Sit-Down Conversation Prior to High School

Going from junior high to high school introduces a tremendous amount of change and exposure to new levels of challenges and risks.  Because of this, we had a face-to-face conversation some time during the summer before entering high school with each of our girls.  In the best case, the adolescent will heed some of the advice.  In the worst case, they will ignore the advice but later find at least some of it to be truthful, which gives more credibility to later advice.  We created a cheat sheet of issues to discuss, including the following topics:

  • Grades
  • Peer pressure
  • Curfew
  • Penalty free ride home (see related blog post)
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Boys and dating
  • Sex
  • Sexual abuse

The tone of the discussion should be advisory rather than dictatorial, in my opinion.  And you obviously will need to add notes to each category based on your standards, your parenting style and your advice.  There are three objectives of this discussion:

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Father – Son/Daughter Getaways

The title says “father” only because I’m writing this post from my perspective and incorporating actual concepts I used with my daughters.  My original objective was to somehow compensate for years of job assignments that called for extensive travel.  I actually modified an idea one of my IBM bosses used with his kids to compensate for extensive business travel.  The extra bonding I was able to achieve with my daughters and the stories we both are able to tell forever have immeasurable value.  I’ve shared this idea with friends and co-workers, many of whom have adopted or modified it for their own use.  If you also like the idea, help me spread it to others.

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Sticking to the Important Stuff (Teen Years)

Especially once the kids get into high school, there will be tons of things you will see them doing wrong.  From not waking up to their alarm to the way they handle social relationships, you will find yourself wanting to just tell them exactly what to do.  But often this will just cause them to reject your directions.  And it’s generally agreed that one of the best ways to learn is by making your own mistakes.  During high school I told my daughters that I didn’t care when they woke up on school days so long as putting on makeup was the last thing they did.  If they ran out of time and had to leave for school it meant without makeup.

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Establishing Standards (if Have Multiple Kids)

One of the things we quickly realized is how easily a precedent can be set as a result of decisions made or rules put in place for the oldest child.  This is fairly obvious for anyone that grew up in a family with multiple children, but we found that we had to really step back and think about things not only from the perspective of the decision at hand, but also the possible precedent-setting value it might have for the younger siblings.  For girls, it includes things like wearing makeup, dating and allowing boys in their room.

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Once Your Teenager Gets a Car …

What a liberating freedom.  I guess I have one heads-up and a couple of pieces of advice.  The heads-up is to forget about seeing them very much after they start driving.  There will be a million reasons why they need to be somewhere else.  We had to set a “goal” of eating together as a full family 4 times per week, yet we’re sometimes lucky to make it happen 2-3 nights.  Part of this is due to the fact that a driving teen also possibly has a job, club memberships or sporting activities in addition to all the social possibilities that pull them away from home.

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Collectables – the Gift Answer for Road Warrier Parents

Do you have to travel a lot for your work?  If so and if you have kids, you’ll know where I’m coming from on this one.  When the kids are young, it’s pretty easy to get them a present while you’re away because the act of giving them anything is all they care about.  But as the kids get into late elementary school it gets progressively harder.  And what about the times when you’re rushing to/thru the airport to catch your flight?  Oops, no time to really shop and therefore no present this time.

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Umbrella Liability Policy – Do You Have One?

The parents of adolescent kids have increased legal liabilities.  Imagine they have some friends over and someone gets badly injured, especially if you have a swimming pool or live on a lake.  Or think about a car accident that is your kid’s fault and bad injuries or worse are involved.  When our oldest daughter entered junior high school, we got an umbrella liability policy from our insurance company to cover more than the standard liability coverage in our homeowner’s policy.  It doesn’t cost much for this coverage, even for $1M worth of coverage.  Your insurance agent can explain what is covered and how much is the right amount to get covered for.

See my other blog posts on parenting here.

Penalty-Free Ride Home

This is something my wife and I instituted at the beginning of junior high and extended all the way through high school graduation.  If the kids ever find themselves in an uncomfortable situation that they want to get out of, they can call home and we will come get them with no questions asked.  We tell them we can park a few blocks away, if needed, to be discreet.  Basically, whatever it takes to make them comfortable exercising this offer if in a bad situation.  We make it clear that we won’t interrogate them into telling us the reason for the call if they would rather us not know.  The important thing is that they know this safety net is there.

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The 50 / 50 Rule

50-50 graphicNervous about the dichotomy between buying nice-to-have things for your kids and making sure your they learn what it means to earn their own way?  Welcome to the 50/50 rule.  When your kids want a _____ (insert seemingly important item that fits the “want” category rather than the “need” category), tell them that you’ll split the cost 50/50 with them.  Then immediately be ready to offer ways to make money with chores if they ask.  If they really want the item, they will do whatever it takes to get it.  And with the 50/50 split it’s amazing how often their 50% share is reasonably within reach if they will put in some effort to work for the money.  And if they come to you with an idea to sell homemade banana bread every weekend morning door-to-door in your neighborhood, you have the side benefit of knowing you’ve given birth to an entrepreneur.

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You Want the Teenagers to Hangout at Your House

I know, teenagers can be loud and obnoxious.  But when your kids get into high school and especially once they start driving, it’s easy to lose track of where they are and who they are hanging out with.  It won’t seem like it initially, but if you’re lucky for kid’s teenage friends will want to come to your house to hang out.  And you can possibly influence this if you try.  You’ll know where they are, what they are doing and who they are hanging out with.  Think about the alternative.

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Does Your Kid Have a “System”?

The concept of defining and refining a System is something I regularly stressed with my girls during their high school and college years.  The truth is that each person has a different way of planning, organizing, studying and remembering.  What works for you in these areas might not at all work for your son/daughter.  One of the most important things to accomplish during the high school and college years is for your kid to develop and refine a system that works for them.

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What’s The Worst Thing That Could Happen?

This is a fabulous concept to incorporate into your parenting practice.  It’s used in conjunction with explaining decision-making to your kids.  I started using this with my girls when they were about 13 years old and regularly reinforced it all the way through the day they left home for college.

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Using the “Give More Rope” Analogy

Parenting AdviceI happen to think that one of parents’ most important responsibilities is preparing their children for the day when they leave home and live on their own.  Will they be ready to make decisions for themselves?  Will they know how to react in stressful or dangerous situations?  Will they be able to manage their own money?  The list goes on and on.  But the way I mentally visualize this parenting challenge is using the “give more rope” analogy.

When your child is young, there is only a very short rope between you and them.  What does this mean?  As they drift from side to side (ie – doing things that are wrong or dangerous), the rope is so short that the parent can immediately correct (explain, scold, punish).  The other benefit of the rope being so short is that the consequences of the child’s action are limited.  Even something like touching a hot stove might seem catastrophic at the time but in a short few years you’ll realize that a blister on a finger is nothing compared to later potential consequences you’ll be worried about.  Again, a short rope yields quick correction and limited consequences.

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