The Family Summit

Now is a great time to call a family summit meeting. Leaders of world powers gather around a summit table and discuss their mutual issues. Basketball officials call time out and huddle around the scorekeeper’s table to iron out a questionable infraction. Executives of huge corporations sit around a conference table to hammer out solutions and strategies. We’re not suggesting that these sessions always produce positive results or the ideal resolution. But a meeting of the minds is preferable to a showdown at high noon.

Send a memo

If it is true that the family is the most basic and vital social influence in our lives, then the family deserves to have its own summit. So, dad and mom, plan a family summit . Send out a call, note, email or text message. Schedule the get-together at a time that is convenient for everyone. (That may require a special summit all its own.)

The Summit Agenda

Think of all the good things a family summit would do for you and your teenager. It would allow you to reacquaint with one another. Imagine being able to put names with those faces that you pass in the kitchen every morning.

A family summit would provide a way to avoid scheduling conflicts. Why run the risk of committing the family car to the senior prom and an engine overhaul on the same day! What a great opportunity to pull out the social calendars and do some cross-checking.

A family summit would allow every member to catch up on one another’s lives. “What? I have a new baby sister!” “You were expelled from school—three weeks ago?”  “You have a new job? At a deli? Your deli? You bought a delicatessen!”

Three Powerful Words

A family summit would provide every member the chance to say “I love you” to those vaguely familiar but wonderful people sitting with you around the table. Yep, we know, it’s kind of cheesy … or corny … or cheese-corny. But can you think of a phrase in any language that packs a greater, more profound wallop?

We admit that upon reflecting on those years when our kids were home, we both wish they would have said, “I love you” more often. It’s true.

Launch Your Own Campaign

Go ahead, schedule a family summit. Remember, however, that a summit is a meeting of the minds—not a managing of the minds. Take turns suggesting topics. You’ll want to pass the gavel of leadership. And most importantly, you’ll want to listen as other family members share their thoughts and concerns. If any part of it proves to be a positive experience, suggest that you hold a family summit on a monthly basis. Call your own family caucus. Make family the change you can believe in.

By dads2dads

Pressure Cooker

How many dads out there are old enough to remember what a pressure cooker is? We don’t mean your workplace, although that may describe your office to a T. We mean the kitchen appliance that mom used to use to cook roasts and other homemade delicacies. A pressure cooker is a kitchen apparatus that uses intense heat in a confined space for cooking food. The heavy steel container has a lid that seals tightly. There is a metal gauge on top of the lid. When the heat builds to a certain level, the only way for the hot air inside to escape is through a small opening on the gauge. When that happens, the gauge shakes, rattles, dances in circles and emits a hissing sound. The pressure cooker has blown its top! At least, that’s how we remember it.

Sound familiar?

Dad, have you said any of the following pressure-cooker statements to your teenagers?

  • How can you expect to win first place with that kind of attitude?
  • Is that really the best you can do?
  • If you can get a 3.8 grade point average, then you can get a 4.0!
  • If I can do it, then certainly you can do it.
  • Don’t mess up—everyone’s watching you.
  • Bring home that trophy!
  • I expected a lot more from you.

At first glance most of these statements seem OK, constructive and instructive. We parents use some variation of them, as do coaches, counselors, teachers, and employers. We’ve all used them. It’s part of living and surviving in a competitive society. It’s part of our drive for excellence. Go! Fight! Win!

What behind the push?

It also explains the stress, sometimes unwarranted and unreasonable, that we parents place on our kids. As dads, as parents, we should ask ourselves: What’s my motivation for exerting pressure on my son or daughter? Do I have his or her best interests at heart? Or am I trying to fill a void in my own life? Am I mindful of the fact that my teenager is already putting immense pressure on him/herself in order to find acceptance and belong?

Push with finesse

Pressure isn’t necessarily bad. Occasionally we all need a nudge to keep us on our toes — from being too satisfied with where we are. It helps us to look forward so that we can advance and improve and achieve in a smart way. This is where finessecomes into play. Parents, teachers, coaches, counselors—all of us are supposed to apply just enough pressure to challenge our kids to stretch. But there’s a limit. As adults and as mentors, we need to handle with care and know when pressure may become destructive.

Let’s teach our kids to stretch, to reach beyond their grasp. That’s the way they grow. Let’s also recognize their limitations. Unreasonable expectations—pressure without finesse—are just a lot of hot air.

By dads2dads

Teen Brain

Being a father of teens is an exasperating, patience-stretching, bewildering, scary experience.  Our teens are often perplexing, sometimes worrisome, and frequently unpredictable. Often, we dads will find ourselves saying, “What were you thinking?!” meaning, “You weren’t!” We can’t understand why teens make the decisions they do or act in such risky and uncertain ways.

Teen Brain Imagery

A fascinating article in the National Geographic provides some insight. Technology has now shown us a window into the teen brain. Imagery has illustrated how our brain takes much longer to develop than we had ever thought. It turns out that the brain reaches 90 percent of its potential by the age of six, and it spends adolescence reorganizing, making new pathways, integrating experience and decision making, and just generally becoming quicker and more efficient.

Why They Do What They Do

Through brain imaging, scientists have discovered that there is a physical reason why our sons and daughters act as they do. They are works in progress. It is important to remember this when we are wondering why they frequently forget to pick up their dishes, drive in neutral down a steep hill at night with their lights off, eat nothing but cabbage soup and grapefruit for two weeks, or date the boy who brags that he’s bedded every candidate for homecoming queen. It’s “immature brains.”

But looking more deeply, it turns out that adolescence, often seen as a period of self-centeredness, angst and impulsiveness, is also a period of adaptation. Where we see trouble, scientists are beginning to see children building the skills necessary for a successful life.

The Risky Teen

Teens take risks. We frequently describe it as … stupidity. Again, we wonder, “What were you thinking?!” But according to recent research, teens view risk differently than adults. Risky behavior usually reaches its pinnacle in the mid-teen years. It is driven by the value teens place on reward. Experiments have shown that when the reward is high or when peers are present and acceptance or rejection is close at hand, teens engage in greater risk. Social rejection is a threat to your teen’s existence. S/He places a great value on being accepted by peers.

So the next time your teen does something you judge as foolish, bone-headed or risky, try to remember that s/he is trying to successfully move into the larger world, outside your safe and comfortable home. Your teen is building successful life skills, learning to be more adaptive, reaching out and making connections.

Your teen’s quest is to become more socially comfortable, overcome challenges and thrive in new environments. Indeed there is a purpose behind what teenagers do. It is important to understand that. However, it remains our job, both dad and mom, to provide the structure and guidance to help teens get to that larger world in a safe manner.

By dads2dads