Author Topic: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers  (Read 2219 times)

smoghat

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Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« on: February 22, 2019, 10:42:30 AM »
I don't know what to do with our kids, 16 year old girl and 13 year old boy. We can't seem to get through to them.

Neither has any real interests except video games. Yes, I played video games too, but I also would go bicycling (son didn't ride his bike once last summer), come back back with a backpack full of books from the library, program my computer, and so on.

Our son used to be better. He is in Boy Scouts, but he's getting bored of it (he will get Life this year, leaving only Eagle). He used to play D&D, but not anymore. Our daughter may be getting over this dead zone in her life, but trying to do anything with either of them is painful.

I'm thinking that somehow our FIRE status has impacted them as well. Maybe because we don't feel like pursuing the job we were in anymore? But we are both doing what we wantÖ my wife is running the sex ed program at the local Unitarian congregation and I'm pursuing art pretty seriously (or did they miss the huge show at an overseas art museum two years ago, oh and last year?). Also both of us exercise for at least an hour a day five days a week. They refuse too (if they were an ounce overweight, they'd be going running with me, but for now seem to have tapeworms). Maybe they think if they get our money and become FI, they can just play video games all day?

Both of them think everything takes too much effort.

I was thinking ok, I'm tired of this crap, we are going to do some educational things whether it like it not, but so many "educational" things seem geared to little kids, not teenagers. There's not going to be any wonder in going to the Museum of Natural History.

Any thoughts? I'd take them traveling more since that's a way to sneak in education, but our stupid school district gives them two weeks off during the school year (the yule break and then spring break), so that's out. Thoughts are welcome.
 

Jimbo

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2019, 11:04:51 AM »
They are teenagers, they want to do things without their parents.

Limit their screen time and let them find activities they like.

smoghat

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2019, 11:37:32 AM »
Wish they wanted to do things without their parents. They are almost helpless that way. We'll try limiting screentime again, doesn't seem to do anything.

galliver

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2019, 11:49:18 AM »
Get rid of the video games for at least a month. Maybe 3. Maybe more. Meaning lock them away, store a box with a friend, etc. Don't actually destroy them, it's dramatic but wasteful.

I got a C on a test or project or maybe 6 week term grade in 6th grade because I was playing a computer games a lot and letting responsibilities slide. I was banned from it until the next grades came out. Never happened again.

Oh, and take them camping for a week or send them to a backpacking/adventure camp. I worked for one, I think we straightened a few kids out.

ixtap

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2019, 11:54:16 AM »

For the record, your kids sound pretty normal. That doesn't mean they couldn't do better.

I like the camping suggestion, but I was planning to suggest you have an outdoor day (or at least out of the house) regularly. They might whine a lot at first, but they will get over it. Offer them an either or choice such as go carts or hiking, swimming or picnic, museum or soccer. Make it a regular thing and get them involved in the planning once you have established that it is happening with or without their enthusiasm.

Laserjet3051

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2019, 02:04:35 PM »
i have 2 kids, I know your struggle. The key is getting them out of the house. Doing educational things doesnt have to be musuems or lectures, seminars, etc.

I take my kids deep sea fishing and use the experience to teach them how to fish, how to identify specific species, how to read the wind and waves, how to gut and clean the fish, all the while identifying specific organs and other anatomic features.

I also take my kids camping and hiking. I use that time to educate as well. Species identification, explaining why certain things grow the way they do or address animal behavior and its adaptive advantages.

I can fortunately get one of my kids to go biking with me on short jaunts. I teach her about bike maintenance, teach her about traffic safety, aerodynamics, etc.

Everything in life can be a teachable moment. I do these things but Im not saying it is easy; they dont want to be with parents, and they are hooked on screen time. But each little success in plying them away from e-devices is a victory in and of itself.

Good luck.

smoghat

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2019, 07:32:58 PM »
Good advice, but getting them into the outdoors is easier than getting them exposed to something cultural, plus the weather is obnoxious here, too cold for hiking comfortably, too warm for skiing. The cultural stuff is the really hard thing.

AMandM

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2019, 06:52:15 AM »
At one time we had a recurring family event called FOE (Fun Or Else). It was mandatory, it was scheduled ahead of time, and various family members took turns choosing what it would be. The kids would groan about it in advance, but afterwards they almost always agreed that it had been fun.

Some of the things we did:
Watch a movie
Read aloud
Play a board game
Play a parlour game like charades
Work on a home-improvement project
Go for a walk
Go to a museum
Have a picnic
Go canoeing
Make something labour-intensive like wontons, cook them, and eat them
Help with a one-time volunteer event like a food drive or stream cleanup
Go watch a bike race or marathon happening nearby
And sometimes we'd play wii or a video game together

Long ago, before video games existed, when parents worried about kids watching too much TV instead, my aunt gave me some advice that has stuck with me. It's not enough, she said, to say "no TV," you have to give them other things to do. It sounds like that's what you're trying to do, so good for you! I would add that sometimes you have to do more than give, you have to make them do those things. Video games, even more than TV, are undemanding, gratifying, and hence addictive, but other things are actually more fun. 

Your kids are old enough that you can (and I think you should, out of respect for them) be completely upfront. "This much video game playing is not good. We're going to plan other things to do, all together."  Ask them for ideas of what to do; if they don't have any, wait a few weeks and ask again.  Don't worry too much about it being officially educational--your goal is really just to get them more aware of the real world, right? Choose activities that you think will actually be engaging, but acknowledge that your kids may not be see them as appealing. Get feedback afterwards on what they liked and didn't like about the activity and use that to guide your future selections.

Good luck, and congrats for being proactive! My pet parenting peeve is the *shrug* "What can you do?" attitude.

Freedomin5

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2019, 10:03:38 AM »
Huge caveat: I am just an internet stranger. I donít know you or your kids, and I am basing the following only on your post, so I may be totally wrong.

Okay, having said that, I was just thinking as I read your post, if I were your kid and sensed that this is how you feel about me, I wouldnít want to spend time doing stuff with you. I might even deliberately do the opposite to what you want me to do, just to spite you. Even if I secretly enjoy the activity youíre suggesting, I wouldnít show you that I enjoy it because I donít want to enjoy something just to make you happy or just to obey you, or just so you can be proven ďrightĒ.

The thing that seems to come  out most strongly is the negativity and criticism, the judgmentalism, and the ďI do it too but I at least manage it betterĒ holier-than-thou attitude.

Now, you may think your kids ar the bees knees and are super awesome. Perhaps that just wasnít highlighted in your post. However, Iíve been working with teens since I was in university, and my experience is that they will open up to you when you accept them fully as they are and show an interest in what theyíre doing, in a completely non-judgmental manner. By fully accepting them, they will often start to change. In other words, when you show an interest in what theyíre interested in, they may start to show an interest in what youíre interested in. This means there canít even be a hint of ďYou should be doing something more productive with your timeĒ tone of voice, because that statement implies a criticism that what Iím doing right now is not productive. And then I just get all defensive.

So I would start by asking if I could join them in playing  whatever video game theyíre playing. Try to figure out from their perspective why they play games. Donít put your own feelings into the interpretation. Do they play games to relax after a long day at school? Do they play games where they can chat with their friends as they play ó is the game a social venue? Do they play because it gives them a sense of achievement? Do they like the action ó are they bored? Start talking about the games, then gradually branch out to other area of life. And then branch out to other activities that might interest them, based on your conversations with them. Once they tell you why they play, then discuss and come up with activities that help fulfill that same need.


MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2019, 09:09:29 PM »
My growing up was the complete opposite. I was interested in everything and my parents could have cared less. Iím not sure what Iíd do with apathetic kids? Take them out of school and make them travel around the world with me for a year?

LiveLean

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2019, 06:54:47 AM »
We have two boys, ages 16 and 13. We feel your pain. Older folks who have kids will say something to the effect of "It's the same in every generation. We worried our kids were watching too much TV, drugs, alcohol, etc."

No. This is totally different. Screen addiction is something that's crippling a generation and nobody acknowledges it. When a kid carries around a video game system/TV in their pocket 24/7, it's totally different than dealing with kids watching too much TV (like me) in the '70s and '80s. Kids no longer play sports. Teenagers no longer babysit or mow lawns, let alone get traditional retail jobs since 20 something kids who can't figure out their lives have those -- if not kids with BS degrees. Kids no longer initiate any sort of play or activity with friends since their schedules have been micromanaged since birth. Even "playdates" get scheduled. They're Wonderful Sheep - as the best-selling book suggests - able to take direction and check the boxes of the many activities they're engaged in to build a resume for college, whatever. But the idea of taking it upon themselves to do anything? Not a chance.

Our 13-year-old is a Boy Scout and this, too, has been disappointing. In the 1970s, there were 3 million Boy Scouts and 25,000 a year reached Eagle. Today there are 750,000 Boy Scouts and 55,000 a year reach Eagle. That's because credential inflation creep has occurred here too and Boy Scouts is just another check-the-box activity. Still, the boys in our troop must be prodded along, only earning merit badges at summer camp since none of them take the initiative to earn them on their own. Thus every boy ends up in a mad dash to reach Eagle by his 18th birthday when a generation ago boys routinely got there by 15 or 16. And our troop moves heaven and earth to make sure each of these lollygaggers reaches Eagle.

Look at the what it has meant for pro sports. We have fewer Americans in the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball all the time. US Soccer is in shambles. (We're the only country stupid enough to play tackle football.) That's because our kids don't play sports on their own, obsessed about it the way kids in other countries are because our kids stare at screens all day. They go to sports practice - wonderful sheep - then come home and stare at screens.

Our 16-year old is a year-round competitive swimmer. He and his colleagues are probably among the few teenagers who can say they at least go two consecutive hours a day without staring at a screen. Still, we fight with him about screen time.

If you don't have kids - or if you raised kids before smartphones - you have no freakin' idea how frustrating this is.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2019, 06:56:29 AM by LiveLean »

jeninco

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2019, 08:35:26 AM »
I have 14 and 18-year old boys, and I agree with several posters here -- including Freedomin5.

On the one hand, you're asking your kids to fight against a well-funded, well-oiled machine that hires psychologists to keep them hooked on video stimulation. On the other hand, you need to be clear that although you dislike the behavior, you like the kids.

I suggest reading up a bit on how these games are designed to hook kids and keep them hooked. Then get the kids out of the house (and away from all screens) for a while, and just listen. At some point, you'll need to recruit them to be partners in avoiding being completely addicted , so you'll also need to provide other activities. (Yeah, that "should" happen on its own, but it's hard to compete with an entire massive well-funded industry that's devoted to ensnaring your kid's eyeballs.)

Also, can you have family-wide standards for not using screens? Take off one weekend day completely (everyone, including you?)? Phones on the counter for dinnertime?

Are there other things you can point to as a problem? How are their grades? Can you require X minutes of physical activity/day? (You'd better be exceeding that before you propose it.) It's pretty easy to point to health research for baselines of healthy living. Do they help cook? 2 meals/week? Do they help clean up? It's easier to justify a problem if there are things that aren't being done.

We also talk about the downside of being a passive consumer (which fits in with the overarching theory of this site).

LaineyAZ

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2019, 09:45:15 AM »
Thought of 2 specific ideas:
1)  take both teens to a volunteer event, like park clean-ups, or boxing up food for the needy, or painting homes, etc.  Check with United Way or other agencies on volunteer opportunities.  Each event only takes 2-3 hours but it does make an impact.  I did this with my son through my work at MegaCorp when he was a teen, and although he had the typical teen attitude, he did like the volunteer stuff and actually continued that as an adult when he got his own full-time job. 

2)  take the older teen to a college campus.  Even if there's no special event to see, just walking around and seeing teens barely older than she is will spark a desire to get into that environment and enjoy the perks of extracurricular activities.  Could be anything from chorus to debate team to robotics to drama club to semester abroad, and more.

My thoughts are coming from my own working-class upbringing where I had little to no exposure to anything like this.  My point is to at least guide them to many different things so they can decide for themselves what opportunities are there.  If they then decide to just continue playing video games, then it's not because of any lack of parenting on your part.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2019, 01:03:07 PM »
The screen time thing does seem like an issue that there are little solutions for. One thing you canít be is a hypocrite. You canít fail on about screen time, while being on your phone, tablet or computer all the time. You canít send mixed messages. MMM doesnít have a tv in his house, how many parents go that far? How many of you keep to a 1 hour a day limit on the screen outside of work?  And donít pull that parent BS about do as I say, not as I doókids arenít stupid. It begins with you. If youíre weak, your kids will learn weakness. I have no freaking idea how to combat this as I am addicted to my tablet and phone, like most. I donít play video games, but still. And then you worry if you are the mountain man who excludes all devices, then will you make your kids technologically ignorant in the world governed by technology?

That said, I do resist the whole these kids are so much worse than my generation bullshit. Thatís been said for 2000 years. Maybe it means parents being more engaged, more present and stop letting devices be the baby sitters so the parents can have their own me time?

AMandM

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2019, 04:02:02 PM »
I'm probably older than LiveLean, but I agree that this generation's screen problem is qualitatively different from previous ones. I have a 15yo, a 16yo, and five older kids, so the increasing addictiveness of what comes through screens played out over the course of my own childrearing. It's one of the reasons we don't own any tablets, we have one cell phone for the household with no games on it, and all computer use happens in the public rooms.

OP, you do have to walk the walk if you want your kids to spend less time on devices. Hence my list of suggestions of family activities.


AMandM

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #15 on: February 25, 2019, 04:12:35 PM »
And then you worry if you are the mountain man who excludes all devices, then will you make your kids technologically ignorant in the world governed by technology?

This is really not something to worry about, unless you literally mean eliminating all contact with computerized anything.  Restricting or prohibiting the addictive pastimes will not make your kids technologically ignorant--it's not like playing Assassin's Creed teaches you to code!  If anything, less time in passive consumption of digital media will give them more of a chance of learning how control is exercised in the digital world.

CarolinaGirl

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2019, 10:20:45 AM »
Oh OP...  I TOTALLY feel your pain and frustration!  I have 2 boys, 13 & 16, and weíve been struggling with the same issues as you.  Neither have been involved in sports since the single digits and LOVE their electronics.  For those that say that teens donít want to be with their parents...I call BS on that blanket statement.  Our kids donít mind spending time or going anywhere with us.  The issue is that they are Ďboredí with most things at this age.  They are too old for little kid stuff and not quite mature enough to appreciate grown up stuff.  We struggle with WHAT to do with them, not actually getting them to do something with us.  My 16 yr old is much better since he has the thriving teen scene getting him out of the house, but my younger son has nothing going on and prefers it that way.  Before someone says we should MAKE him participate in a sport...let me just say that we did try that route and it wasnít pleasant for anyone, especially the team he was on.

When we make them go unplugged, itís actually really funny.  They lie around for a day whining and napping like they have no other idea of what to do.  On day 2, they start to get inventive and ACTUALLY interact with each other and start asking us to do things with them.

Our struggle is finding balance.  They do interact with their friends virtually when they are playing the games, so we hate to cut that out totally.  I guess for me, it just comes down to micromananging them all the time and that gets exhausting.  I would have never guessed Iíd still have to be managing their day to day activities at these ages.  It definitely wasnít this way for my sister and I growing up.   

**Edit:  They are NOT allowed to game Mon-Thur nights during the school year.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2019, 02:06:52 PM by CarolinaGirl »

smoghat

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #17 on: February 26, 2019, 07:58:54 PM »
Oh OP...  I TOTALLY feel your pain and frustration!  I have 2 boys, 13 & 16, and weíve been struggling with the same issues as you.  Neither have been involved in sports since the single digits and LOVE their electronics.  For those that say that teens donít want to be with their parents...I call BS on that blanket statement.  Our kids donít mind spending time or going anywhere with us.  The issue is that they are Ďboredí with most things at this age.  They are too old for little kid stuff and not quite mature enough to appreciate grown up stuff.  We struggle with WHAT to do with them, not actually getting them to do something with us. 

Very true. I think some other posters are thinking of another era. Our kid are happy to be at home with us.

Had some reassessment since my post.

1. My kids donít do drugs, donít drink, donít fool around, or watch porn (Iíve got decent IT chops and have an idea of whatís in the network logs and I was way sneakier than they could ever be... I lived for that... on the other hand, if they are avoiding the logs they donít know about by watching porn on their iPhones with WiFi off, well I guess more power to them). We had a party the other day and I randomly left and came back and my daughter and her friends were playing a ridiculous dance video game together as well as board games. Thatís a lot better than my generation would have done. Thereíd have been pot smoke and beer cans everywhere in 5 minutes.

2. Son wound up playing with Legos out of the blue. My daughter said sheíd be interested in studying film in college. Sonís interest in retro games led him down a crazy rabbit hole to get this game working. Heís spent many, many hours on this. Heís learning something, if nothing else how maddening tech problems can be.



MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #18 on: February 26, 2019, 08:58:06 PM »
I'm just entering the teenage phase (kids age 12 & 13). Here's what's working for us. Minimum physical activity requirements + grade requirements. No gaming of any kind for the kids, save for when they go to the library on the weekend. (IF they don't have a soccer game or other activities going). The library unilaterally limits computer time to 30 minutes/account, which means no excess gaming. If we're traveling & there are flights involved, we also allow tablets. We don't use them for car trips, including 5-7 hour car trips to Lake Tahoe. We listen to podcasts, play music, talk, or the kids play Magic the Gathering in the back.

They share a cell phone, and the cell phone only allows text or calling. My nephew is a year older than my oldest. I saw how quickly he became obsessed with his phone, dropped out of sports, and really struggled with everything from friendship to his weight. We took much more proactive measures.

I'd say we're about standard in our neighborhood with our restrictions around gaming & technology. Note that we live in Silicon Valley, so I'm all too aware of how much technology has invaded my life, let alone my kids.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2019, 07:14:35 AM by MaybeBabyMustache »

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2019, 01:13:11 AM »
I'm just entering the teenage phase (kids age 12 & 13). Here's what's working for us. Minimum physical activity requirements + grade requirements. No gaming of any kind for the kids, save for when they go to the library on the weekend. (IF they don't have a soccer game or other activities going). The library unilaterally limits computer time to 30 minutes/account, which means no excess gaming. If we're traveling & there are lights involved, we also allow tablets. We don't use them for car trips, including 5-7 hour car trips to Lake Tahoe. We listen to podcasts, play music, talk, or the kids play Magic the Gathering in the back.

They share a cell phone, and the cell phone only allows text or calling. My nephew is a year older than my oldest. I saw how quickly he became obsessed with his phone, dropped out of sports, and really struggled with everything from friendship to his weight. We took much more proactive measures.

I'd say we're about standard in our neighborhood with our restrictions around gaming & technology. Note that we live in Silicon Valley, so I'm all too aware of how much technology has invaded my life, let alone my kids.

I love this! Thatís how Iíd like to operate, good work! I think parents have to nip that gaming bug early and stay consistent with it. But once you give in, youíre lost.

Pigeon

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #20 on: February 27, 2019, 06:02:19 AM »
We had a rule that the kids had to be involved in at least one school activity that had a moderately significant time commitment.  It was up to the kid to pick the activity.  We didn't care if it was sports, music, theater, yearbook, student government or what.  Our schools had a million different options to choose from.

I have one kid who thrives on constant activity and is happiest overscheduled to the max.  Obviously, she didn't need this rule, and honestly, I wish she could find a little balance with some down time.

My younger kid, however, would have been happy to sit in her room watching Netflix and YouTube or texting 24/7.  She grudgingly joined a select chorus group that met twice a week after school, and had performances.  Many of the new friends she made in that group were also active in theater.  So, because they talked up how much fun they had doing the musicals, she got involved in that, too.

Both kids benefited a great deal from these activities.  Making them find their own interests with their own friends worked much better for us than for us to drag them to do things they really aren't into.  At that age, their peers are much more motivational than their parents.

MasterStache

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #21 on: February 27, 2019, 06:19:55 AM »
OP, we can absolutely relate. We have a 14 year old who is still in Boy Scouts (only because we never let him quit as he has wanted). I sold his Xbox a couple years ago when that was a problem. He does have a smart phone and school computer, which really isn't good for games. He regularly demands more game time, and we reward him by giving him less so he knows he is not entitled to games. His grades are decent but he doesn't have a lot of friends. He has severe ADHD (an unfortunate inherited condition from his biological father). We were supposed to go to the Philmont Scout Ranch this past summer and went through a lot of training. All he did was complain the whole time. And when the trip got canceled due to wildfires, he was ecstatic. It sucked for me because we don't have much in common and thought this would have been a great bonding experience.

Anywho, we have some very specific rules for video games. He has to stay in Boy scouts and cannot quit until he makes Eagle Scout. He has to help out around the house. We pay him for that as well. And he must keep his grades up. His game time is limited tot he weekends as well. We determine the amount of game time based on how the preceding week played out. He has expressed a desire in wanting to get a job. Personally I think it's so he can spend more money on gaming/electronics, but whatever. IF it gets him out of the house and encourages some maturity/responsibility then I am all for it. Our neighbor coaches Lacrosse at his High School and asked my son if he wanted to videotape their games and practices and get paid for it. He tried it last night and liked it. Hope he sticks with it.

So yeah I've tried fishing, camping, hiking, etc. He doesn't enjoy any of it.  Our daughter does so I tend to do that with her. At his age he really wants more independence as most teenagers do. I'm not sure how much help I can be other than I feel your pain.   
« Last Edit: February 27, 2019, 08:13:21 AM by MasterStache »

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #22 on: February 27, 2019, 07:18:05 AM »
I'm just entering the teenage phase (kids age 12 & 13). Here's what's working for us. Minimum physical activity requirements + grade requirements. No gaming of any kind for the kids, save for when they go to the library on the weekend. (IF they don't have a soccer game or other activities going). The library unilaterally limits computer time to 30 minutes/account, which means no excess gaming. If we're traveling & there are lights involved, we also allow tablets. We don't use them for car trips, including 5-7 hour car trips to Lake Tahoe. We listen to podcasts, play music, talk, or the kids play Magic the Gathering in the back.

They share a cell phone, and the cell phone only allows text or calling. My nephew is a year older than my oldest. I saw how quickly he became obsessed with his phone, dropped out of sports, and really struggled with everything from friendship to his weight. We took much more proactive measures.

I'd say we're about standard in our neighborhood with our restrictions around gaming & technology. Note that we live in Silicon Valley, so I'm all too aware of how much technology has invaded my life, let alone my kids.

I love this! Thatís how Iíd like to operate, good work! I think parents have to nip that gaming bug early and stay consistent with it. But once you give in, youíre lost.

My observation is that it's nearly impossible to pull it back. We actually did, because we tried for moderation & failed. At least in the case of my kids (one in particular), he had no self regulation. No surprise, because it's like an addiction. We had to provide more support and ensure that he had the tools necessary to have a balanced life. For us, this was what it took. Almost all of his homework is done online, and they still use a ton of technology. We just have all of that incredibly limited, so you can't be doing homework, and then "accidentally" click into another tab & play a game.

Lichen

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #23 on: February 27, 2019, 07:39:02 AM »
I have two teen boys -- nearly 14 and a freshly minted adult. We had some rough patches, but generally they remained engaged with their family and outside responsibilities. I would like to gently suggest that you are approaching this the wrong way.

Quit seeing video games and screens as the enemy, instead consider them as the tools they are. Otherwise, you are fighting a losing battle. The first task seems to be that you need to reconnect with your children. You may still be operating in the outdated parenting dynamic of raising younger children. As teenagers, they are young adults and things go so much more smoothly once the parent adjusts to that dynamic. It was very hard for me with my eldest -- I had to send him to camp for two weeks in order for me to reset and see him as a 14 year old young man instead of as a child.

Next, embrace your children's interests. Often, our kids already have a spark lit inside of them but we don't see it because it's not our spark or we don't think the spark is good enough for our child. One child loves video games? Put in a request for him to choose a game he thinks you both could enjoy, then set up a weekly "date" to play together. Hell, you could even supply a few special treats or forbidden snacks (woo, soda!) to make it more fun. The screen won't be the enemy anymore, it will be the jumping off point for a shared interest. After a few weeks of this, don't be surprised if he becomes more open to other activities.

Another idea is to combine the love of screens with something you enjoy. Geocaching is the first thing I can think of. You use an app to find hidden "treasure." There are physical caches you can find along beautiful hiking trails, urban caches you can pick up cruising around the neighborhood, and various cultural caches that take you to hidden gems in your area that have natural or cultural significance.

Finally, we quit ultimatums around age 13. We had honest talks about how they were in the new phase where it was time to start learning how to be adults by practicing. Unless there was threat to life or limb, we delivered few rules without first discussing it with the kids. Some parents are against this, perhaps afraid of the power dynamic shifting. It worked well for us, though. Instead of being seen as the enemy, as so many of their peers  see their parents, ours treat us as more of collaborators and mentors. Sure, it means we get a few more uncomfortable conversations that we would rather avoid, because the kids share (almost) everything, but it's well worth it.

Also, don't be hurt when they need to withdraw. This is a tough age, they need that alone time and even that mindless entertainment time. Keep in mind that previous generations needed this too, it's just their outlets were different and they achieved this my poking around in the woods, putting together puzzles, listening to music while laying on their bed staring at the ceiling for hours, or various other mindless tasks. Think of ol' Tom Sawyer staring out that schoolhouse window and daydreaming for hours on end. You can bet he would have been staring at his phone and doing that today.

Mrs.MLM

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #24 on: February 27, 2019, 09:16:54 AM »
I'm just entering the teenage phase (kids age 12 & 13). Here's what's working for us. Minimum physical activity requirements + grade requirements. No gaming of any kind for the kids, save for when they go to the library on the weekend. (IF they don't have a soccer game or other activities going). The library unilaterally limits computer time to 30 minutes/account, which means no excess gaming. If we're traveling & there are flights involved, we also allow tablets. We don't use them for car trips, including 5-7 hour car trips to Lake Tahoe. We listen to podcasts, play music, talk, or the kids play Magic the Gathering in the back.

They share a cell phone, and the cell phone only allows text or calling. My nephew is a year older than my oldest. I saw how quickly he became obsessed with his phone, dropped out of sports, and really struggled with everything from friendship to his weight. We took much more proactive measures.

I'd say we're about standard in our neighborhood with our restrictions around gaming & technology. Note that we live in Silicon Valley, so I'm all too aware of how much technology has invaded my life, let alone my kids.

MaybeBabyMustache, so you said no to gaming systems at home? That's our plan, but we didn't know it was feasible. Our children are only 2 and 6, but they are already the only children in our friend group without tablets. So far, the oldest hasn't noticed but I'm sure she will soon.

I've read that people in Silicon Valley, who presumably know more about it, are limiting their children's access to technology more than average parents and that definitely motivates me to do the same.

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #25 on: February 27, 2019, 12:21:33 PM »
@MrsMLM - we do have gaming devices in our house, because really any tech can be used for gaming. Laptops, tablets, phones, etc. All of the adult phones are password protected. All of the kids tablets are put away & not accessible except for travel, or are the school provided tablets, which have incredibly limited capability. For the laptops, we've installed software to control the tech available, and use wifi shut off controls at our house. We also have an Xbox that's not connected, but we occasionally boot up for a birthday party or sleepover, maybe 2x/year. It is in no way ready for someone to turn on & play without a lot of effort & conscious decision making by the adults

FLBiker

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #26 on: March 04, 2019, 02:03:47 PM »
And then you worry if you are the mountain man who excludes all devices, then will you make your kids technologically ignorant in the world governed by technology?

This is really not something to worry about, unless you literally mean eliminating all contact with computerized anything.  Restricting or prohibiting the addictive pastimes will not make your kids technologically ignorant--it's not like playing Assassin's Creed teaches you to code!  If anything, less time in passive consumption of digital media will give them more of a chance of learning how control is exercised in the digital world.

Agreed, this is nonsense.  I got my first smartphone about 2 years ago and certainly spend less than an hour on screens outside of work.  And, for work, I do data analysis / database development.  I'm 42, and I always thought - man, as a self-taught computer guy I'm going to get left in the dust by these digital natives.  Totally not my experience.  They're great digital consumers, but not creators.

business325

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Re: Lighting a Spark in Teenagers
« Reply #27 on: April 01, 2019, 01:25:36 AM »
Handling teenagers is hard job, you have to be patient and listen to what they need. You have to be very involved in their every day activities and try to do things together. Not easy at all when you have a job and house chores. But I think communication is the most important. And accept that you can't control everything.