Posted Tuesday, July 6, 2010
At three years old, they're trying to climb into your bed in the middle of the night. At 13, they may not want to be seen with you, especially not at the mall. What's a parent to do? Tuesday morning at 9:00, we'll introduce you to two local child psychologists who can answer that question. They'll explain the dangers of "helicopter parents" who hover too close; what happens when parents give young children too much freedom; and what's actually happening in the mind of a child. Bring your parenting questions and experiences to The Sound of Ideas with host Dan Moulthrop for a conversation about the most important job many of us ever have.
Parenting 101 first aired Feb. 15, 2010
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My 14 year old son spends a LOT of time playing video games or on the computer. He has never been into sports, and his only other extracurricular is playing the clarinet. My concern is that he doesn’t seem to be very interested in anything other than the screen right now. He has a couple of friends, but he doesn’t seem to get any joy out of anything. He was such a happy little kid. He doesn’t seem depressed, just a little withdrawn. Is this normal for boys this age?
One of your guests mentioned that being lax with teens in the area of thing that annoy parents but are not unsafe will lead to them moving on to dangerous practices like drugs and early sexual relationships. I think this idea is blatantly untrue in many cases today. When I was in high school I was voted Most Unique and hung around with the weirdest and most outcast kids in school and WE were the only kids NOT doing drugs, drinking, and having sex.
Our only child was in the gifted program. She did very well. She is now in high school. However, her perfomance is below her potential because she does not learn from her mistakes. So, she loses marks for repeating her mistakes. Also, she tends to be stubborn and does not listen when my wife and I try get her to change her behavior. There appears to be no desire to excel although we have told her she should try to keep improving herself. We have told her that she needs to compete only with herself - not with her peers, but that unfortunately, she is starting to lose her self confidence since she tends to compare herself with her friends. The fact there is a lot of backbiting does not help. She is a good kid and very innocent. We are tryng very hard to teach her survival skills and other skills to help her survive college but she does need a “lecture” from us.
Can your guests help me with the question of kids playing with toy guns? I have tried to maintain a really peaceful, no toy guns kind of atmosphere in our home and now that my older son is in school, etc., it seems everything from sticks to golf clubs becomes a weapon. I know this is normal but it makes me very uncomfortable and I feel like I am setting a bad precedent by saying no guns but sort of allowing it sometimes. Any thoughts?
I’m hearing many interesting suggestions, however after examining a number of parenting options, nothing has come close to the success of becoming skilled at the concepts put forth in Parent Effectiveness Training. I recommend learning and practicing these best results. They work for me every day!
My mother left us kids to fight our own battles with the caution, “Fight nice” meaning if we got too carried away and she had to step in we were going to regret it. We figured out for ourselves what was fair, what was too far, and how to manage our anger and yes, even rage because we didn’t want mom involved.
We bickered like crazy, but we were close and loving when it counted.
A good way to provide your young adult children perspective is to force them to apply to at least one college they will not get into.
Nancy: It seems concerning that you have noticed the change in your son’s behavior from being happy to appearing withdrawn, unhappy, and uninterested so often. This change, more than how often he plays video games, may indicate an issue. Perhaps talking to him about what else he likes and limiting the amount of screen time he has per day would be something to consider, along with finding a way to reward him for doing other things. If, as a parent, you really think his mood is different, I would recommend talking to your pediatrician about an evaluation or a referral. That way, you can find out if this is typical adolescence or something else. Remember, even if it is a “problem” (which is a big if right now), there are lots of options for making it go away.
Maura: This is controversial area, and one in which many psychologists would probably disagree with what I am about to say. In general, it is my opinion that children (typically boys) playing with toy guns is totally normal and not at all problematic. There is a difference between playful use of imagination and violent behavior. Certainly, we must dramatically limit the amount of violence a child is exposed to on TV, in movies, video games, or in real life until they are old enough to understand fantasy versus reality and develop more self control skills. But, I simply don’t see evidence that boys shooting each other with squirt guns or playing games in which they pretend to shoot each other is inherently dangerous. Of course, should the children cross any kind of line and demonstrate actual violent or aggressive behavior, or have a history of such things in their life, I would say something different. As you noted, boys have a tendency to make anything into a “play” weapon anyway. You should certainly stick with your own values as a person and a parent, but I would focus more on setting limits around the appropriate demonstration of “playful aggression”, and dramatically limit exposure to violent imagery instead.
Sam: This sounds like it has been a frustrating situation. It might be worthwhile to sit down with her teachers after about a month of school to see what think of her progress as the year starts off. If you are seeing the same problems, it might be worth talking to your pediatrician about getting a referral to a psychologist for her to speak with. It is not uncommon for parents and teens to get caught in a conflicted cycle, with teens doing their best to completely ignore great advice simply because it came from their parents. Breaking this cycle with a third party can often be a big help. A psychologist would also be able to help determine if there is any issue going on that is responsible for the disconnect you are observing.
Sam: To follow up on Dr. Shafer’s excellent advice, I’d recommend reading the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. Dr. Dweck is a research psychologist who has devoted her career to studying the impact of fixed and growth mindsets. People with a fixed mindset can be very bright, but tend to be fearful of making mistakes or unwilling to learn from them. People with a growth mindset embrace challenges and learn from their mistakes. The book (and its research base)is excellent and I think it may give you some helpful ideas for how to address this challenge with your daughter.