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PTA Coffee Break: Modern techniques for parenting

December 13, 2012|By Kate Rogers
  • Sharon Loconosolo, Sharael Kolberg and Kristen Bunn at the recent PTA Coffee Break meeting.
Sharon Loconosolo, Sharael Kolberg and Kristen Bunn… (Coastline Pilot )

PTA's parent education forum welcomed local psychologist Jerry Weichman last month at the Aliso Creek Inn. Weichman, author of teen guide "How To Deal," has an active adolescent practice in Newport Beach. He covered a broad range of topics from behavioral parenting to substance abuse and included very practical tips. Here's a summary of what he told attendees.

The vast majority of today's teens are navigating a world in which everyone else seems to be "living the life," and there is a nagging feeling "there is something really wrong with me." High school operates like a caste system in which kids are concerned about personal presentation and managing their social stock. Bullying may increase stress levels, as does the presence of helicopter or tiger moms. "Substance abuse is rampant in our community," Weichman said. Kids often either flip-out or flip-in through psychosomatic illness or self-mutilation.

Often, parents aren't prepared for what Weichman calls "The Switch," when kids no longer want to do their chores and think their parents stink.

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"Parents become intimidated at this stage, and often take the short-term gain by not holding their kids accountable," he said.

A key to maintaining self-control as parents is to see the kids for who they are: "special-needs kids in your home," instead of raging teens. "Be a parent, not a friend," he encouraged.

Weichman recommends parents bring the real world into the home.

"Be like a cop who stays calm, gives tickets and moves on," he said.

The "ticket" is a clean-sweep of all privileges: cell phones, computer, TV, music, going out. Enforce for small increments of time (a day); anything longer impedes effectiveness.

Weichman warns against too much dialogue, as "kids are good at manipulation." Don't engage in chatter or respond to complaints of "that's not fair."

Suicidal talk, however, is a huge red flag, he warned. Statistically, he said, there are three hints before an attempt. If your teen talks about suicide, bring them to the local emergency room or to UCI's adolescent ward in Orange. Once a kid understands this real-world consequence, crying-wolf threats cease, Weichman said.

Behavioral parenting doesn't yield results right away, Weichman said. Often it gets worse before it gets better. It is important to reinforce on-track behavior, but avoid the temptation to set the bar too low or to praise in an overly hysterical manner. "Thanks for stepping up and being more mature" is adequate, he said.

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