Archive for Professional Commentary
Ever notice how people rightfully view recovered alcoholics as being strong and inspiring but somehow view non-drinkers as being naïve or prudish? Is that irony or hypocrisy?
Kirsten, a fourteen year old high school freshman, recently described to me how she was pushed from her peer group because of her choice not to drink. It started with drinking. The drinking led to teen sex. Then other drugs began to pop up. “It’s just the whole scene. I’m not ready for any of that stuff yet,” she said. “but if you don’t do it, you’re totally left out.”
Kirsten is not alone. Millions of American kids feel as though they suffer socially for their decision to stay alcohol and drug free. Many non-drinking adults claim that the stigma continues into adulthood.
In a nation where neighbors continue to kill neighbors at the rate of 1 every 50 minutes due to drunk driving accidents; where 40 million of our citizens fit the criteria for addiction and where 8.3 million American kids are being raised by a parent with a substance abuse disorder, you would think we could get our heads above this.
There are huge neon signs crying for change but it seems that our country is too drunk to see them. For all the mistakes we’ve made, the lessons we’ve learned and friends we’ve lost, the time has come for drug free kids to be emulated as the powerful future that we so desperately need. -Author’s Note
Do sober kids finish last? Ask Donald Trump, Warren Buffet, Mitt Romney or Joe Biden, all of whom are lifetime non-drinkers. Imagine what we could do with more like them. While the long-term benefits of being alcohol & drug free are clear, our nation’s attitude towards it remains much too blurry; especially for our kids.
Instead of raising a glass, we need to raise kids who don’t need it, who don’t overlook the bigger picture and who don’t rely upon a façade of social acceptance to separate their own behavior from the problems it causes. To Kirsten and the millions of kids like her, I say “shame on U.S..” We can do better. Thank you for showing us how.
Ever feel like your brain is stuck in a rut? This cool little mindgame, demonstrated by a fun & free video, will help you become more of a free thinker. Give it a try!
Depending upon how you view the world, this mindgame will either strike you as being ridiculously effortless or frustratingly difficult. It challenges you to see the world in a way that you aren’t used to. Have fun with it. Show it to enough of your friends and you’ll soon be rewarded with at least one “total freekout!”
Paradigms are sticky modes of thought. They provide templates for our brain to easily identify and categorize information. They guide a lot of our opinions and motivate many of our actions. As we age and solidify our views, we accept more and more paradigms into our though process. While making for quick thoughtless decisions, these patterns can also cause us to stereotype, mislabel, underestimate and misjudge things.
Many of our environments actually impose paradigms upon us. The challenge is to identify those environments and isolate their effects. If you let them, they will exert control over your actions without you even realizing it.
In high school, the social environment may very well make you feel like everyone is drinking when in actuality they are not. In work environments, you may feel that everyone takes a little extra time at lunch, when only a few people really do. At home, you may feel as though your father or spouse is unusually imposing, even if his approach is on par with that of most caring family members. It’s up to us to challenge the potential stereotypes in our lives, particularly those which could negatively impact our relationships or life choices.
Though sad, it is true that most people in life will not be successful, are not very careful and do not give enough thought to their choices. Unfortunately, these are the same people who tend to set the trends and enforce the paradigms that may be limiting you. Aspire to be the trend setter, not the follower.
For more on this topic or to see more posts like this, visit TimothyShoemaker.com
Your teen’s drinking patterns are heavily influenced by his or her friendships, but not in the way you may think. An interesting series of studies recently examined the relationship between teen social selection and rates of drinking.
The first interaction was found in the manner by which younger teens select their friends. Below the age of 13 or so, friend selection is not based upon drinking or drug use. In fact, social activity within these younger age groups is more or less driven by circumstances outside the control of the kids themselves. Though preferences do arise, things like sports, proximity of homes and parental friendships become the driving factor behind most friendships.
Drinking and drug use begins to appear on the social scene around age 12. As kids enter the 6th and 7th grades, it becomes known that some of their friends are involved with substance abuse. At this stage, a kid’s existing friendships have a significant influence upon whether or not they themselves initiate drinking behavior. Having friends who begin drinking or using drugs is a strong predictor.
Around the ages of 14 though 16, we begin to see a different pattern. Kids in this age group exert much more control over their friendships. They begin selecting social circles based upon drinking and drug use patterns. A child who is interested in drinking and using drugs is far more likely to select friends with those same interests or activities. Conversely, those who do not wish to drink or use drugs commonly select friendships in line with those interests.
The implications of these studies suggest that kids in the lower teen years, say 13, would benefit greatly from the reinforcement of social refusal strategies. They should be encouraged to resist the influence of existing friends who begin to engage in risky behaviors. Those in the older age groups, say 15 years of age, should receive encouragement regarding their selection of friends who support a drug free lifestyle and who reinforce their own healthy values.
The studies, “Dynamics of Friendship Networks and Alcohol Use in Early and Mid-Adolescence” and ” Friendship Dynamics: Selection and Socialization in Early-, Middle- and Late Adolescent Peer Networks” were published in this month’s edition of the Journal of Alcohol and Drug Studies.
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Teachers who lose control of their classrooms usually do so because of the behavior of one or two students. Many times, the parents of these students have the ability to instill fear and intimidation into the teacher and in their own way bully the teacher. This scenario is all too familiar.
A student who is a bully gets reported by the victim to the teacher. The teacher doesn’t see the bullying, but is concerned about the report and believes it warrants a phone call home. The teacher calls home and is immediately put on the defensive by the parent. The parent begins to react to the teacher’s phone call and asks the following questions: Did you actually see my child bully someone else? Are you calling my son/daughter a liar? How do you know it was my child? Or, what did the other kid do to my son or daughter?
After the teacher catches his/her breathe and tries to respond, the parent then starts with comments such as these: I heard your entire class is out of control. My son/daughter has told me that you don’t like him/her. My child told me that he was bullied last week, and you did nothing about it. The parent then ends the conversation by saying the following: Unless you have some proof that my child bullied another student, don’t call me again, and then the parent hangs up. The next day the child comes to school and has more clout than before and continues the bullying behavior. The level of intimidation and fear starts to well up in the teacher, who now wonders what to do if there is another report from a victim that bullying is occurring again (by the same bully as before). This is a serious problem.
What usually does happen is the teacher does everything to avoid making that next phone call to the parent of the bully and begins to ignore the bully, including any bullying behaviors, and starts to surrender the authority in the classroom to the bully. Victims who are in this classroom have to sink or swim on their own and go to school everyday filled with fear.
Amazingly, the teacher starts to see the victim as the problem. If the victim says that he or she is being bullied, the teacher says, “Stop being such a tattletale, go back to your seat.” What’s even worse is that the teacher disciplines everyone else in the classroom, but not the bully. The rest of the class begins to see the teacher as siding with the bully, and the teacher appears to be agreeing with the bullying behavior. Everyone looses.
What should you do if your teen suddenly informs you that they’ve “tried” alcohol or drugs? Your best bet might be to put them on a lie detector! Perhaps more times than not, this earth-shattering admission could be nothing more than a cryptic plea for guidance.
I would never advise any mentor to take a confession like this lightly, but I am happy to offer a ray of light for those who’ve just had a bomb like this dropped on them. Some teens would rather have their parents think that they’ve “tried” drugs, than risk exposing their own indecisiveness. Crazy, maybe, but true. Somewhere amongst the quest for independence, the struggle for autonomy, the confusion of immaturity and flux of evolving family roles, kids become a little squeamish about asking Daddy for advice. In this mixed up mindset, “I tried it”, can be preferable to “I’m thinking about trying it.”
“With a little technique, you can offer some very potent guidance, while at the same time improving rapport with your teen.” – Author’s Note
I’ve followed more than a few friends through this scenario. In several cases, it later turned out to be nothing more than a sly probing attempt on the part of the teen. What they really meant to say was, “This is an issue for me right now. I feel that it’s my choice to make, but I’d like your input.”
Keep this context in mind, before you respond. Rather than bluntly tell them how you think, or how they should think, use a little verbal judo. The ninja-communicator in you might say something like:
“I really respect the fact that you chose to talk about this. You can probably guess how I feel about it. I’m more interested in how you feel. Tell me:”
Each of these questions gives a gentle nudge in the right direction, while providing you with some good leads for follow-up topics. If you’re really crafty, you can even begin to vet out the voracity of their statement. Remember, the first drink, puff or hit a person takes, is always the most memorable. If it’s true, the details are there. So, following your gentle path of persuasion, you could now ask things like:
Teens LOVE expressing themselves; even more so when they feel that their insight is valued. If they breached the topic, these enticing inquiries will likely blow it wide open. But that’s not all, by simply asking a few gentle questions, you’ve gone a long way towards helping your teen work their way through this tough subject. You’ve also gathered valuable Intel, which will ultimately guide your next move. Last and best of all, the respect you’ve shown has likely improved the rapport between you and your teenie.
Hopefully, this quick session will expose the confession to be nothing more than a request for guidance. Unfortunately, it does expose the high stakes of their environment. If you’re left with serious suspicions of drug use, you’re going to need to jump on it as quickly and thoroughly as possible. As bad as drug use is, teen drug use is particularly devastating to young futures. For more on dealing with these issues, please visit the Responding to Drug Use Page.
This guest post is by Vanessa Van Petten. She runs the website RadicalParenting.com, which is a parenting blog written by teens!
When you do not like your kid’s friends it can get very sticky. It definitely happened with my parents and I can already see it happening with some of my clients who tell me stories of their “crazy slutty friend.” So, what can parents do?
1) Don’t Overreact
If your kids friend does something awful, do not overreact! It’s the same principle as your teen blurting out that they are thinking of going braless to the dance this Friday. The bigger deal you make it, the more attractive it (and that person becomes).
Vanessa Van Petten runs the website RadicalParenting.com, which is a parenting blog written by teens! They have 119 teen writers, ages 12-20 to help parents and adults get an honest and open view into the world and mind of youth. Van Petten’s work and blog have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Teen Vogue, CNN, Fox News, Real Housewives of Orange County and much more! She won the Moms Choice Award in 2009 and her work is read by over 300,000 adults.
Not only do I advise you to not overreact, but actually underreact. We usually know when you are going to disapprove or someone, something or something that someone does. If you underreact, they will let their guard down and usually tell you more because they feel that you’re being calm and open.
3) Give it Time
Friends can come in and out like trends. If you do not like one of your child’s friends, just give it some time, they might leave your kid’s life on their own. And if they really are a bad seed, your great kid might be able to find out for themselves.
4) Get All the Facts…another way
Get all the facts. Usually parents are right, sometimes they might overhear something, read a bad story over an IM or a left open email and assume the worst. Be sure to get a few different perspectives on this person. What do other parents think? When you underreact (please try!) you can often find out a lot by waiting and listening further. Find out what your child’s other friends say or think and you might learn more about the kid in question.
5) Don’t Say Don’t
When my parents told me they didn’t like a boy or a friend, somehow I wanted to prove them wrong and would try to become closer friends with that person. I also would take their criticism personally. Even though my parents were talking about how much they didn’t like/trust my friends, I felt like they were talking about me.
6) Make Analogies
Since I really recommend staying away from telling them you do not like their friends, the closest thing you can do to persuading them is making subtle analogies. Your kid does not realize that their friend is a bad egg, so connect the friend to something that your kid does realize is not so great. Here are some genius analogies I remember my mom using (she didn’t usually include the negative example, I included those to show you the power of the analogies):
“You know your friend ___ reminds me of that girl who ruined your birthday party in fifth grade, are they alike at all personally?”
“My friend said the same thing to me right before she stole my boyfriend.”
“It seems you are really stressed when she comes over, and you always have to clean-up your whole room after a sleepover with her, maybe you should do some pre-cleaning.”
7) Never Say I Told You So
Lets hope that your subtle listening skills and great analogies turn your child away from the toxic friend…after the fact do not say “I told you so” or “I never did like him anyway.” You will undo all of the great work you had done! Instead say, wow, that is awesome you were able to realize what kind of people deserve your time.” This way you are showing you support their decision, reinforcing that it was their decision and giving them a compliment.
The take-home here is reverse psychology can be your best friend, your kids do have good instincts, you just need to give them some invisible guidance.
A recent report issued by researchers at Beloit College, highlighted a shocking cultural disparity in America. The concerning divide was not found between religious or racial sets, but between everyday Parents and their Teenage Children. It seems that a technological revolution has sheared a rift between the way in which today’s teens interact with the world, and they way in which their parents do. So significant is this development, that it likely places teens and their parents, further apart than any other point in American history.
The most basic slang involves keypad shorthand, such as 2MORO, EVERY1. That’s pretty easy stuff. But if you’re looking at a text that doesn’t immediately resemble a common abbreviation or phonetic sound, try applying one of the techniques listed below.
It’s not at all shocking to acknowledge that most teens know little about the prominent cultural or historical events that shaped their own parent’s adolescence. It is concerning to say the least, however, that most parents today know little about the digital world that is shaping their own kid’s adolescence. According to Professor Tom McBride, today’s teens can’t write in cursive, most have never used a phone with a cord on it, and few have ever used a stamp. While most of today’s parents didn’t send an email until they were in college, today’s teenagers already view email as an obsolete technology; a relic of the digital age at its infancy. Though we parents were alive and conscious during this time period, a dynamic cultural shift took place without barely a blip on our radar.
Breaking The Code: Know Your Abbreviations
LOL and OMG are easy because each letter stands for a word. Usually, if you read an abbreviation in context with the conversation, you can quickly reason out the longhand form. 4COL, means “For Crying Out Loud”, B4YKI, means “Before You Know It.” (Always try this technique first.)
These circumstances not only highlight some major differences in the mediums that today’s teens use to interact, but also expose a major change in the way that young people communicate. Most of today’s teens claim that email is too slow. And while instant messaging is faster, its just not fast enough. It was against this backdrop of next-gen technology and social necessity, that digital shorthand was developed. Very rapidly, there evolved an entirely new language for digi-savy teens to use with one another. In today’s digital shorthand dictionary, numbers and symbols have replaced letters and words. This code is no longer limited to simple abbreviations, such as LOL, but includes artistic representations, such as \%/, meaning cocktail, or @:-||, meaning headache.
This presents a new problem for parents. Not only are most parents inexperienced with the mediums in which their children are communicating, but they are unfamiliar with the language that their kids are using to communicate. With the average teen sending and receiving over 50 texts a day, there’s a lot of information being exchanged in what may as well be a vacuum. Parents never hear it, they rarely see it, and when they do notice it, they don’t understand it.
The message to parents, and to those who find themselves in the position to help educate parents, is to actively bridge this divide. It is now essential to become versed in these new mediums, and to develop literacy in this new language. Never before, has the information streaming into our kid’s heads been so unfiltered. Never before, has the number and manner of their social connections been more diverse. Never before, has it been more important for parents to take a hint from their children’s generation, and learn a new skill.
Breaking The Code: Know Your Numbers
If you see more than one or two numbers in a word string, you’ll want to try this technique. Numbers are often used because they either look or sound like a certain letter:
- 1 stands for L because it looks like an L
- 3 stands for E because it looks and sounds like an E
- 7 stands for T because it looks like a T
- 2 stands for U because is sounds like a U
For example, 182 means “I Hate U”. The 1 looks like an “I”, the 8 sounds like “ate” and the 2 sounds like “you”.
Tools like the Teen Chat Decoder, can be a significant part of this action plan. It is a website which provides an easily searched database of popular chat abbreviations. If you run into crazy looking number combinations or symbols, visit noslang.com. If you still don’t find what you are looking for, just put quotes around the symbol or abbreviation, and enter it into a google search. The answer should be revealed.
Breaking The Code: Know Your Symbols
Symbols use a combination of characters to produce a hieroglyph. <3, uses a symbol and number to create a heart, or say "I love you". @ usually means "at", but it can also represent a head, as in @8K for "headache".
Don't worry, and don't give up. it's only tough the first few times you try this. Soon, your vocabulary will grow, and it will all become very natrual. Just like it did for them.
In addition, it is suggested that parents actively engage their own kids via text as well. Make sure you get your screentime. Cool tips and sample messages can be found at our Text This resource page. Finally, never be afraid to ask your child what it is that they’re typing back and forth. What you learn could truly surprise you.
“Trust but verify”; one of the most problematic axioms of parenthood. Trust is the cornerstone of every healthy family. It is the glue that holds our closest relationships together. Trust allows us to talk down our fears, to believe in our mutual goals and to support one another’s endeavors. Indeed, trust is one of the most important elements of the parent-child relationship. It is because of this importance, that we must embrace a particularly critical distinction; the word “trust”, cannot be confused with the word “faith”.
Faith is a gift given freely, often without need or want for logical proof. Trust, on the other hand, is a perishable commodity that must be continually nurtured. In the case of teens, a rapidly expanding list of roles, responsibilities, and privileges provides ample opportunity for trust to be earned. But adolescence also provides plenty of opportunity for mistakes to be made; mistakes with significant and long-lasting consequences. So, during this time more than ever, parents need to rely less on faith and more upon the trust that their kids have either earned, or squandered.
Trust can only be earned through an incremental process of good conduct and sound decision making. But as our kids spend less and less time under our immediate supervision, it becomes more and more difficult to verify their trustworthy behavior. The most common, and likely the most valuable technique, involves a simple one on one conversation. Unfortunately, this conversation often follows an event that the parent was not a part of, and the child will be the only available source of information. So how are you to know if what they are telling you is the truth?
An article published in the American Journal of Forensic Psychology offers one terrifically simple technique. New research indicates that by having a subject tell a story backwards, an interviewer can reliably detect signs of deception.
Dr. Edward Geiselman, a professor of psychology at UCLA, found that reverse story telling places unusual strain on the “working memory” of the story teller. While the details of a true story can simply be recounted, step by step, a false story must be artistically constructed from scratch. When a false story is being fabricated, the teller doesn’t have any actual perceptual memory to draw from. He therefore has to use more of his brain to create and organize the scenario into a logical sequence. While this is taking place, evidence of deception becomes more obvious.
A related article in Force Science News explains the major ways in which deception shows itself under these circumstances. Primarily, false stories tend to be devoid of detail. They are typically curt, colorless and lacking of any elaboration. Interestingly, however, false stories do contain a lot more of the “why” than do truthful stories, as if the teller is trying to justify each scene of his fictional account. Additionally, the liar will physically appear to be concentrating more, particularly around the key parts of the account. This will be evidenced by halting speech, clenched facial gestures and closed body language.
So, in the hypothetical scenario of a child that is suspected of having blown up a neighbor’s mailbox after school, the basic one-on-one conversation could start with, “Working backwards from now, to the point that you got out of school, tell me everything that you did this afternoon.” A truthful response might sound something like:
“Well, to get here, I rode my bike home from Brian’s house. I was over at Brian’s house for a while. Mike Smith was there too. We played some video games in the basement until his sister yelled at us to leave. Before that, we kicked the soccer ball around for a while. I was awesome as usual. Before going to Brian’s pad, Mike was pretty much starving, so we grabbed some snacks at the Quick Check. And that was right after we met outside the school.”
Though it feels a bit awkward to tell a story in reverse, this truthful account would come out relatively smoothly. Notice that it includes a few colorful references to things like emotion and hunger. The teller was reliving the account. Though brief, it also references small details like the interaction with Brian’s sister. As you hear the above story, your mind can actually paint a realistic picture of it taking place. With a fabricated story, however, the teller is forced to cautiously construct a logical series of events. His overwhelming concern is that the main pieces fit together. As a result, the story loses the color and detail that would naturally embody a true recollection. In it’s place, the teller tends to insert more justification for his acts, as if explaining “why” his story makes sense. So a false story might sound something like:
“I parked my bike in the garage, like I always do. I rode home from Brian’s house, because that’s where I was after school. Brian and I were just hanging out. And that’s it.”
Now, as Geiselman and others are quick to point out, backwards storytelling isn’t a technique that’s going to convict anyone in court. It is a research-based questioning tactic that has proven effective at eliciting signs of deception. In that, it is a tool that you can use to help confirm, or dispel, any suspicions you may have that your child is lying. If you were on the receiving end of this second story, you would certainly be left thinking, “There’s a lot missing here.” And that should give you the confidence to pursue additional questioning, consult another source, or use a different method to sort out the truth.
Body language can offer several important cues too. Check out our Body Language Tutorial for tips and tricks on that developing field.
At what point in our children’s lives did we stop listening, stop watching, and stop talking about the things that stood to rob our kids of their future potential? How is it that otherwise competent people, indisputably loving parents, one day found themselves so beaten into submission that they could overlook, even condone, the potentially fatal mistakes of their dependent children? As another prom season slam dances its way across the high school scene, leaving behind it a trail of car crashes, arrests, alcohol poisonings and worse, I can’t help but wonder if any other parents have paused to contemplate a change.
The prom aftermath often leaves us with a brief insight into the substance abuse patterns that we have helped our kids develop. It stands as a report card, not just for the kids, but for the community in which the kids have been raised. It highlights the mistakes that we have helped to create and predicts the future that we have helped to build. For more parents than kids, it is a very “sobering” time.
Some parents never give it a thought. Others stop thinking about it the moment their child returns home. But there are some, particularly those who are (un)fortunate enough to hear the crazy stories, view the scandalous facebook pages and partake in the uncensored discussions, that can’t stop thinking about it. This prom season, my attention was diverted from the youthful indiscretions of the prom-goers, and turned instead towards a more disturbing trend that has been emerging from the prom aftermath. A trend that many readers will readily identify with. A trend that does not bode well for kids, parents or countrymen.
“…the moment at which you realize that it is “unpopular” to protect your child, is precisely the moment at which you need to stop caring about being “popular”.
Story after story in the after-prom newsfeed speaks of a very strange, yet repetitive, fact pattern. Parents, not kids, planning the after-parties. “Responsible” adults chaperoning intoxicated children. Mothers providing liquor or limos. Fathers financing early morning club trips and weekend accommodations. Moms and Dads not just ignoring, but actively involving themselves in the antecedent acts of recreational intoxication.
Committees are formed, budgets are developed, guest lists and itineraries are haggled over, not in an effort to guarantee a safe and fun high school dance, but rather to construct an extravagant exposé into the pop-culture party world; the very same world that has become infamous for robbing young and naive partygoers of their lives. In this world, the well chaperoned prom is merely a forethought. Afterward, an unchaperoned party bus awaits, followed by an early morning soiree, and capped off with a day or three of unsupervised time away from home. In an act that would seemingly defy logic, the parents willingly make themselves facilitators and financiers of their teen’s overindulgence.
While this may seem at first to be a teenager’s dream come true, for many it is actually the start of long and disastrous nightmare. A nightmare that begins with Mom and Dad letting go too early, and ends in the throes of systemic failure. It is a nightmare that is not only shared by child, Mom and Dad themselves, but by the community as a whole. This conspicuous act of facilitation entices other children. It chides the community’s anti-substance abuse role models, and pits other parents against their own better judgment.
“These parents may indeed be deaf and blind, but we are the Dumb ones. And that has to be changed.”
I’ve spent some time considering how and why a parent could find themselves walking such an ill-fated path. I’ve tried to envision the catastrophic evolution of thought processes. These parents change the diapers, they kiss the cuts, they cheer in the stands, and then one day they just say “screw it.” As if their role has suddenly switched from protector to party guide. Just feet from the endzone, they stop running and hand the ball to the other team. Rather than seize the value of this teachable moment, they purposely push their kids closer to the edge. They’ve given up on themselves, and willingly collaborated with the very forces that would beckon their naive and risk loving children towards indiscretion.
But then it hit me. These parents don’t think of it that way. They love their kids as I do mine. They actually believe that they’re doing something right, something healthy, something paternal. They believe that their role is to expose kids to the wild side, to hold their child’s hand while they gain experience in recreational intoxication. “You can’t stop them,” they say with a shrug. “It’s just beer,” they whisper under their breath. “You’ve got to prepare them for college,” they grumble. But all of these arguments are blatantly false; better I say fatally false. And decades of research has proven it. Heck, the morning paper proves it nearly every day. So what’s going on? Are these parents Deaf? Are they Blind? The short answer is yes. Both, actually. And we’ll get to that. But don’t call these parents Dumb, because they’re not. In fact, most of these parents are the farthest thing from Dumb. To find the Dumb ones, I’m afraid, we have to look in the mirror. That’s right, that label belongs to us…(continued next page)
Click Here for Page 2 of “Deaf, Blind or Dumb”