While teens and tweens spend countless hours on Instagram, facebooking, texting, tweeting, and messaging — all examples the instant gratification world they now live in – the resiliency, resourcefulness, confidence and self-control that are needed to succeed in the world lie dormant and undeveloped.
Handwriting, spelling, math and overall problem-solving skills have declined consistently year after year. It is no wonder that parents often struggle to reach their children. The answer, according to author of The Ultimate Guide To Raising Teens and Tweens: Strategies For Unlocking Your Child’s Full Potential Douglas Haddad is to realize that we are in the midst of a “kid crisis.”
Haddad suggests that in order to become unlimited in potential as smart, successful, and self-disciplined individuals, children need limits. And these limits must come from parents.
“In order to successfully support and guide your child as they encounter adversity, defeat, failure, and peer pressure, it is important that you possess specific strategies to fall back on when things get rough,” writes Haddad.
Haddad, who is a middle school teacher, describes a young student who after being given several warnings not to chew gum in class, finally receives a detention. When the student’s mother colludes with her, writing the school to get the detention revoked and the girls behavior becomes worse, the mother finally realizes that what she first saw as advocating for her child was actually helping her escape responsibility for her own choices. Strategy one, according to Haddad, is ensuring that children experience natural consequences for their actions.
Yet guiding children also depends on relating to them. Parents who simply focus on grades and test scores, all the while ignoring the psychological health of their children miss a powerful opportunity to connect and build a trusting line of communication. The suggestion Haddad gives – which is strategy two – is that parents should take a moment to remember their own youth.
Parents can also become caught up in the day-to-day and forget that their children are watching them, and learning.
“Your own values, attitudes, and prejudices can be implicitly or explicitly passed on to your child,” Haddad writes.
In order to help children learn positive behaviors, parents must first ask themselves: How can I model those behaviors? Haddad offers some helpful suggestions, such as saying sorry to your children, telling the truth (even when it is painful), taking responsibility for your shortcomings, working hard and honoring your commitments.
Much of good parenting rests on the principle of trading cooperation for control, avoiding power struggles and creating a positive relationship with a child, according to Haddad. He introduces CALM, a useful technique for parents facing a problem behavior: communicating clearly, avoiding arguments, listening when your child has calmed down and mending and solving problems.
Children need to be given enough rein to take on new challenges, set goals and learn. Haddad quotes author of The Narcissism Epidemic Jean Twenge, “American children of this generation possess a high amount of materialistic goods and have been granted ‘unprecedented authority’ where they are no longer seeking their parents approval, but rather parents are seeking their children’s approval.”
The solution is not just for parents to stop assuming responsibility for their children, but to ask themselves honest questions such as: What are my expectations for my child? Do I come to the rescue of my child’s beck and call? When have I said “no” to my child and changed my mind?
In the second part of the book, Haddad addresses the many challenges children face today, such as bullying, youth violence, sex, drug addiction and eating disorders. In each case, he gives several warning signs and risk factors to help parents better identify each challenge. He also provides several helpful strategies parents can use to address each problem.
On eating disorders, for example, he points to a study done by the Girl Scouts of America that demonstrated that girls who watch reality television shows are more likely to value themselves and others based on appearance. For parents who suspect their child may have an eating disorder, Haddad suggests that parents should evaluate their own attitudes about weight and food, educate their children about healthy eating habits and exercise, avoid using food as a reward, discuss openly the culture’s obsession with thinness and allow your child to freely discuss their concerns on a daily basis.
Haddad also advocates for parents to keep the lines of communication open to discuss anything from the dangers of drug and alcohol use to feelings of depression and weight gain.
“Raising successful children goes beyond the realm of achievements and status and is rooted in a child’s level of happiness,” he writes.
Haddad doesn’t offer quick fixes, flashy techniques or a glorified approach to parenting. What he does offer is a granular look at the problems teens and tweens face today and daily practices that will help parents raise children who are not only prepared to navigate the modern world, but will grow and develop useful skills in the process.
The Ultimate Guide To Raising Teens and Tweens: Strategies For Unlocking Your Childs’ Full Potential
Rowman & LittleField (2016)
Softcover, 213 Pages