Monday, April 25, 2011

Parenting Teens. Don’t Stay Inside the Lines

An authoritative parenting style is one in which you  frequently get your teen’s input, state your position clearly, and consistently set and adhere to rules.  It tends to have good outcomes for kids.  Compassionate communication involves observation of the other’s behavior and feelings, expression of feelings, identification of needs, and requests.  It is without judgment, demands or criticism.  If I take authoritative parenting and combine it with a little compassionate communication, here are a few conclusions I draw.
Listening.  I’ve previously suggested that we talk to our kids about everything, and listen to them about everything.  This listening part is one that often gets lost in translation.  That does not mean asking them questions and waiting until they respond before telling them what you think.  It means, asking questions and listening to responses, pondering where they’re coming from and trying to see how what-I-think and what-they-think can co-exist in the same house.  Talking and listening compassionately generates respect. 
Rules.  How about agreeing on the rules?  Each party may haves to compromise on the rules.  The parent has to focus on the big items (e.g., curfew, illegal behavior, grades) and let go of the little things (e.g., clothing, hair, tv shows).  The parent is responsible for enforcing the rules consistently and calmly.  The beauty of consequences is that you don’t have to get angry.  You just give the consequence.  Sometimes you can even be understanding and not enforce a rule but just discuss and forgive the transgression.
Media.  I hesitated before including tv as a small item.  And I almost included music.  Why?  You can’t keep you teen from watching banned media.  They have friends with tv don’t they?  Friends with iPods?  The best suggestion I can make here goes back to talking to your teen.   Find out why they’re attracted to content you find objectionable.   Talk about how you see it.  If you’ve established respect, your teen may actually take you opinion under consideration.
Micromanaging.   Trying to control everything is not necessary and it’s downright annoying, as we all know from personal experience with those trying to micromanage us.  It suggests to the teen that you don’t believe they’re capable of figuring out how to get their homework done, managing to keep the gas tank filled or selecting good friends.  If you have an opinion about one of these areas, or others, ask if your opinion would be of interest.  Then give it carefully.
Role Models.  Be a good role model and expose your teen to other good role models.  You can’t make another human being believe or feel something.  You probably can’t even make your teen do something they don’t want to do.  You can only provide a foundation from which, hopefully, they’ll make good choices.  But not always.  Mistakes, of course, provide the best learning.

They love to tell you stay inside the lines
But something’s better on the other side
No Such Thing, John Mayer

Monday, April 18, 2011

Between the Phases of Life, Move Into the Gap

According to Wikipedia, the gap year, AKA year abroad, year out, year off, deferred year, bridging year, time off and time out ,is typically the year students sometimes take before starting college, though some also take it after college graduation.  The time is used for travel, volunteer work, working abroad, exploring new directions and becoming more independent. 

In a recent piece, Jane Pauley talked about a gap in experience that kids might like to fill before, or even during their college years.  She mentions empty nesters as having a similar opportunity.  It inspired my thinking about gap phases of life.  Are you an empty nester, new retiree, new divorcee or just in a position to take a sabbatical?  Perhaps in this economy you don’t have money or time for a break.  You can still carve out a little time to try something new.  These are a few ideas for branching out in the gap, or in life:

-Something missing in your life?  Always wanted to see India, take a dance class, study sign language?  This is your opportunity.
-Back burner items you’ve always planned to do.  Start training now for a marathon, enroll in that MBA program or try out for the new play in the local theater.  Don’t wait for free time that never comes.
-Meeting new people.  We all put off nonessential social contacts when we’re pressured for time.  Make time for a coffee or lunch with someone new.
-Exploring your community.  Find volunteer opportunities, museums, parks, hikes, music in clubs and other local options you haven’t explored.

The fact is, anytime is a great time to move into the gap and fill it with new experiences and get creative.  What’s in the gap for you?

Mood music:  The Gap.  Thompson Twins

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Use it or Lose It. The Aging Brain

It seems that even if you have some Alzheimer’s by the time you go, which apparently lots of us will, building your cognitive reserve helps to offset the effects.  In other words, no one will notice that you’re not 100%, maybe not even you.  How do you do it?  You work on some or all of the following while you still have the chance, i.e., NOW!

Education.  This ain’t just schoolin’, although formal education helps.  This includes what we refer to as lifelong learning.  Taking classes, reading and talking to people about the things you learn about.
Stimulating activities.  Kayaking, attending concerts, working at a soup kitchen, and so on.  Doing, not sitting.  Getting out, not staying in.
Purpose.  What’s your purpose in life?  Is it taking care of people, making a better world, teaching others, or simply making each day count?  Whatever you do, make it purposeful.
Conscientiousness.  Whatever you do, do it with full intention, do it carefully, and finish what you start. 
Social networking.  How many ways can I say it?  People matter.  Whether you visit, do lunch or just call and chat, make time for the important people in your life.
Physical Exercise.  I suppose this is a no brainer, so to speak.  I don’t care if it’s walking or running, tennis or ping pong, yoga or zumba.  Do something!

You’re never too old to make a contribution, as Sidney Harman showed at 90. 
When I’m 64, The Beatles

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wait a Minute…Women’s Weight Concerns

A recent study found that 30% of women would trade at least a year of their life to attain their idea body image.  10% would trade 2-5 years!!!  These same women are apparently willing to sacrifice money, promotions, time with family and their health, for this same goal of attaining ideal body weight and shape.

Wait a minute.  Have they ever heard of exercise and eating a healthy diet?  I’m reminded of boob jobs and, my recent favorite, surgery to produce elf ears.   Yes, seriously.

But there are reasons for their concerns.  Almost half of the women in the study had been ridiculed because of their appearance.  Almost all had negative thoughts about their physical appearance within the prior week.  The real kicker, 98% were within the normal range for weight.

I’ve gone on about healthy eating and exercise before.  Let me try something a little different here.  How often have you done the following:

-Told a woman (friend, lover, sister) teen or girl that she looks great, healthy or fit?
-Complimented a woman for eating healthy?
-Praised a woman for keeping up her exercise routine?
-Accepted that a woman doesn’t want seconds or dessert the first time she declines?
-Suggested a woman take some time for herself to go to the gym or take a walk?

Can you think of other ways to support the women in your life in their exercise and dietary goals?  I have to say, I’m a healthy eater and an avid exerciser.  Some would use other adjectives to describe my eating and exercise.  People tease me about both.  I’m suggesting that we try to support women and girls in their efforts, and offer appropriate praise for physical appearance.  And when doubt strikes, wait a minute, and ask yourself what’s really important?

Beautiful Soul, Jesse McCartney

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Best Laid Plans

One thing I learned in this business is that things turn out other than you planned them to, no matter what it is. And you can't predict what's going to happen. Bill Danoff

That’s Bill Danoff talking about the song he co-wrote with Taffy Nivert, Take Me Home, Country Roads. They intended the song for Johnny Cash but John Denver happened upon it. Who knew.

Country roads
Take me home
To the place I belong

What I like about this tidbit is how it illustrates a truth: The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. You can’t predict what’s going to happen in the future, no matter how well you think you planned things out. And sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

-That school you were planning to go to, but didn’t get into…you can go someplace else, which is where you belong.

-That person you thought you’d spend your life with…maybe it didn’t work out and you’ll find someone else, who is who you belong with.

-That job you knew had your name on it…someone else thought it was their dream job and you wind up with another, that’s right for you.

-The 2.3 kids you thought you’d birth the traditional way…maybe it doesn’t turn out that way, and you’ll have a family in a way you never expected (so to speak).

-The house, the car, the vacation, the retirement plan…maybe none turn out quite as planned, and you’ll have what you need, be where you’re supposed to be, and it will all be right for you.

The great part is that John Denver turned out to be the perfect person to sing that song. So don’t wish you could go back and change the mistakes, embrace the new ending. Figure out how to make it work for you.

Still thou art blessed compared with me
The present only toucheth thee
But ouch! I backward cast my eye
On prospects drear!

Robert Burns, To a mouse, on turning her up in her nest with the plough

Hear the NPR interview and see a video of John Denver singing Take Me Home, Country Roads.