had sexual intercourse with four or more different partners. Moreover, 39% of teens reported that they did not use a condom the last time they had intercourse, though 22% did use drugs or alcohol.

The results of these behaviors can range from unwanted pregnancies (e.g., according to the CDC there were 409,840 infants born to girls ages 14-19 in 2009) to the contraction of a (sometimes life-long) sexually transmitted disease (e.g., quoting from Dr. Grimes’ book: “Estimates vary, but between 50 and 90% of adults have oral herpes by age 50…25% of adults have genital herpes, but up to 90% of them are unaware of it.”) I do my teen no favor if I think that she or he could never be one of these statistics.

Giving teens real life stories of peers and young adults suffering from STDs can be one effective way of reaching them about these matters, especially when those stories poignantly review the long term, embarrassing and inconvenient realities that can follow from even a brief lapse. That is what makes this book so important. The stories are effectively organized by type of STD and include facts about each disease at the end of each chapter; the reviews of the book have also been stellar (e.g., see amazon.com). I encourage you to review it yourself and see whether you might want to recommend it for your teen (or older) child. (Please also stay tuned to this blog as Dr. Grimes will be doing a guest entry for us sometime later this month or early next month.)

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