A Brief Guide to Teen Lingo

Dear Mr. Dad: My 12-year-old daughter recently had a slumber party with two friends from school. One of them left her phone. I texted my daughter so she could tell her friend, and two seconds later got this back: DO NOT READ ANYTHING ON THAT PHONE!!!!! Clearly she was trying to hide something, so I immediately opened the phone and started reading the texts—especially between this girl and my daughter. With all the abbreviations, I could hardly understand what they were talking about. But based on my daughter’s response, I’m worried. Should I be? And was I wrong to read those texts?

A: Yes and no. Your daughter’s screaming response could simply be a demand for privacy, which is something you should try to respect. However, her response seems so panicky that I think you were right to snoop. The fact that you couldn’t understand what you were reading doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything to worry about—your daughter and her friend could be having completely innocent conversations that you’re just not cool enough to understand (very few adults are). On the other hand, it could be exactly the opposite.
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How to Keep Your Teen Safe and Insurance Rates Down

Every year, around 14,000 teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are killed in car crashes. It’s no wonder that parents are afraid of letting their children hit the road on their own—and that they take every possible precaution to keep their children safe. It’s also no wonder that insurance rates for teens are incredibly high. Fortunately for parents of teens everywhere, there are programs in place that can help keep kids safer on the road, and keep their insurance premiums as low as possible.

Safe Driving Courses
There are a number of safe driving courses out there that go above and beyond the training that traditional driver’s education courses offer. Most of them are aimed at young adults 15-25. They usually last about four hours and teach young drivers about:

  • How to avoid underestimating risks on the road.
  • The danger of driving with knees (something young drivers—and plenty of adults—commonly do).
  • Dealing with peer pressure, as well as texting and other handheld distractions.
  • State and local laws.

According to the National Safety Council, these safe driving (sometimes called “defensive driving”) courses reduce the risk of car accidents for young drivers.

And here’s your bonus: Many insurance companies discount the cost of young driver insurance for those who complete the course.

Good Grades
As an added incentive for students to do well in school, good grades = lower insurance premiums. Research shows that students who do better in school are less likely to get into accidents on the road. Young drivers will generally qualify for a good student discount if they:

  • Have a 3.0 (B average) GPA or better or are on the honor roll/Dean’s List
  • Are under age of 25
  • Are enrolled full time in high school or college/university.
  • Can provide proof of academic performance (generally a report card issued by the institution)

Teen Driving Contracts
American Automotive Association (AAA) developed a parent-teen driving contract in coordination with various insurance companies, and the idea has really taken off in the last five years. These contracts aren’t legally binding; they’re simply an agreement between parents and teens that lays out in writing what the expectations are for the teen before he or she takes the keys and hits the road alone. Contract can be altered to fit individual needs, and are auto-filled with recommended guidelines for each category. The categories are fairly extensive, and include:

  • Privileges such as curfews, number of passengers allowed in the vehicle, and weather conditions that would limit driving.
  • Rules the teen is expected to follow, such as basic road rules, keeping in contact with parents, and potential risks.
  • Consequences for irresponsible behavior and driving while the keys are in the teens control.

Teen driving contracts help teens gradually step into the responsibilities of driving, make them aware of the consequences for not following the rules, and still allow them to have some freedom. In some cases, insurance companies offer discounts for parent-teen driving contracts as long as they are kept on file with the company.

Financial Responsibility
One great way to keep teens responsible behind the wheel is to require that they bear some of the financial costs. They’re much more likely to be attentive and cautious behind the wheel if they know that consequences for their failure to do so will come out of their pockets. At the very least, you should make sure your teen knows that he or she will be financially responsible for:

  • Any tickets, whether for moving violations or parking.
  • A set dollar amount or fixed percentage of the cost to repair the damaged vehicle if the teen is at fault.
  • The cost of insurance on the vehicle. The teen should pay the difference between your old insurance rate and your new rate with the teen driver added.

Giving your teen a financial stake won’t reduce the cost of insurance, but it will help keep your teen safer on the road.

When it Comes to Making Career Choices, Let Your Child Do the Driving

Dear Mr. Dad: My daughter just turned 15, and I want to start preparing her for the future. Specifically, I want to make sure that she’s on the right career path, whether than means going to college, trade school, or something else after she graduates high school. She’s only got a few years left, and I’m a little concerned that she doesn’t seem to have much direction. How do I steer her toward the right career choice?

A: As parents, we all want our kids to succeed in everything they do, from getting good grades to finding the right life partner to landing the perfect job. But parenthood is an ongoing lesson in the difference between control and influence. When our kids are young, we’re pretty much in control and we’ve got a huge amount of influence. As they get older, they take on more and more control over their own lives. We have influence, but a little less every day. And by the time they’re around your daughter’s age, we have almost no control at all, and whatever influence we still have is much more powerful if we wait until we’re asked to help rather than offering unsolicited advice (which a lot of teens and young adults will see as an attempt to control them anyway).
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Tips to Keep Your Teen Driver Focused on the Road

teen driving

teen driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 3,328 people died in distracted driving crashes on U.S. roads in 2013. That number puts more than a few dads on edge when thinking about their teens getting behind the wheel, as it takes time and experience to master the focus needed to drive safely. Help your son or daughter by sharing information about common driving distractions as well as tips on how to avoid them.

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Myth of the Spoiled Child

Alfie Kohn, author of The Myth of the Spoiled Child
Topic:
Challenging the conventional wisdom about children and parenting
Issues: Parents are accused of being permissive and overprotective, unwilling to set limits and afraid to let their kids fail. At the same time, young people are described as entitled and narcissistic. But there is no scientific evidence at all to support these claims.

Being a Happy Student + Are Teens Really Narcissistic


Paula Franzese, author of A Short & Happy Guide to Being a College Student
Topic:
How to be your best self in school, at work, and in life
Issues: 10 reasons to be happy about school; guideposts to live by; how to assure success and significance in school; finding your career path, applying for jobs, and handling rejection; handling conflict or adversity; how to succeed in a class that’s boring.



Alfie Kohn, author of The Myth of the Spoiled Child
Topic:
Challenging the conventional wisdom about children and parenting
Issues: Parents are accused of being permissive and overprotective, unwilling to set limits and afraid to let their kids fail. At the same time, young people are described as entitled and narcissistic. But there is no scientific evidence at all to support these claims.