What Teens Can Learn from Ashton Kutcher: A Lot!

Parents should take the time to listen to his acceptance speech and have their kids and especially teens listen. There are many lessons in it. Kudos to Ashton Kutcher for taking the time to influence our kids in a positive and REAL direction!


Cell Phone Tips for Your Teens: Set Up Rules

Cell-ear fusion: every parent’s worst nightmare!

Cell-ear fusion: every parent’s worst nightmare!

The question is no longer whether you are going to give your teenager his own cell phone but at what age you allow him to have his own cell phone. This is largely going to depend upon you and the maturity level of your teenager (which is something that only you as a parent can gauge).

Whatever age you decide your teenager is ready, though, it’s good to have some rules in place.

In spite of what your teenager might tell you, unfettered cell phone use is not in his best interests right now.

Monitoring Software

It’s a good idea to install some mobile monitoring software on your teenager’s cell phone. This way, if you need to, you will be able to look up his call history, see what websites he has visited, and, most importantly, where his phone is located.

Do not, as tempting as it may be, sneak this software on to your teenager’s phone. Explain that you don’t want to have to use it but that it will be installed as a “just in case” precautionary measure.

Setting Limits

Set up limits on minutes and texts before you give your teenager his phone. Explain that every minute and every text costs money (even if you have an unlimited plan) and that the phone is not meant to replace the other methods of communication he already has at his disposal (house phone, email, Facebook, etc).

Decide upon a “phone curfew” (the time he has to turn off his cell phone each night). Make rules about whether or not you’ll allow the phone to be used in the car, at the dinner table, during family events, etc.

Sexting and Bullying

It’s okay to be freaked out by having to spell this out for your teenager, but you still need to do it. Sexting and sending provocative images between phones is a crime and one that he can be punished for, possibly for the rest of his life. Talk to him about this and explain why he needs to not give in to peer pressure when it comes to things like sexting, forwarding photos, etc.

Bullying via cell phone is certainly a first-world problem, but it is, nonetheless, a problem. Make sure your teenager knows how to handle any cell phone based bullying he might receive and that there will be severe consequences if he uses his phone to bully someone else.

With any luck, this will be the weirdest photo you’ll find in his phone!

With any luck, this will be the weirdest photo you’ll find in his phone!

Keep Private Information Private

Set up rules about the people to whom he is allowed to give his cell phone number (hint: only people he already knows in person. Period.). Talk about how easy it is for someone he doesn’t know to get a hold of his private information if he isn’t careful about protecting it on his phone.

You’ve had a similar talk already when you allowed him to start up his Facebook page. Talk about how the same sorts of rules apply to phones, too.


Have a plan in place for what will happen if your teenager goes over his minute and text quota. Will you have him pay you for it out of his allowance or money he earns at an after-school job? Will you have him work it off with chores around the house?

Quotas are more likely to be respected if there are consequences for surpassing them. Talk to your teenager about what is a fair punishment, but make sure this talk happens ahead of time so that he knows in advance that there will be consequences for breaking the rules.

The more open you are with the communication, the less you are going to have to worry that your teenager is going to do something life-alteringly stupid…because, obviously there will be at least a few dumb things done with that phone—that’s just how teenagers roll. If you keep the lines of communication open, though, you should be able to build a level of trust that allows you to sleep soundly at night…as soundly as the parent of a teenager can sleep, anyway.

Good luck!

Contributor:  Erin Steiner is a full-time freelance writer who covers a variety of topics for a wide range of websites including, but not limited to, Reputation.com.

Five Parenting Experts on Twitter

I must say, I am so  flattered and honored, not only to be listed, but to be among some people I look up to and feel they have been my mentors.

Follow me on Twitter @SueScheff

Do you think there are more parents on Facebook or Twitter?

Now, if I had to guess, I would say that more parents are active on Facebook than Twitter. Just going by the numbers, Facebook has over 750 million subscribers. I know that as a parent, I spend more time on Facebook.

However, I have found that Twitter is a great source for all types of connections and resources.
Just like anything on the internet there is a lot to sort through to get to the good stuff. That is why I wanted to write this post and share with you some of the best parenting experts that I have found on Twitter.
Of course, these folks have websites and Facebook pages too, if you don’t hang out on Twitter. I will post those links as well.

1. Brian R. King, LCSW@brianrking

Brian is a fantastic resource for families and children on the autism spectrum. He is an adult on the autism spectrum and is also the father of three sons on the autism spectrum. He has a unique and powerful perspective in serving this community and parents in general. He also has innovative programs, including webinars and coaching programs.
Website: spectrummentor.com
Facebook: HERE

2. Dr. Michele Borba@micheleborba

Dr. Michele Borba truly is a parenting expert and literally wrote the big book on parenting solutions. She is a Parenting Contributor for several TV shows, including the TODAY Show, Dr. Phil and MSNBC. Michele is a Psychologist, educator and author of 22 books, including “The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.” Oh yeah, most importantly she is also a Mom. She is also very friendly and personable on Twitter.
Website: micheleborba.com
Facebook: HERE

3. Dr. Laura Markham@drlauramarkham

Dr. Laura Markham is an excellent resource for parents. She has a website that is jam packed with great info that is helpful to parents of kids of all ages. Dr. Laura is definitely “making the world a better place…one family at a time.” She is both a Mom and a clinical psychologist. In all of her work she emphasizes self-care for parents and ways to always maintain a connected relationship with your kids. Really good stuff. You should check her out online.
Website: ahaparenting.com
Facebook: HERE

4. Sue Scheff@suescheff

Sue Scheff seems to be a tireless advocate for kids and teens. She is an author and parent advocate who has been on many TV shows, including 20/20, CNN, Rachael Ray and Dr. Phil. She is very active on Twitter and posts many helpful articles and resources on a daily basis. She is especially connected and fluent in youth culture and trends, which I appreciate with my focus on working with teenagers.
Website: suescheff.com and helpyourteens.com
Facebook: HERE

5. Suzanna Narduci – @suzannanarducci

Suzanna is a Mom of two and co-founder of TweenParent.com, which is a website for parents of preteens, also known as 9-13 year olds. Her website is really fun and easy to navigate. It is chock full of good parenting advice and relevant blog posts. She is fun to connect with on Twitter and always generous in mentioning my Twitter name as someone who cares about kids. Thanks Suzanna!
Website: tweenparent.com
Facebook: HERE

These are just a few of my favorite Parenting Experts to follow on Twitter. There are so many more.

Find more on HelpThisKidclick here.

Sue Scheff: Teens Learning Financial Literacy

During these difficult times, many families are struggling to pay their monthly expenses.  Some parents have lost their jobs, some families have lost their homes and there are those that are on the edge of both.  Living from paycheck to paycheck and raising a family has become more challenging.

What can our teens learn from this?  How can they be prepared financially for the future? As savvy as our teens are today with the information highway, called the Internet, many are still clueless about finances, budgeting, and saving money.

TheMint.org offers excellent parenting tips and advice.

As parents, we understand the importance of literacy. We sit for hours reading with our children. However, children must be “literate” about money matters, too.

Learning how to think about money and manage it wisely is an equally important life skill. We must patiently help our kids “sound out” the many ways to control money. Our kids will learn by doing. Some lessons will be thrilling. Others will be frustrating, even painful.

In the end, we hope that our children will grow into financially responsible adults. The rewards are life-altering: living within their means, free from the anxieties of debt, and secure in their future.

Tips from TheMint.org:

  • Every day, we need to create conversations about money not lectures, but casual commentaries on situations that arise naturally in our days. The aim? To teach children a) how to think about money and b) make responsible decisions in using it.
  • We must review our own financial habits so that we are modeling responsible financial behavior. Children quietly observe adults, and parents are “modeling” financial behavior all the time – whether or not we mean to.

For more information for parents, teachers and kids, visit www.themint.org.

Be an educated parent, you will have smarter teens!

Read more articles on parenting your teens and money.

Sue Scheff: Parental Consent and Body Piercing

Educator and Author, Sue Blaney wrote about a topic that many parents with teenagers sometimes face.  I know when my daughter first pierced her belly button, I thought I would die!  Now, as she is an adult, it is removed, but I won’t forget my frustrations and stress I went through.  Since the belly button was the “first” of several piercings!  Thankfully  -those teen years are behind me.

teenbodypiercingBy Sue Blaney

When the television media wants to interview me it’s usually not a political reporter, but I like (WBZ-TV’s) Jon Keller’s approach. When the Massachusetts state house began discussing imposing a parental consent requirement on kids under 18 who seek tattoos and/or body pierces, he wanted to speak with a parenting-teens expert about the topic. Here’s the clip from last evening’s news:

WBZ interview on Teens and Body Piercing

Of course, most of our interview landed on the cutting room floor, so let me tell you about this discussion. It’s a good one to think about.  Jon Keller often reports on what he calls the “Nanny State” …in this case government regulating what parents should be managing. And he asked me if regulating an age of consent has merit in this case.

What has merit, is parents – or somebody – advising kids to help them avoid choices they will regret. Will all kids regret their choice of piercing or tattooing? No; and some parents choose to have them too. There is nothing inherently wrong in it. For the parents who do object to tattoos and pierces, they usually object because they are difficult to un-do.

Parents have an important role to play here in guiding your teens to delay such choices until they are older; in fact, as I say in the interview, this is parents’ job. Due to teens’ brain development they do tend to be impulsive and are not well equipped to see the long term consequences for their actions. Parents have to put the brakes on in many areas,  this is just another example. You buy time and allow them to mature and develop, as they change their tastes and appearance and interests…until they have enough responsibility to make their own good decisions. In the case of tattooing and piercing 18 is probably a good age for such a decision.

Parents who are having such discussions with their teens might consider the following advice:

  • Discuss this when everyone is calm; don’t do it when emotions are high,
  • Allow your teen to express himself – even outlandishly if that is what he wants – using means that aren’t permanent. Let him dye his hair blue!
  • Emphasize that you are not trying to control her by saying “no,” rather you are guiding her because you care so much and don’t want her to make a choice she will regret.
  • Negotiate a compromise… give him permission on something else he wants that isn’t so bothersome to you.

If your teen is going to go ahead and get a pierce or tattoo anyway…and you are going to allow yourself to lose this argument, accompany her. Make sure the place is clean and meets your standards.  Also, negotiate the location of the tattoo or pierce… preferably in location that will be hidden by normal clothing.

In a perfect world parents wouldn’t need the state to make parental consent guidelines because parents and teens would talk and discuss such decisions.

We don’t live in a perfect world, however, so if the state puts up a barrier that will slow down this for kids, I’m for it.

Sue Scheff: Talking to your Kids about Death

Michele Borba  is an Author, Child Expert, Speaker and more.  Her recent Blog entry is one that I believe parents throughout the world can benefit from.   The loss of a music ICON as well as a beautiful woman that fought the “not-so-funny” word/disease called cancer and allowed the world to see her determination and love of life through the pain of this disease, is hard to explain to anyone, especially children.

Personally, I grew with both these Celebrities.  It was only about 2 months ago I turned my 10 year old niece on to the Thriller and Bad CD.  Yes, and when she went home to my sister, she insisted my sister go straight out and buy Thriller! (Good thing this was 2 months ago, I am sure today it wouldn’t be that easy).  The funny part of this story is, my sister had a hard time finding it at the store – she asked a sales person for help.  This sales person looked at my niece and asked her – what are you looking for “Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers?” – with that, my niece, in her not so polite way – said, “NO, I want Michael Jackson!”   Can you imagine, this ICON that my sisters and I grew up with is still touching our kids today.

When my (now 24 year old daughter) was only around 8 years old, would sing to Michael Jackson regularly and then performed it at a wedding!  What am I saying?  Michael Jackson’s music is timeless (not was, IS) as we all still listen to this incredible artist.  If you think his music is great, his videos are totally the BEST – he will be missed!

Here is Michele Borba’s Blog Entry yesterday – to read more about Michele, visit – http://www.micheleborba.com/

realitycheckHow to Talk to Kids About the Deaths of Michael Jackson & Farrah

Posted: June 26th, 2009 by Michele Borba

Many parents say that explaining death to children is one of the toughest topics. So if you haven’t had that talk, are you ready this afternoon? Chances are highly likely that your child will ask you about death if not today then sometime soon. After all, the passing of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett is not only front page news, but also the hot playground topic. And when kids are the ones delivering the news, chances are also high that the facts about death will be wrong. Now is the time to open up the discussion, explain death to your child in terms he understands, and answer any questions.

Children’s understanding of death differs vastly from adults, so here are a few points to review before you have that important  conversation.

  • Describe death in physical terms. Clarify that death means that life stops, the deceased cannot return, and the body is buried. Farrah Fawcett stopped breathing, eating, walking and so he is no longer feeling pain, worrying or hungry. “Michael Jackson died because his heart stopped beating.” Anything less simple and explicit can cause confusion and be misinterpreted by the child.
  • Be honest, open, and direct. Clear up any misunderstandings about death your child may have. Give the details your child needs to know. Withhold those facts that are not in your child’s best interests. If you don’t have an answer just admit you don’t know.
  • Be prepared for tough questions. The American Academy of Pediatrics says kids are most likely to ask these five questions: “What is death?” “What made the person die?” “Where is the person now?” “Can it happen to me?” “Who will take care of me?”
  • Avoid euphemisms. Keep in mind that your child may not grasp the concept of death and take your comments literally. So refrain from statements like: “He is in a deep sleep,”  “She was laid to rest.” “He slipped away.” “She is resting peacefully,” “She was very sick and the illness made her die” “God took her away.” Such comments are often confusing and can cause children worry the same thing may happen to them as well: (“If I’m sick I may die, too.” “If I go to sleep I will go to heaven.”)
  • Be prepared for tough questions. Michael Jackson was 50 and a father of younger children. Your child may ask: “Will you die?” It’s fine for you to answer, “Not for a long time. I’m taking care of myself and I’m just fine.”

Your child may ask the same question over and over. That’s just how children process information. Encourage those questions and tell your child to come to you anytime. You want this information to come from you so your child gets the right facts about death as well as any other topic.

A child’s understanding of death varies by different ages and stages. Here is a quick review of what to expect:

  • Preschool: Think death is only temporary like going to sleep (the dead might or might not wake up after a while). Difficulty separating real from fantasy so they often believe their thoughts or actions may have caused the death (especially if they were “bad). “Wishing hard enough” or “acting right” might bring the deceased back. Abstract concepts such as heaven are difficult to grasp Most assume they personally will not die: it happens only to others.
  • School Age: Gradually begin to understand death is final (the dead stay dead and aren’t just sleeping), but still need perspective. May think of death as a person or ghostly figure such as a clown, shadowy death-man, or skeletal figure. Believe thoughts can make things happen so some see the possibility of escaping from death if they are clever or lucky enough. May fear that death is contagious and other loved ones (themselves included) will “catch it” and die as well. Abstract concepts (heaven, an “after live” and spirituality) are still difficult to comprehend.
  • Preteens: Ten and up: Most understand that death is an irreversible and inescapable part of life and now aware of the possibility of their own death. More aware how their world will change and impact of losing a loved one has on their future (”Who will go with me to the football banquet?” “Who will walk me down the aisle at my wedding?”) Curiosity about the process of death develops and may ask for more specific details such as: “Is the body cold?” “Where does the body go?” 

bookbigparentingGet more Parenting Solutions by following @MicheleBorba on Twitter.

Michele’s new book is coming out this fall – The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.

Sue Scheff: Social Networking for Kids 12 and Under

kiddzchattIs your child, under the age of 13 and wanting to be part of Facebook or MySpace?
Check out a Social Networking site for younger kids to chat safely and parents to be involved.
Visit KiddzChat http://www.kiddzchat.com/default.aspx and explore the cool features your kids will enjoy and you will feel at ease.