In March, we had the pleasure of virtually hosting Cindy Muchnick and Jenn Curtis, authors of the acclaimed new book: The Parent Compass — A Look at Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness and Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World. Due to time constraints for the event, some questions in the Q&A Chat did not get answered. The authors were kind enough to provide their answers to those questions and they are included below. As the SMCHS Wellness Program, we welcome a continued dialogue about any of these and other parenting questions that may arise. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What are your thoughts about paying your child for good grades? It's an external motivator. My son wants money to buy the things he wants. He doesn't have time for a job because of sports and academics. We say "school is your job", is it detrimental to reward them with money for good grades?
A: Research shows that rewarding kids for grades or chores provide a short-term gain, but it’s also not a great habit to get into when considering long-term consequences (its effect on motivation). School is a job and rewards come in the form of personal satisfaction and parental verbal praise (more for the journey and effort as opposed to the outcome or grade). Verbally praising effort and positive attention for the process (not just the end result) allows our kids to develop self-sufficiency and a love for learning for learning’s sake. We recommend Jessica Lahey’s book The Gift of Failure for so much more good content on this topic.
Q: My kid finishes his homework on time, and keeps good grades. However, he spends a lot of spare time on social media and app games. He knows it’s not good, but he keeps doing that. Since last year, he has seldom read any books. I have concerns about internet addictions.
A: As long as your teen is happy, doing well in school, and turning assignments in on time, we recommend being less restrictive and concerned about social media time. Right now, with COVID still impacting all of our lives, social media does provide the social interaction that connects teens. Your student does need to complete reading assignments for school and classes, so at least your child is getting some reading done, just not likely for pleasure! And for the time being that is really ok. Also, consider that they often ”read” in other ways on their computers (e.g., news, website content).
The Parent Compass has an entire chapter on navigating technology with your teen. In particular, it might help to develop a technology agreement that outlines your family’s expectations as they relate to time spent on social media and other technology. Check out Chapter 6 for more tips.
Q: How do you not overstep when your kid is shy and does not want to speak up for himself or herself?
A: Ask open-ended questions and find any topic that does interest your teen to get him or her talking. Examples might be food, television shows, favorite apps — whatever makes them engaged. Role-playing difficult help-seeking scenarios also helps a lot for those who are introverted. Coming up with notecards outlining things to say in preparation for their meeting is perfectly fine, too. In conversations, get in the practice of gesturing first to him or her when asked a question. That is, try to temper yourself before speaking for him or answering a question aimed at him (even if it makes him a little uncomfortable at first). We all grow in the discomfort and by doing hard things.
Q: How can I relax when my child is learning to drive my car? Giving them control even though they are a good driver is quite anxiety-inducing when it has been my job to keep them safe.
A: This is a hard one! Most parents do white knuckle it! We recommend enrolling your teen in extra driving lessons until you feel comfortable that they are safe. Also, the magnets and signs that say “student driver” caution those around them that they are new.
Q: In reference to your example about a child changing a sport or activity...how do you know the difference between the child needing a push (just because they are discouraged with results) vs. the child whose interest is actually changing.
A: This is a gray area that certainly requires your parent's intuition and gut. You can openly discuss your concerns with your teen and convey your confusion. Make sure to find a time for this serious conversation that works for your teen. Ask him or her when is a good time to chat about something important. Bear in mind that sometimes taking a break can give teens the answer. After cooling off for a while, he or she might have more clarity on their dedication to the sport/activity. If he or she does stop the activity, ask your teen what his or her plan is in terms of filling that extra time.
Q: How do you support your child in a sport that you believe is dangerous? Football is his dream.
A: Protective gear! Also, try to be curious. Assuming you are going to allow him to play, show your support by your interest in his experience. Try to focus your conversations more on learning about his passion than on continuing to remind him that you don’t agree with it. And of course, learn how much your coach and school are doing around concussion prevention and education.
Q: Can you please repeat the email to get a signed copy of the book? Thank you.