Teens getting drunk at parties is nothing new, and by now, neither is the even more disturbing (though thankfully less common) practice among teenagers of sexting. However, a recent article from psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow reports that it isn’t just sexting; many kids are sharing explicit photos of themselves online.
Dr. Ablow offered some parenting advice which I found myself both sympathetic to, and genuinely upset by. He suggests:
- Regular drug-testing,
- Confiscation of cell phones,
- Removal of internet connectivity,
- Temporary suspension from school,
- Intensive psychotherapy.
But that’s it. That is all he recommends.
I have no problem with being tough in the face of real problems. But ultimately, good parenting is about more than the panoply of punishments and therapeutic outsourcing to which Ablow’s advice is limited. To be sure, real parenting wisdom should empower parents to unapologetically confront their kids, and to discipline them as necessary, but that’s not all it should accomplish.
Where is the advice that would help parents and kids engage each other, talk with each other, nurture mutual love and respect? Where is the advice that helps parents embrace the twin realities of real discipline AND unconditional love? It’s not either/or!
In dealing with our imperfect kids, what helps is affirming unshakeable love for them, combined with confidence that no one screw-up defines the totality of who they are.
I’m sure I would be less than calm, to say the least, if I saw one of my daughters in any of the photos described in the article. In fact, I’m sure that I’d have a major melt down…at first.? But somewhere along the line, and this is where the wisdom kicks in, I would also ask my kid some engaging questions, with real interest:
- What do you think led you to do this?
- Do you feel good about what you did?
- If not, how can I help you get to a better place?
Not easy to do – but difficult conversations are part of wise parenting.
I’m not a psychiatrist. But I know that in dealing with challenging moments in the lives of my own imperfect kids, what helps is the combination of affirming my unshakeable love for them, and my confidence that no one screw-up defines the totality of who they are. This approach, in addition to some of the tough love measures recommended by Dr. Ablow, is the most effective means of getting both my kids, and myself, to a healthier place.
Brad Hirschfield is the co-founder and co-executive editor of The Wisdom Daily. A rabbi, Brad has been featured on ABC’s Nightline UpClose, PBS’s Frontline, Fox News and National Public Radio. He wrote a long-standing column, “For God’s Sake,” for the Washington Post, and has also written for The Huffington Post and Beliefnet.com. He authored the book, You Don?t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism. Brad also serves as President of Clal, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center in New York City.