Do parents know better? A family story revisited

This is about family moments, about parents and children, about communication and respect. Being a parent is not easy. Sadly it doesn’t come with instructions. Our only hope is love. And laughing together.

This is my family’s Ketchup story which I first published a few days ago. Listening to the suggestions of friends I decided to rewrite it in a more dramatic way that doesn’t give away the outcome so quickly. This is my effort to rewrite the sequence in a more structured way, which is ultimately more enjoyable to read. I hope. Here it goes:

It’s Saturday morning and the family decided to go shopping. No shortage of needs in a house with two teenagers. At lunch time after all the absolutely, definitely, necessary items were bought, we go to their favourite restaurant for a quick lunch. Burgers all around.

And my husband decides it is best he handles the ketchup bottle so that the kids don’t make a mess.

And he shakes the Ketchup bottle while open. Why, I do not know. Why would anyone shake a ketchup bottle? Let’s just assume he thought this would make the sauce come out easier. And it did! All over the place! Not only on the plates but also on the table, the cutlery, the glasses.

The trajectory of the movement was marked in red. Thick red sauce. Only, we soon realised, the traces weren’t stopping at the edge of our table, rather they were visible on the floor leading to a shopping bag by the next table. The family sitting there didn’t realise what happened, but when I saw the red marks inside their bag, I just looked at my husband with eyes wide open. I couldn’t stop laughing despite the embarrassment!

Why on Earth did he think he could do this better that the kids?

Why assume they would make a mess and he wouldn’t? They are teenagers not toddlers.

Whatever possesses us parents and makes us believe we know better than them? About everything, not just ketchup. I will always remember that story for two reasons. First, I laughed a lot! Second, it made me think about our role as parents. We don’t always know better, and even if we do, we still make mistakes. And one more thing: Always ensure ketchup bottle is closed before shaking it! Or rather don’t shake it.

Is is a successful attempt? I’d love to know what you think in your reply.

How to inspire a teenager. Any ideas?

Well, I need some ideas for teenager inspiration. Can you help?

Life is full of surprises, we know that by now. And one thing is absolutely certain, that things change! As I was growing up, I used to think nothing would ever really change. I don’t know why I believed that so firmly.

About a decade ago, the dialing codes in my area were changed. When I first heard of that, I thought it was impossible. How could the telecommunications company change all those numbers? I thought the numbers  would simply stay the same. Needles to say that the numbers did change; at least twice since then. I was so surprised when this first happened. And I was also surprised when Internet arrived at my house. I still remember the sound of the connection the modem made. Loud and strange and it clearly signified that something new was arriving in the room. Obviously I also thought that the mobile phone idea would never catch on…

Today I am a huge fun of connectivity and new technology. I love learning about all the new things that are entering our lives like Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning and Big Data and Internet of Things and so much more. I love all that. I love the tools they provide for change. Because change is here. It always was, and it always will be. I know that now, and I welcome it.

 My only concern is that my children, and all the children, appreciate what is happening. It is important they know that things change, and they need to be ready for it. Strong and prepared and actually looking forward to changing. Not in a bad way but in an exciting way.

And that is why I need your help! How do we motivate them? How do we explain the necessity for readiness? I strongly believe that they need to be inspired, to fall in love with the prospects of our times.

They can instantly communicate with everybody everywhere and learn and play and share and participate. How do we inspire them to enjoy that and not take it for granted? To live their life to the fullest? How do we inspire them to learn, and then learn some more so that they can play an active part in forming their future?

I so want them to be in charge of their lives. To be ready and strong and decisive. To claim their identity, their autonomy, their dreams. No limits, no restrictions in terms of growth and development. Oh, I so want children to grow strong and powerful. To know that it’s up to them to build the person they want to be. To know that they can, and they must. To know that this is their privilege and their destiny. To claim the power to determine their choices, use their successes and their failures to pave their path to their happiness.

Any ideas?

What do you think about good manners?

On being polite

Today, with two teenagers in the house, I felt the need to write this post about good manners. It is all about respect; self-respect as well as respect for others.

This is my monologue to them, my preaching and my effort to help them lead a happy life. 

This is also a good exercise, forcing me to clarify my message. Find the right balance between yesterday and tomorrow and express myself in a way that is clear, precise and contemporary! If it isn’t, they are never going to bother with it.

This is my effort to define the boundaries within which freedom and personal expression can really flourish.

Prospects, reasons and aspirations

I want my kids to behave appropriately every time. I want them to know the right thing to do even if they choose not to do it -occasionally!

"Good vibes only" written in the sand

I dream of a world where people respect each other even when they disagree. A place of honesty and integrity where there is no need for pretension, no desire to force personal opinions upon others.

Today people are often rude and disrespectful for no real reason, just because it is trendy to challenge the rules, authority, the government, the law, other people. Some object to good manners and politeness because they consider them too old fashioned and restrictive.

OK, there is an ambiguity as far as politeness is concerned. Politeness can be an act of conviviality and respect, but it can also be an act of hypocrisy. A set of rules which dictates that one is always pleased to meet someone, to find them interesting; that one has a pleasing demeanour  in every setting. A model behaviour for every social situation can be daunting.

I want to argue that freedom lies within the walls of respect, within the rules of society which are there to express our need for order, to protect us from chaos and give us the space to express ourselves without fear.

I aspire to convince my children that being polite is not old-fashioned but instead it is necessary for progress. For our development at a personal level, as well as our advancement as a society. According to Steven Pinker in his book The better angels of our nature good manners have led humanity to less violence and thus more progress.

Identify the reasons for being polite

In our modern society we get to choose. We get to choose our identity and our standing within our community. There is room for everyone and everything. One can find a group of peers in any setting, be it elegant and polite or completely vulgar and disrespectful.

My main concern is that there is awareness. Awareness and choice. It is imperative that every person makes a conscious choice bearing in mind the reasons and of course the anticipated outcome.

Behaving politely in any environment not only portrays you beautifully within the group of people but it is also effective in creating partnerships and alliances; in finding support and thus progressing.

What is life and happiness if not acceptance and support?

My dearest child, you need to be polite so that people see you, the real you, and are not thrown off by bad manners and lack of respect.

Everybody wants to feel respected and valued. Everybody deserves to be respected and valued.

What do you think? Do you value politeness or do you find it hypocritical?

Teenagers and new technology. What should parents do?

Mobiles and applications are part of our daily lives. And they are part of the lives of teenagers. According to research 95 % of teens own a smartphone. What are we, the parents, supposed to do?

Worrying studies

Clearly some worrying studies have been made public and a lot of scientists warn us about the dangers of online exposure from a very young age. Famously, both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs raised their kids tech-free. According to the article in Business Insider both technology giants chose to minimise the exposure of their children to the newest gadgets.

 And that is something to think about.

Nonetheless there is also several recent studies suggesting that smartphones are not necessarily bad for teenagers According to information in Nature International Journal of Science  “Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all”.

The main concerns include the negative effect on attention and memory. There are claims of reduced attention spans, reduced reading levels and avoidance of demanding tasks.

Keeping colourful notes with the help of a smartphone. Smartphone on the paper.

On the other hand, connectivity facilitates communication with friends, family, teachers. It also empowers access not only to entertainment, but also to libraries, museums, and educational platforms. Teenagers contemplating their future can visit University sites, private companies and government bodies. They can do their own market research, be it for finding the right University or the right outfit.

After considering both research and experience my point is: inform them, respect them, inspire them!

Recent controversy

In the New York Times the article The Big Myth About Teenage Anxiety caused a lot of controversy and a lot of negative responses. Recent data however tend to validate claims that the next generation is not doomed.

Finding balance

The challenge is finding balance between the dangers and the opportunities offered by new technology.  A very interesting viewpoint is presented in the article Online Presence for Future Pathways published in Education Technology Solutions. And there is also some very interesting information in Psychology Today discussing how Technology is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus. The article claims that the effect doesn’t have to be neither positive nor negative. It can simply be altering. Seems to me, it is our responsibility to tip the scales towards the positive.

Teenagers are now forming their identity, fighting their battles and trying to make sense of the world.

In my effort to be fair and open minded I decided to interview a teenager, present her answers and really consider them.

Interview with a teenager

  • Her reasons for using the smartphone are:

“I use it to communicate with friends, and connect with others, mainly on Instagram.

“I also like listening to music and shopping or simply browsing outfits!”

  • On guidance about moderate use she responded:

We know! I know, and my friends know! You have to trust that we know, and we think about it. We don’t want to end up stupid either!”

  • When asked about parents’ reactions she said:

They are usually right, but not always! Sometimes they are too strict. All the things they think about; all the things that make them worry so much are not necessarily true.”

  • Would you consider not having a mobile phone?

“It depends. When I’m with friends I don’t care. But not permanently. If I’m occupied with something I don’t care.”

  • How do you picture life without a mobile phone?

“ … ”  no sound, I guess this is beyond imagination.

  • Finally, what she would recommend parents tell their children:

Better to explain things to them, rather than simply set strict rules.  You want your phone more if it’s taken away.

What do we do?

The use smartphones is often causing conflict and controversy leaving parents speechless and baffled. What do we tell our children?

We cannot ban the use entirely and live them stranded in a deserted island. For them the phone is an extension of their identity. An identity currently under formation.

On the other hand, we cannot entirely endorse it.

Clearly, we need to find this magical balance. The right balance!

Striking a balance is not easy. The issue is quite sensitive for them … it is their connection to the world.

Moreover, a long discussion is not really a good idea. Teenagers are not known for their patience and their dialectic abilities. They are passionate, and they want quick answers. They want direct messages without much analysis. And that is probably better for parents too. Analysing a controversy with a teenager can be frustrating for both parties.

Epilogue

We love them and since we love them, we need to remember to respect them. Listen to their point of view without pulling rank. It is our responsibility to engage them in real life connections, to talk to them, to guide them and inspire them. Adolescence was never an easy time, not even before smartphones.

 Let’s entice them into living a full life.  A real-world life full of experiences and love and exploration.

What do you think? What approach would you recommend?

Let me know in your reply below.