Adolescent children are an everyday challenge, but clinical psychologist and author Dr. Wendy Mogel says there’s hope.
“Young people are entering puberty younger than they used to, so even parents of 7-year-olds are dealing with teenage-type issues,” said Mogel,, author of New York Times best-seller “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” and “The Blessing of a B Minus.” “They are not going to go from childhood to junior statesman. They have to go through this rough passage.”
Mogel will share her views on parenting at “B Minuses and Skinned Knees,” a free presentation on Tuesday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m. at Kentucky Country Day School, 4100 Springdale Road.
Mogel said that good-intentioned, loving parents often create problems by doing too much for their children, giving them a sense of entitlement.
“We want them to have self-respect and good judgment and self-control before they go (to college),” she said. “And they can’t do that if parents have been behaving like a cross between a Sherpa, a butler, a concierge, an ATM, a talent agent and the secret police.”
Some parents become so consumed with having their children be successful in school that they “miss the fantastic three-ring circus of adolescence and their incredible exuberance and their enthusiasm and how funny they are and how full of life they are, because we are so nervous.”
But failure can be good for teens.
“Trial and error learning is incredibly important for teenagers,” she said. “They need to make dumb mistakes to get smart. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”
Mogel uses Jewish teachings as part of her parenting philosophy, although most of her audiences are not Jewish, or religious for that matter.
“The Talmud teaches that every parent must teach their child to swim, and it means we’re raising them to leave us, and that it is just as important for them to be good people as it is to be good at things,” she said. “We need to tend to their character as much as their SAT prep.”
Parents sometimes focus on minor things like test scores, which can lead to anxiety in children, yet they are naive about more serious problems. Mogel advocates a firmer but gentler approach to parenting.
“I want parents to have a set of pretty firm rules and then to be relaxed about the rest, instead of a whole bunch of mushy rules that the terribly articulate, skilled young attorney of 13 talks them out of all the time,” she said.
Parents shouldn’t do things for children that they can do for themselves, Mogel said, and they should have chores to make them productive family members even if they say, “I have a test.”
Instead of constantly being alarmed, parents should be more alert, Mogel said.
“Think of them as a seed that came in a packet without a label, and you can’t tell what season they’ll bloom or what kind of flower you’re going to get, and you just want to pick the big weeds and provide sufficient food and water and stand back and wait.”
For more information on “B Minuses and Skinned Knees,” which is being sponsored by the KCD Parent Association with assistance from Northwestern Mutual, call (502) 423-0440 or visit www.KCD.org.
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