Managing T.V. Time

Experts agree that too much TV is not healthy for kids. There are studies that associate high TV time with physical problems like obesity, sick heart disease and sleep disorders, as well as psychological symptoms like attention deficits and lack of focus. Violence on TV is believed to promote aggressive behavior in children and the values emphasized in TV shows are known to be internalized by the kids who watch them.

While most parents are in consensus that too much TV is not a good thing, not all are on the same page regarding how much TV is too much. Experts also disagree as to how much is enough – although some researchers peg 2 hours a day or less as a good number. But the issue is not really numbers, rather balance. Parents must ask themselves the question: does their child’s TV time keep him or her away from other important and valuable activities?

If you feel that your child is watching too much TV at the expense of time for other important activities, consider the following tips:

Children Need Parental Help in Structuring the Time Wisely
Studies have shown that engaging in social activities like playing, talking with peers or engaging in group activities, helps to promote neurological development. In other words, it would be a lot better for your child to relate with people than to stare at the television. There are other brain healthy activities as well such as doing puzzles, playing solitary challenge games, building with lego and other construction toys, playing with dolls and figurines, drawing, reading, do clay or creative crafts and so on and so forth. Hobbies like dance, gymnastics, music lessons, sports, collecting things, and so on all teach valuable skills and build competencies and confidence. The computer also offers some very valuable activities but take your time to explore the kinds of games and interactive learning opportunities that can really help your child grow and thrive. Even mindless computer games require more activity than watching T.V., but you will probably want to limit those to a small proportion of what your youngster is doing with his computer time.

Separate Eating from Watching
The reason why a lot of TV addicts are obese is because they can’t sense that they are already full. The human anatomy’s multitasking skill has limits. The brain is too busy processing what is being watched and listened to on the television, causing other functions to be compromised. If kids must eat while glued to the tube, give them just a few healthy (and low calorie) snacks to chew on.

Separate Sleeping from Watching
There are plenty of reasons for a child NOT to fall asleep watching T.V. For one thing, T.V. stimulates the brain, either interfering with the ability to fall asleep easily and naturally, or promoting an agitated sleep and disturbing dreams. In addition, having a T.V. in the bedroom encourages kids to isolate themselves from the rest of the family. While this may not be a major problem for older teens (who treasure their privacy in any case), it is not a healthy thing for children who still can benefit from plenty of family interaction. Finally, when a child is locked in his or her room with a black box, parents will easily lose track of the amount of time a child is in front of the T.V. and the situation can quickly get out of hand.

T.V. can be a Family Affair
If you want to control what your kids watch, be there with them! Transforming TV viewing as a family activity creates opportunities for discussions; parents can therefore protect their kids better from negative messages found in popular media.

Create TV Time Curfews and Consequences
Allot a specific amount of TV time per day and week. At the same time, put in any rules you desire about what kind of shows can be watched and not watched. For instance, do you want to allow young children to watch the news or sophisticated adult programming? Do you want them to have a certain amount of leisure T.V. like comedy shows, adventure, cartoons and so on, and a certain amount of educational shows on subjects like science, history, crafts, cooking and so forth? Or, do you want to let them watch whatever they want to watch within their time period? Think it through and then discuss it with them at a family meeting.

In addition, set up consequences for those who fail to abide by the house rules. You are the parent, trying your best to guide your child. This is not a debate between you and the child – remember, YOU’RE actually in charge in your home! Therefore, non-compliance with the rules should always result in a reasonable negative consequence (i.e. removal of the privilege of watching T.V. for a day or two – see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for a detailed protocol on using negative consequences).

Confronting a Child Who Has Lied

Kids sometimes lie. They do so for many reasons (to avoid punishment, because of embarrassment, because of an overactive imagination and so on), but no matter why they do it, parents must know what to do to help them stop doing it. The way a parent confronts a lying youngster can make the difference between whether that child lies less or more in the future.

If you know or suspect that your child has been lying, consider the following tips:

Consider Your Child’s Motivation for Lying
Is your child lying in order to protect someone else (“Sarah’s parents don’t want her spending time with her boyfriend so I agreed to pretend that she and I were going to Karen’s house to sleep over.”)? Is he or she lying in order to avoid an unpleasant task (“No I don’t have any homework tonight”)? Is the lie designed to avoid punishment (“No I didn’t break the vase.”) Perhaps the lie is meant to avoid embarrassment (“Yes I passed all my subjects”).

Think about the possible reason for the lie BEFORE you confront the child. This can help you be more effective in using Emotional Coaching – the naming and accepting of the child’s feelings. Emotional coaching makes the child feel understood and accepted instead of defensive. It helps the child WANT to hear what you have to say and WANT to cooperate with you. Emotional coaching reduces defiance and deception. An example of emotional coaching for a child who wants to protect her friend, might be the following, “You’re a very good friend to Sarah and of course you don’t want her to get into trouble with her parents. I know you are trying to help her.”

After providing this kind of acknowledgment of her motivations and feelings, you can then go on to give instruction and correction: “The problem is that Sarah’s parents love her probably even more than you do and they make certain rules for her because they want to protect her. This issue is really between Sarah and her parents and it’s not right for you to get involved. Most importantly, Sarah is asking you to lie for her, which isn’t what a good friend does. Good friends bring out the best in each other and don’t encourage each other to become worse people. Sarah is asking you to harm your relationship with US in order to help her continue to defy her parents. I don’t think that this is fair of her to ask you, but you have to decide that for yourself. The only thing that we want you to know is that if you lie to us in the future, you will certainly erode our trust in you and that will not be good for your relationship with us. Right now we give you lots of privileges and free reign because we trust you –  but that could all change if you continue to be dishonest.”

Notice that this approach appeals to the parent-child relationship and also appeals to logic. The “punishment” implicit here is damage to the relationship. This approach works particularly well with adolescents. It is possible to combine Emotional Coaching with discipline, however, as might be appropriate for a child who lies about his uncompleted homework. “I know you don’t enjoy doing homework and I fully sympathize with you. It’s a lot more fun to play games on the computer. However, when you lie about completing your homework you may be compromising your grades and I don’t want that to happen. Therefore, in the future when I find that you are lying about the amount of homework you have you will lose computer privileges for 48 hours.”

Avoid Anger
One of the most common reasons kids lie is to avoid parental wrath. Often kids grow up and become adults who lie to their spouses because they expect – based on childhood experiences with their parents – that making mistakes can get them into BIG trouble. Encourage truth-telling by keeping your confrontations quiet, respectful and low-key. Effective discipline (like the 2X-Rule described in detail in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice) replaces the need for anger. You can use the 2X-Rule to give appropriate, moderate discipline when necessary. Consider the following example:

You discover that $100.00 is missing from your purse. You are certain your son took it because you see that he has a new gadget that he told you his friend bought for him as a gift and you know that this particular gadget costs around $80.00 – and you are pretty sure none of his friends would spend that kind of money on him. How do you get him to acknowledge what he did and make restitution? Not by getting mad! In fact, the madder you get, the more likely it is that your son will lie to you in the future in order to avoid your anger. Instead, you can follow these steps:

  • Speaking very quietly and slowly, refraining from drama or emotion, you confront him by saying something like, “I have good reason to believe that you took $100.00 out of my purse last week.”
  • If your son denies it, look him in the eye and very slowly repeat your statement with minor modifications: “It’s possible that I’m wrong – I didn’t have a camera rolling – but I’m fairly certain you took it. I put the money in the purse late Wednesday night, didn’t move the purse, and discovered it missing Thursday morning at sunrise, before anyone came into the house. Only God knows for sure what happened to it so I’ll just say this: If you did take that money, I’m going to assume it was a mistake and that  you will find a way to put it back in my purse some time over the next few  days and that  you’ll never do such a thing again. However, if you really didn’t take it, then I don’t want you to replace it. Just be honest with yourself and with me. I’ll assume that if you don’t replace it, you never took it to begin with and this is my mistake – for which I am apologizing in advance. However, if money ever goes missing from my purse again, the whole family will have to go for family counseling to discover what is going on in our house.

Do Not Trap a Child into Admitting the Truth
Suppose you just learned that your daughter lied to you about the location of a party she was attending. She knew that you didn’t want her to go to parties with certain kids and in fact, the party she wanted to go to was at one of those kid’s houses – so she gave you a different address. When a friend telephones for your daughter, she accidentally reveals the actual address of the party. Now you know for a fact that your daughter lied. When your daughter returns home, DO NOT play questioning games designed to trap her in her lie. For instance, let’s say she told you that the party was at Erica’s house. Do not do something like this: “How’s Erica? How’s her mom and dad? Were they at the party? Did you say hello to them for us?” and so on. Being sneaky with your kids just encourages them to be sneaky back to you!

Instead, be straight: “We know that the party was not at Erica’s house – it was at Ian’s place. You lied to us.” Continue with Emotional Coaching: “I guess you knew we wouldn’t be pleased and you felt you just had to go, so the only way to make it happen was to lie.” Continue with education and information: Do you think that we are trying to hurt you when we ask you not to go to parties with those kids? What do you think our motivation is? Do you think we are too protective?” Do not be hostile or sarcastic when asking these questions. You are simply trying to help your youngster think through what she has done. You want her to conclude that you love her and you are trying to help her. If she insists that you are well-intentioned but misguided (“You don’t know them Mom! Sure they drink too much, but they’re really nice and they don’t drive when they’re drunk so there’s really no problem!”), let her know that you cannot agree to allow her to do things you think are life-threatening, illegal or immoral. If she does these things, there will be negative consequences, but if she lies and does them, the consequences will be much greater. This method works only when the relationship between you and your child is a good one. If you are too strict, controlling or critical, your child will be more likely to defy you because there is very little to lose. If, on the other hand, you are loving, warm and positive, the child will not want to risk losing your affection and support and will be more likely to comply with your requests.

Avoid Excessive Punishment
Even when you have to discipline a child for lying, be careful to choose moderate negative consequences. Always warn the child before giving a punishment (“From now on, if I find that you have lied, such & such consequence will occur.”). Punishments that are too intense are more likely to backfire, causing the child to lie more in the future in order to avoid harsh punishments (see “Avoid Anger” above for a similar problem). For a selection of reasonable punishments, see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice.

When There is a Chronic Pattern of Lying
If you find that your child is lying frequently rather than on rare occasions, your child has a problem that requires your attention. Again, anger and upset on your part will be counterproductive – destructive instead of helpful. Instead, express sadness that there is a serious problem. (“It seems that you don’t feel comfortable being honest with me. I can see we have a serious problem here that we have to address.”) Arrange for professional assistance in the form of family counselling. A therapist can help help discover the reasons for a child’s persistent dishonesty and develop an effective treatment plan.

Your Teen’s Right to Privacy

Today’s teenagers live in a world that their parents often find scary and alien. It seems that there are no protective walls around their youngsters – computers and cellphones open them to a wide world of exposure and vulnerability that the parents don’t even fully understand. Moreover, cialis teens are more independent and are physically away from their parents more hours of the day and night. Parents are losing a grip – they no longer control or even know, what their child is up to. Many take to looking for clues as to their child’s whereabouts and activities, while others insist on constant check-ins and reports on the who, where, what & why of all activities. But how much does a parent really need to know about his or her teen’s activities? How far do the parent’s rights extend – does the parent have the right to full disclosure of all a teenager’s comings and goings? Does a teen have any right to privacy?

If you’re wondering where to draw the line on your teen’s privacy, consider the following tips:

Everyone is Entitled to Personal Space
It is healthy for every child to have a sense of privacy. This helps the youngster develop appropriate personal boundaries, a sense of “me” vs. “you” that helps the child come to know who she is and what she stands for – with the subsequent ability to stand up for one’s OWN values and beliefs. Privacy is attained by maintaining physical privacy – the ability to dress and bathe in privacy and the ownership of a private space (a bed, maybe a bedroom, a private wardrobe, personal possessions that are not for the use of others without permission). Your teenager is at an age where it is inappropriate to rummage through her drawers or belongings. Unless you suspect your teen is hiding drugs, weapons or other dangerous possessions, you have no right to search her belongings. In fact, the kind of privacy you should give your teen is the privacy he or she deserves. If your teen has grown up to be responsible, caring, and trustworthy, then there is no reason for you to watch his or her every move or even suspect impropriety.

Talk about Life
Raise interesting issues for discussion at your dinner table. Raise topics from your weekly news magazine or paper. Talk about what’s going on in the world and in your local community. Talk about violence, crime, sexuality, bullying, materialism, fashion, addictions, war – everything that is out there. Help your kids think about life and clarify their own values. Provide education in discussion format – not lectures and dire warnings. This will help your teen make good, healthy choices.

Be a Good Listener
Kids who can talk about their stresses tend to act out less. Instead of turning to drugs, stealing, sex or other distracting unhealthy activities, your child can turn to YOU for support, approval, comfort and nurturing. Work hard to listen without offering criticism or even education. Just show compassion and trust for your youngster, conveying that you believe in him or her.

Confront Untrustworthy Behavior
Catching under-aged teens drinking alcohol or stashing inappropriate materials are reasons to initiate an intervention, but this response has to be done appropriately. If the disturbing behavior is mild, parental intervention alone may be sufficient – heart to heart talks, discussion concerning consequences and other normal parenting strategies can be employed. If the offence is recurrent, however, or if it is serious, then it’s best to enlist professional assistance. Speak to your doctor for a referral to a mental health practitioner.

After your child has acted in an untrustworthy manner, it is tempting to “check up on him” from time to time. However, acting in a sneaky way is likely to backfire at some point. Don’t do anything that you don’t want your youngster to do. Therefore, if you don’t want to find your youngster searching your purse or your private drawers, refrain from that kind of behavior also. If you don’t want your youngster checking your email or social feeds, don’t do it to him. If something in your child’s demeanor makes you feel concerned, talk about it openly. It’s fine to ask your child to show you (on the spot) his last string of communications with friends if you have serious reason to suspect dangerous or illegal activity on his part. Otherwise, never ask for such a thing.

Some kids who are addicts will act in deviant and sneaky  ways because of their addiction. Work with a professional addiction counselor to create appropriate interventions in the home. If checking on the child is recommended by the counselor, then of course, follow the recommendation.

Checking In
For reasons of common courtesy and safety, it’s reasonable for your teen to let you know when and where he is going. Depending on the age of the teen, it will also be appropriate to ask permission to go there! If you have curfews in place, it is important to expect the teen to comply with them or renegotiate them to everyone’s satisfaction. However, once your teen is out and about, it is intrusive to call and check on him or her. If the child is traveling a long distance, it’s fine for him to call to say he’s arrived (i.e. he has taken a flight), but you don’t need him to call for local trips to friend’s houses. On the other hand, if your thirteen year-old daughter has to walk a few blocks alone in the dark to her destination, you might ask her to call – it depends on the safety of the area in which she is walking.

Act as if your child is completely trustworthy unless your child shows you otherwise. If there is a problem, sit down and try to work it through, explaining your concerns and working towards solutions. If this is insufficient, enlist the help of a professional family therapist. If the child is acting out – engaging in inappropriate and/or dangerous activities – do consider bringing a mental health professional into the picture.

Dealing with Jealous Feelings

There are always people who have more than us – just like there are always those who have less. Unfortunately, instead of feeling grateful for having more than others do, it is all too easy for children, teens and even adults to feel jealous of those who have more. Jealous feelings are not only unpleasant to experience, but also potentially destructive; the emotion can transform otherwise well-behaved youngsters into “green-eyed monsters” who behave very badly. “Why does HE have more! It isn’t fair!” can be followed by grabbing whatever it is out of the child’s hand. Older kids may react by snubbing or mocking others – or worse. It’s important then that parents teach their children how to manage jealousy and envy from an early age.

If your child experiences jealousy feelings, consider the following tips:

Be “Fair” not “Equal”
In your home, make it a priority to meet the individual needs of family members. If one child needs new shoes, he or she gets them – but there is no need to get shoes for another child in the family who does not currently need them. Getting both children shoes would be trying to make things “equal” whereas getting each child shoes when they’re needed is “fair.” When the child asks “Why does SHE get new shoes and I don’t?” you can answer “because SHE needs shoes now and you don’t.  When YOU need shoes, you’ll be getting them – I promise!” In other words, everyone will get what they need at the right time.

When serving dessert, refrain from taking out the ruler to make sure everyone gets the exact same size piece of cake. “He has a bigger piece!” can be answered with “It all works out in the end – sometimes his piece is a bit bigger and sometimes yours is the bigger one.” Your relaxed attitude and your refusal to try to make things equal can help a child learn that equality is not really necessary.

Easy & Difficult Children
Most parents do not have difficulty treating their kids approximately the same – giving each approximately (not exactly!) the same kind of wardrobe, the same types of privileges and so on. Where parents might experience a greater challenge would be in the way they treat favored and not-favored children. For instance, it is just easier to smile at, joke around with and complement easy-going, cooperative children. More challenging children tend to earn themselves more criticism, complaint and negativity. Treating the “easy” child and the “difficult” child the same is quite a challenge – but try to do it anyway. Children are VERY sensitive. The difficult child doesn’t want to be difficult (no matter what it looks like to you); he or she is suffering from some internal challenge. The child can easily see that you like a sibling more and the subsequent jealousy and hurt can be very destructive. It’s O.K. to ACT more loving than you feel; care less about the risk of possible deception and more about the devastating effects of parental rejection. And, of course, it is essential to avoid making comparisons between the children. Each one needs to be celebrated according to his or her OWN milestones and accomplishments.

Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem
As much as you can, emphasize, acknowledge and celebrate each of your children’s strengths — let them know that they are people of worth and value. Show them everyday how much they matter to you. Furthermore, communicate that everyone is unique, with their own gifts and charisms. A sibling may be a better singer, but it doesn’t mean that one is inferior or lacking. Perhaps one’s talent lies elsewhere! Having cute nicknames that highlight each child’s strength and unique identity can help – only if the child identifies positively with his or her nickname. For instance, in one family, we might have “Canary Carol” or sings so beautifully and “Hammer Henry” who is a very competent young handyman. Avoid potentially insulting labels like “Brainy Ben” – the brains in the family and his less bright sister “Beautiful Betty” – it is much more important to highlight Betty’s strongpoints in skill, talent and personality than just her exterior looks. Everyone has some speciality – finding one of your child’s many strong points highlights this fact and reduces insecurity and jealousy.

Most importantly, encourage your child to celebrate the sibling’s successes and strengths. Help your kids to feel the joy of pride in a sibling’s accomplishment – whether it is the building of a tall block tower or winning on the debating team. Encourage a family feeling of group identification: “You little Rosses are all adorable!” (or brilliant, super, thoughtful, etc.). Also encourage each child to bring gifts for the others in the family – “Did you get candy when you went to see Grandma today? Why don’t you offer some to your brother?” Follow up with the CLeaR Method (comment, label reward – see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for details). “You shared so nicely. That was so generous of you! I think you both deserve to go to the park with Mommy this afternoon.”

Name and Accept Feelings
When your child expresses a jealous feeling, refrain from reprimanding him. A feeling is just a feeling – just name it:  “Yes, I understand that you’d like new shoes now too. It’s hard to wait. It doesn’t seem fair.”  Without using the word “but” make a new sentence to continue your thoughts: “You’ll be getting new shoes when you need them. Remember how you got shoes in the summer but no one else in the family did? That’s because YOU needed them and they didn’t. Everyone gets shoes when they need them.”

Discipline Misbehavior
While feelings are all acceptable, behaviors may not be. If your jealous child lashes out at you or a sibling, the misbehavior needs correction. “I understand that you wanted his toy. You cannot grab it from him – you need to wait your turn. From now on, when you grab things away from him, you won’t get your turn at all that day.” (See the 2X-Rule of discipline in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice.)

Consider Bach Flower Therapy
The Bach Flower Remedy called “Holly” can help ease jealous and angry feelings. This harmless, water-based remedy can help “turn off” the tendency to fall into jealousy (learn more about Bach Flowers in “Bach Flower Remedies” on this site).

Consider Professional Help
If your child is really suffering jealous feelings and your interventions are not helping, do consult a mental health professional for further guidance.

Teaching Kids How to Budget

When you teach your child how to manage money, you give him or her a priceless gift. While some kids are “intuitive” money managers, there are many who completely lack natural talent in this area. For instance, some kids just spend every cent they get their hands on, never setting anything aside for future purchases, savings or charity. In this way, they are exactly like many adults in our culture! Of course, lack of money-know-how can cause lots of pain in adulthood. Running out of funds, falling into debt, gambling away hard-earned dollars and so on, lead not only to personal distress but also to marital stress and family problems. For this reason, it is the job of every parent to prepare children for the economic side of life.

If you want to impart basic budgeting skills to your child, consider the following tips:

Necessity vs. Luxury
Kids learn by example and by direct instruction. You can teach them to prioritize necessities and budget for luxuries by letting them see how you yourself do this. For instance, if your child needs a new pair of proper-fitting shoes (a necessity), you won’t want to have to say to her, “I’m sorry we can’t afford shoes for you right now. We just spent all our money buying that boat you kids wanted.” In fact, poor budgeting is something that children can see for themselves, without you pointing anything out. If, for instance, the child finds out that there is no money for shoes but sees that your spouse – the child’s other parent – just bought you a pure gold bracelet for your anniversary present, the youngster will learn that people buy what they like and don’t worry too much about what they NEED! It will be necessary for you to model the principle: “necessities before luxuries” before you can ask your child to live by it.

Assuming that you are modeling the correct attitude, you can help your child learn about it through explicit instruction. Tell your child something like this: “You’ll want to have money for the things you NEED as well as the things you WANT. Make sure you have what you need first, but always set aside a little of your earnings to buy things that you just want. You can set aside 10% of your income for charity, 10% for savings for big and special things you want to buy (like cell phones, computers and/or cars for older kids and special toys for younger kids), 10% for weekly treats (drinks, food, magazines or whatever) and 70% for your necessities.” Give your child lots of examples that are relevant for his or her age. If draw it out on paper – use a pie chart with different colored sections for clarity. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words! The older your child is, the more information you can give, including a detailed breakdown of living expenses (rent, transportation, clothes, toiletries, etc). Younger kids and any child who is still living at home and not paying you room and board don’t necessarily have real “necessities.” However, as they get older, you can help them have experience of managing a budget for necessities by making them responsible for paying for car expenses (their own license, gas, lease or whatever applies to their situation) or their own phone bill and so on. It doesn’t matter whether the money they are paying with is money that they earned themselves or received as an allowance from you – what you are teaching them at this point is how to MANAGE income. You can teach them how to earn it another time!

Planning and Saving
It’s important that your child has some real money to learn with. It’s safer for kids and teens to make mistakes on small budgets than to start the learning process in adulthood. Even a very young child can begin learning basic budgetting concepts using his or her small allowance. For instance, take the child shopping and let him or her pick out a treat either with allowance money or even “treat” money that you provide. The child must figure out what purchase is affordable. The chocolate bar may be over budget, the potato chips may work, perhaps a soda and a pack of gum might be affordable, the fancy candy is definitely out of reach. Instead of YOU doing all the calculations, allow the child to do it if the arithmetic is within the child’s easy grasp. Teens can use a combination of allowance and earnings to manage their budget. Make them responsible for paying their cell phone bill or some other regular financial responsibility and help them to figure out how to set aside savings to purchase big ticket items they are longing for. You can provide incentive programs if you like: offer to match them dollar for dollar in order to help them purchase some important product.

Once your child has a source of income – whether that is an allowance or a part-time job, another source of income or some mixture of things – help him or her to open a bank account. This is all part of the money-learning experience. Especially if signicant funds are involved, you might encourage more than one bank account: a savings account for big purchases down the road, a checking account for readily accessible cash and an accountfor charity funds. Later on, if the child is ever self-employed or running a small business, make sure that there is a savings account specifically for required tax payments. This way of organizing money can help the budget work smoothly and automatically.

In teaching kids to manage a budget, it is essential that you do not bail them out when they make errors. O.K. – maybe just once. But you want them to learn through experience that when you run out of money, you run out of money. There is no more. Discourage borrowing from you or friends – this is really just a debt mentality. You want your kids to thrive within their budget. If there isn’t enough money for what they want, they should be encouraged to earn more money, instead of going into debt.

For instance, suppose your 15 year-old daughter bought herself a sweater with her savings. At the end of the purchase, she has only twenty dollars left in her account. However, she sees some boots she just MUST have right away and begs you to loan her the ninety dollars she’ll need, promising to pay you back over a three month period. DO NOT COOPERATE! She should have been looking ahead when she bought the overpriced sweater! If you don’t bail her out now, she’ll become a better money-manager for life. On the other hand, if you do allow her to go into debt because of her own bad planning, you are helping her to have a life of credit-card angst and suffering.

Teens and Credit Cards

One way of helping a teen become financially responsible is to allow him or her to have a credit card. The trick is to make the teen fully responsible for its management. The child must have a bank account with money in it and must be responsible for keeping track of bills and payments.

By giving young adults limited financial control, parents are providing them with the opportunity to learn to make good decisions and to develop financial discipline.

Often, teens who are not earning their own money are unable to fully appreciate the real value of a dollar. For that reason, it’s best to allow your teen to have a personal credit card only after getting a part-time job or summer job that provides a financial base for its use. If this isn’t possible, however, you can provide a “salary” for “hired services”  the teen provides for you in the home (i.e. tasks that go beyond normal family responsibilities like helping in the kitchen and keeping one’s room clean). Alternatively, you can simply give your teen a steady allowance that is meant to cover not only entertainment and snacks, but also clothing, toiletries, transportation and other necessities of life. The reason for this is to help the teen learn to work within a budget to handle a large range of expenditures.

Having said all this, there are clear risks in offering a teen credit. A parent may find him or herself in the position of needing to bail a child out of unmanageable debt. Teens are, after all, inexperienced, impulsive and naive (some more than others) – characteristics that can get them into serious trouble of all kinds.

Given this is the case, how can you know if your teen can manage a credit card?

Consider Your Teen’s Personality
Is your teen a natural spender or someone who is able to save for a rainy day? Does your child tend to be impulsive, buying things that he or she never ends up using or do you see evidence of well-considered purchases?

Conduct a Test Drive
Before handing over a credit card, try simply providing a larger allowance and realm of financial responsibility to your teen. See how the youngster handles that extra responsibility. Can he or she function within the budget without coming to you for shortfalls? Is the youngster content within that budget? Is he or she making appropriate choices (i.e. buying lunch as well as t-shirts, instead of just t-shirts?). Can he or she set aside savings for large expenses and needs? “Yes” on all fronts earns a credit card. Even one “No” indicates a need for more experience and maturity before involving the bank!

Communication Skills
If you and your teen aren’t on good speaking terms, be careful about handing over credit. Your teen can get a credit card independently when he or she can present himself responsibly to a bank. Communication needs to be open so that your child can ask you questions when they arise, ask for help when it is needed and keep you informed about personal finances. Although you should not abuse the privilege, it should be possible for you to inquire about the balance on a card that you have co-signed for and you should be able to access the account. If there is no reason for you to do so, however, then DON’T. If you didn’t trust your child in the first place, you should not have provided a credit card. If you feel the need to check the monthly statement on your child’s card, the child should not have a card. Hopefully, you waited until the child showed appropriate signs of financial maturity and credit readiness. If so, everything should go smoothly. As  your teen becomes a young adult, you’ll be able to complete respect his or her financial privacy.

Another aspect of good communication involves YOUR OWN communication with your child. Be very clear – in fact, put it in writing – what the child’s credit card is for. For instance, do you want your child to use the card to buy all of his clothing, outerwear, digital devices, restaurant food and so on and so forth? Let him know what YOU are paying for and what you want HIM or HER to pay for – be as clear as possible in order to avoid misunderstandings and conflict.

Finally, enjoy watching your child become a responsible adult!

Giving Your Child an Allowance

A child’s allowance can be more than just a convenient way to buy snacks – it can be a teaching tool for a lifetime of sound financial management. Parents can help children learn how to use the money that is given through a weekly or monthly allowance, giving them age-appropriate opportunities to learn about spending, saving, budgeting and more.

Following are some key principles of financial literacy that you can teach your kids through their allowance:

Needs First, Then Wants
The concept of “budget” can be taught through the management of an allowance. Give your young child a weekly allowance that he or she can spend on snacks as he or she sees fit. If the child spends all the money on the first day of the week, there will be no more money for snacks that week – unless YOU give more, which, of course, you won’t! It is important that a child experiences a “pay day” just like grownups do. Money is given at regular intervals – every week or every two weeks or every month or even every six months for older teens. The child needs to learn how to make dollars stretch over time, just like you do.

When kids are just a little older, they can begin to practice discretionary spending – making decisions about how to use their funds. Parents can help with this process by giving an allowance that must cover more than snacks; it can cover entertainment, school snacks, restaurant meals, make-up and other toiletries. The younger the child, the fewer the items covered by an allowance. Young teens can use their allowance to buy school supplies and some of their clothing as well as leisure items. With one larger lump sum, kids will begin to look for bargains and sales on necessities so that they can have more entertainment and treat money available. Older teens and young adults may receive their allowance as a monthly stipend deposited directly to their bank account or given as an advance on a credit card. This allows them to learn about money tools, credit, simple savings and chequing accounts and other aspects of adult money management. For each age group, parents can teach the importance of allocating money for necessities, savings, pleasures and charity.

If possible, bring home some “allowance” books from your local library. There are lots of books that teach kids how to use their allowance for everything from spending to helping their money to grow.

Pay Yourself First
You can use your child’s allowance to teach the concept of saving for larger expenses. For instance, you can encourage your child to set aside a portion of the allowance each “pay day” and then use those savings for a special purchase (a special toy, article of clothing, activity, class or whatever). Older kids can be encouraged to deposit these savings into a bank account while little ones can be given a piggy bank that will serve a similar purpose. Kids can really enjoy the accomplishment of being able to buy themselves something that they’ve worked hard to save for!

Money can Make More Money
You can also use the allowance to teach your child how to make money! At an early age, explain to your child the basics of entrepreneurship and/or investing. Luckily today, there are many board games for kids that aim to teach how to manage capital, expenditures and income. A portion of each allowance payment can be set aside for one or both of these purposes. You can also encourage your child to start a business –  it doesn’t have to be big; a lemonade stand in front of your house will do. Offer plenty of encourage and even invest in your child’s business – children enjoy making money as much as adults do.

Of course, you can’t expect your child to spend, save, invest and start a business on a salary of 25 cents! The more you want your child to learn about the different aspects of finance, the more money you will have to offer for learning purposes. Work within YOUR budget in order to help your child learn young. It’s much better for your child to make mistakes using small amounts of money that have no real consequence than to learn later on when his or her family may suffer the consequences!

Teach Your Child to Share His Wealth!
While saving conscientiously and earning through a business gives a child the right to spend money on personal wants and luxuries, kids are never too young to learn to give to charity. You can ask your child for the kind of cause he or she is interested in supporting, and you can both learn what you can about the various venues for financial participation. Giving to others is gratifying to people of all ages – give your child the opportunity to feel the great pleasure of helping others. Even a small allowance can be divided so that 10% goes into a little charity box. After awhile, those pennies, dimes or dollars will add  up to a significant sum worthy of donation to a proper cause.

Drives Dangerously

A parent’s worry increases tenfold the moment a child finds his or her way  into the driver’s seat of the family vehicle. The risk of experiencing an accident is a very real one, with consequences ranging from financial annoyances all the way to serious and even fatal injuries. This risk increases significantly when a teen drives dangerously or irresponsibly.

How can parents help ensure that their child drives safely and defensively? Consider the following tips:

Be a Good Role Model
Driving responsibly is not just a matter of skill but also a matter of attitude, so make sure that from an early age, your child sees that you take road safety very seriously. Show that there is nothing that can make you deviate from a safe driving plan — even if you are already late going to a very important event. Your child should never see you engage in risky road behaviors like speeding, racing other cars, rolling through stop signs or running lights. Although your good model of mature and safe driving practices will not guarantee that your kids will do likewise, your poor model of irresponsible driving sends a clear message that road rules are for others to follow and your family is somehow exempt. This gives kids permission to take chances that could lead to disaster.

Driving is Not a Right But a Responsibility
Teens may have the idea that just because they are of age to obtain a license, they are already eligible to drive. However, you can show them that they have to earn your trust first, before they will be given the privilege of driving. For instance, you may want your child to show consistency in arriving home by curfew. You may want to see that he can give you contact information when he is out and about or that he is reliable about calling when he arrives at distant or unknown locations. You may want him to answer his cell phone when you call. These sorts of practices are more important when your child is a driver. Some parents want their driving child to be able to pay for gas, insurance or car usage as well. They want their child to have a job before they get behind the (expensive) wheel. It’s up to you to determine criteria that show trustworthiness and responsibility. However, if your child shows neither, you can expect various car-related challenges to occur on a regular basis.

Educate Your Child About the Dangers of Irresponsible Driving
Perhaps your child underestimates the dangers of driving without a seatbelt, driving while texting, racing on public roads, driving after consuming alcohol or drugs or cutting lanes. After all, if they have so far managed to get away scot-free with these behaviors, they may have an inflated sense of control over the situation. Show them examples of other teenagers who have met the negative consequences of driving irresponsibility. You may even organize a visit to the local traffic control center. Education is always the best way to protect one’s self from avoidable hazards. For instance, did you know that drivers age 15-20 years old accounted for 12% of drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2008? A picture is worth a thousand words; you can do some car crash research on the internet and insist that your child look at it with you.

Get Your Child a Safe Car
If you have worries over your child’s driving behavior, it’s best to ask them to stop driving until the have better skills or attitude. You can request that they take further driving lessons – the kind that addresses advanced skills and defensive driving. If your child gets speeding tickets, make sure that HE pays for them himself. If he gets into accidents, make sure that HE pays for costs involved (or contributes according to his means). When the cost or danger is repeated on several occasions, take away your child’s driving privileges for a period of time. Let him know he can try again in a few months. If, when he has the car again, the driving is equally poor, take away driving privileges for longer – he can try again in 6 months or a year (or when he’s completed his “safe driving” course upgrade). In addition, consider making sure that the vehicle the child drives rates high on safety features. A car that is easy to maneuver, and whose safety features are displayed prominently on the dashboard of the vehicle is recommended.

Child Doesn’t Answer Cellphone

Parents can find comfort in modern technology. Whereas “in the olden days,” letting children and teens go out into the night might have caused parents extreme worry and anxiety, today parents can keep in touch with their kids 24/7 through mobile phones. Of course, there’s still no guarantee that all is well, but the ability to check in does provide some peace of mind.

But what if your child doesn’t answer his or her cell phone? Should parents become immediately alarmed? Does not picking up mean that your child is in danger or hiding something?

Not always! There are many possible reasons why a child might not answer a parent’s call. The following are some of these reasons, alongside tips on how parents can handle the situation:

Your Child is Not Mindful of the Phone
Although this one is rare, it is still something to be considered: some kids are so attached to their cell phone, it’s practically welded to their palm. But there are also children who barely pay attention to their mobile, and merely have it on silent or vibrate mode somewhere in their bag. If your child is not expecting a call from you, it’s not unlikely that he or she just didn’t bother to check if anyone is calling.

If this is the case, the best thing for parents to do is to advise their child that they plan to ring, so that the child knows to always keep his or her phone handy.

It’s Not Convenient for Your Child to Answer the Phone
Sometimes, it’s just not the right place or time to answer the phone. Your child can be inside the cinema with friends, out in the field playing football, or crossing the street on a busy road. In the same way that you can’t be expected to answer your phone during these times, it’s unreasonable to expect your child to accommodate you.

What’s best is to ask your child where he or she is going so that you will know if ringing is advisable. If you know your child’s itinerary, then you would know when to ring. True, your child can always lie about the location in order to avoid your calls. But this is also a great exercise in trusting your child. Unless your child has a history of lying about his or her whereabouts, there’s really no reason not to take what your child says at face value.

You can also establish a rule on call backs. For example, you can contract with your child an agreement to call back within 30 minutes of a missed call. With such a rule in place, you won’t immediately panic when you don’t get a response. Of course, the 30 minute rule won’t necessarily solve the problem if your child is out watching a movie with friends, but it can still be helpful in most cases.

Your Child Already Knows That He or She is in Trouble
Sometimes kids don’t answer their cell phone because they sense that you are probably already angry at the other end of the line. If they’re out way after their curfew for example, it’s possible that they would avoid responding to your calls to avoid further stress.

If this is the case, explain to your child the effect of their behavior on you. Sometimes, kids don’t realize that parental anger is born out of being worried sick and fearing the worst. Tell them that whatever their offense may be, it would still be outweighed by relief in confirming that they are well and safe. Emphasize how answering your call at all times is a must.

In order to encourage your child to answer even when he or she is past curfew, be careful to avoid raging and unpleasant criticism. When your child answers be calm, polite and concerned. Take up discipline issues the next day, when everyone is awake and relaxed.

Your Child is Embarrassed to Answer the Phone
It’s also possible that your child is embarrassed to be seen talking to a parent. This is especially likely during the teenage years when kids are experimenting with their identity and their autonomy. Peers can tease them about always being “on a tight leash” or “being a mamma’s boy.” When this happens, your child may prefer to switch off his or her mobile rather than be caught talking to a parent.

Parents who are respectful of their kids’ feelings will have better communication and cooperation in the long run. Therefore, show understanding if your child claims to be embarrassed. Ask your child to suggest reasonable solutions. Keep in mind that teenagers are almost grown up and like grownups, they don’t want someone checking up on them every few hours. Perhaps you should be using the phone only for true emergencies and not to find out where your child is and what he is up to. Let your child go out and come home – don’t call! However, if your child is young or inexperienced, you can ask that he or she calls you when he or she arrives safely at a destination. For older teens, this isn’t necessary. In short, avoid acting like your child needs excessive supervision unless the child has already shown you through repetitive irresponsible behavior that this is truly the case. If your child has already established a track record of reasonable behavior, responsibility and appropriate maturity – let him or her go out and have a good time. There’s no need to call.

Effective Family Meetings

Utilizing meetings for planning, negotiating and problem-solving is a well-established corporate practice. These days, however, the practice is also being touted as a critical tool for family life. And because family members are busy people — occupied with work, school, personal, social and communal activities — deliberately setting a time and date to discuss important family matters can be a practical way to ensure that regular communication does take place.

Here are some simple tips on how to run effective family meetings:

Include Everyone
Although everyone doesn’t have to attend the entire family meeting, everyone should have the opportunity to be present at different points. For instance, if dinner meals are being discussed, the whole family should be invited in order to give their input on a matter that will affect each of them. However, when that matter is resolved, some of the younger kids might be excused from the meeting while parents discuss curfew with a couple teenagers. Then, the teenagers may be excused, while husband and wife discuss some issues concerning the family budget. The concept of the meeting is to offer a regular forum in which any issue can be discussed and dealt with. Not all family members have to be present at the entire meeting, but anyone who is directly affected by an issue is invited to be part of that particular discussion.

Discuss Problems, but Share the Good Stuff Too!
Family meetings are excellent venues to discuss issues (“Let’s plan our outing for the long weekend”), air grievances (“I can never find a clean glass in the cupboard”), and resolve difficulties (“He always wakes me up in the night with his crying”). They can also be a forum for progress reports and celebrations (“I just want to bring to everyone’s attention that Jason has been doing a wonderful job of organizing the recycle materials every week”) as well a venue for encouragement and emotional support (“It’s frustrating when you have to spend so much time on homework and there seems to be so little time for relaxation.”) Maintaining a balance of pleasant and difficult topics can help family members look forward to meetings. On the other hand, using the time to discuss only problems and difficult issues usually leads to a reluctance to show up after awhile.

Give Everyone a Chance to Speak
It’s a family meeting, not a state-of-the-nation address, so don’t let one person hog the spotlight. Give each child time to share what he or she feels like sharing by asking each one individually “is there anything that you’d like to talk about today?” Remember: no matter how simple a disclosure may be, the opportunity to communicate openly with loved ones is a priceless thing. Once your child is talking, try to sit back and listen. A helpful rule at family meetings is that a person is allowed to present an issue in a certain time period (i.e. 5 minutes maximum) and during that time period, no one is allowed to talk, interrupt, ask questions or do anything other than sit back and listen. After the person is finished presenting their issue, they can take questions for a few more minutes and then the discussion begins.

Follow Rules of Communication
Follow some simple rules to help keep the meeting productive and emotionally safe. For instance, you might stipulate: no swearing, no bad language, no raised voices, no name-calling (in other words, no hurting people’s feelings); be brief, say the problem only one time; give practical ideas (not ideas that can’t be implemented).

Follow a Process for Problem Resolution
After an issue is raised, ask each member of the family, one at a time, to make a comment or suggestion. The person with the problem can also be invited to make suggestions about how it can be solved. After all suggestions have been brought forward, the person with the problem can ask for time to think about the ideas or can pick the idea that is most pleasing right now. If no one can think of solutions to a problem, you can have a list of helpful resources (family doctor, grandparent, trusted family friend or relative, therapist, spiritual advisor) to whom the problem can be described in order to get further input and ideas as to how it might be solved.

Never Let a Meeting End without Some Form of Resolution
This is the family meeting equivalent of “never let the sun set on an argument.” The last thing that you want is to create tension in the family because a meeting was used for bashing, but not healing. If an issue has been raised but it can’t be completely resolved within the time period of the meeting, then at least outline the next steps that the family will take. You may even set another family meeting to discuss the issue, to give it the proper attention and focus.

Lastly, Don’t Have Too Many Meetings!
Have you ever heard of the term “meeting paralysis”? In companies, this is the situation when nothing gets done because people would rather discuss things than fix them! Family meetings are invaluable, but don’t get stuck with just talking and rehashing issues. Solve problems and support each other. It’s living the closeness that comes after the discussion that makes family meetings so worthwhile.