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My friend Ashley and I were having a conversation about teenagers and parenting when she explained a program for teenagers who are about to get their drivers license.

Ashley Snell is an insurance agent for State Farm. Before insuring new drivers, Ashley sits down with them and discusses a myriad of safety issues along with showing them a video—all part of the “Steer Clear Safe Drivers Discount Prograrm.” Ashley gets real with kids and is one more voice, besides the parents, that teens will hear before they embark on their journey as a driver of an automobile.

The discussion prompted a few of my own thoughts:

Simply by virtue of their developmental stage, teens question and challenge everything; i.e. rules and authority (among others). It is often said that teens think they know everything. While that statement is not entirely exaggerated the opposite is also true.
Teens are aware that they don’t know everything and are still very interested (although they will never let you see this side of them) in learning.

A couple of stories with a few good tips:
1. I knew a teenager who would “borrow” the family car without permission.

Tip: hold on to the car keys and please be vigilante, know where your teen is and what s/he is doing and don’t, please don’t assume, that because s/he is a “good kid” s/he will always make great choices.

2. I knew a teenager who got a speeding ticket in the first month of driving.

Tip: don’t hesitate to over supervise your teen’s driving in the first months—go out with your child and observe—perhaps you sit with a newspaper in the passenger or back seat with a goal of observing your child’s instincts and tendencies while behind the wheel. When you get home, turn your observations into “teachable moments” sharing just a few of your thoughts. Remember to keep your comments brief.

If you would like to learn more about Ashley’s program please feel free to contact her at ashley@sandydodd.com over at State Farm Insurance.

Don’t be afraid to speak up and be heard.

A parent of a child in the hospital believed the doctors knew what was best and that the nurses acted in the best interest of her child. She didn’t ask a lot of questions, nor did she share her concerns in fear that the hospital staff may perceive her as annoying and questioning of their practice and care of her child.

The reality is that the professionals rely heavily on the information of parents. Mothers and Fathers know their children. Your actions as parents are guided by your intuition and your gut which can be invaluable to your doctors in their treatment planning.

Trust your judgement and believe in yourself as a parent. You are and will always be your child’s best advocate. If you are having trouble with this, talk to another parent who seems strong and secure in herself/himself and his/her parenting or contact a parent coach.

I have recently have had many opportunities to observe and be involved with moms of infants.

Many of us who are not “in the trenches” don’t really know what it feels like for the mom with her newborn because you are not her and because no two experiences are the same.

For those of you who are spending time with a mom of an infant, fight the urge to say or imply–I know or I’ve been there. Fight the urge to offer suggestions –unless clearly asked.
Moms of newborns can feel very alone. Your best gift to them is to listen, without judgment and without interruption.

A few closing tips for you moms of infants: Don’t do this alone—it is way too hard! If family and friends are not an option, check with your hospital or pediatrician’s office for mom/infant groups; or surf the net—others are in similar positions as you.

In all of my years working with families I have heard one message consistently from children. They don’t hear. Their window of interest is short and their window of attention may be shorter.

Parents often feel that more is better as if explaining for 5 minutes will make all the difference.

However the opposite is true. Explain as briefly as possible -perhaps 2 or 3 sentences (fewer, if the child is under 7). Try using 10 words or less as a reminder. And, 5 words or less as the 3rd reminder.

Did you know that:
Words carry the least of our message
tone of voice carrying much of our message and
Facial expression and body language carrying the greatest part of the message.

Examples of the final messages:
For a 2 or 3 year old: finger wagging, eyes stern, voice calm/stern
“no”
For a 7 year old: child’s name “Sarah, remember the rule” in a calm stern voice
For a 12+ year old: “Tom, we’ve already discussed this.” with calm voice and body language.