5 Financial Mistakes Parents Accidentally Make

KeysJohn Coleman is a father of three living in Tennessee. He shares tips related to smart money management, family life, and home improvement.

Teaching kids about money is essential if they’re going to grow into financially responsible adults. Unfortunately, the school system doesn’t do it, and if you think the Internet is a good resource, well, let’s just say there’s a good bit of misinformation out there. As a good parent, the responsibility falls entirely on you. When you take on this task, however, it’s important to practice what you preach, and there are far too many financial mistakes that parents commonly make. Most of these don’t happen on purpose, but it’s how you deal with them that’s important.

1. Falling Into Credit Card Debt
The average American adult carries $3,037 in credit card debt according to the Federal Reserve. Do not let yourself fall into that trap. If you don’t currently have a credit card balance, commit to never carrying one. If you do, devise a pay-off plan and put it into motion immediately. Reduce your monthly bills, save on groceries by clipping coupons, and refinance your home loan if it makes sense.

2. Not Saving for Retirement
The National Institute on Retirement Security reports that roughly 45% of American households have nothing saved for retirement. Just as the responsibility of teaching your kids about money is yours alone, no one is going to invest in your retirement for you either. Get signed up for a 401k program if one is available through your employer. If you already have one in place, boost your contributions. Make adjustments to your monthly finances – like eliminating impulse purchases and cutting home energy costs – and you won’t even notice the difference.

3. Failing to Have an Emergency Fund
No one can predict when a major medical expense is going to hit or if your car is about to break down. Don’t let these things throw your finances for a loop. Sign up for the best cash-back credit card available and put all your rewards toward an emergency fund. It may take some time to build one up sufficiently, but you have to start somewhere. Set up your direct deposit so that a small amount is transferred into your emergency fund each pay period.

4. Not Having a Save-First Mindset
One of the best things you can do when managing your finances is to adopt a “save-first” mindset. Get all your saving out of the way at the beginning of each month or right after each paycheck. Then, you can spend anything leftover with confidence. Participating in a 401k plan can help as well, and also consider setting up automatic contributions to your retirement accounts.

5. Not Starting a Budget
Creating a budget can seem like a pain, but it’s a necessity, plain and simple. How are you ever going to reach your savings goals if you’re spending more than you make each month? To simplify the process, sign up at a website such as Mint or PearBudget. It’s a quick and easy way to get an effective money management system in place.

Final Thoughts
You won’t necessarily pay the price for any of these mistakes in the short-term, but you’re almost certainly going to further down the road. The economy is not out of the woods yet, retirement programs like Social Security and Medicare are facing difficulties, and you never know what the future has in store for you. Get a firm grip on your finances starting today and you’re going to be that much better prepared for whatever life presents you in the years ahead.

Can you think of any other financial mistakes parents accidentally make?

4 Ways Parents Can Help Teens Relieve Stress

stressed, stressed teens, anxiety, anxious, overwhelmed

Vatsala is a 16-year-old from Amritsar, India. She enjoys listening to music, reading books, writing, doodling and her favorite subjects are English and Math. She wants to grow up to be a TV Journalist.

Stress is something that everybody has on their minds and, if not catered to properly, can turn out to be really bad for a person’s mind. Teens these days have a million worries—social, academic or familial problems, fitting in, getting bullied, relationships and popularity! Everything can stress a teen out. They can always turn to their friends, but the satisfaction they can get by talking to their parents is something friends can’t provide. Here are a few ways parents can help their stressed teenagers relieve that stress.


1) Talking

Talking might sound like a cliché, but it is really effective. Make them tell you their woes and their problems. Give them the advice you think will help them.

2) Family Time

To get their mind to something else, plan family time once in a while! Play, laugh and celebrate without any reason! Be spontaneous!

3) Freedom

Give teens a little freedom and space to go out with their friends and be alone for a while! Hanging out with friends can be peaceful.

4) Don’t Impose

Don’t impose your own pressures on them. Keep the atmosphere in the house calm and happy. The atmosphere affects the mind and sets the mood.

Teens might not come to talk to you, but try to indulge in their lives because in the end parents are the ones who come to their rescue!

Want to see 90210 star Shenae Grimes in a dramatic leading role? Check out the latest movie by executive producer Elliott Broidy called “Sugar”. Shenae’s leading role takes her to Venice Beach, California where she ends up making lasting relationships with other homeless teens. Rotini Rainwater and Elliott Broidy’s Sugar is inspired by real events and has goals to educate people on homelessness in America. Watch the trailer below!

Photo Credit –  Photo Literacy


What’s Wrong With Asking, “What’s Wrong?”

This article is by our teen intern Layla. She is 14 years old from California.  She loves to read and spend time with friends.

Teenagers can have lots of problems, a fact they want everyone on earth to be aware of. These problems can vary from school-related issues to friendship woes and the touchiness concerning these subjects that seems to have lasted since the Dark Ages. So when parents sense that their teen may be troubled by something and want to help, they generally resort to asking, “what’s wrong?” which generally increases your teen’s testiness (I know it seems impossible but, believe me, it is) and decreases the chances of him or her actually telling you what’s wrong.

“What’s wrong?” can feel patronizing and slightly insulting- it makes teens feel like something is wrong with them. Personally, if my parents ask me what’s wrong, I roll my eyes and say, “Nothing. God.” And yes, I do that even if something actually is wrong. Why? Because in my irritable state, I feel offended and am less inclined to talk about why I’m upset.

However, not all hope at parent-teen communication is lost. Parents should try using different questions or methods for getting their teen to open up to them. But parents should also accept that sometimes, no matter how inoffensively they approach their child, they will not always talk to you. They may be keeping mum for a multitude of reasons: they want a little privacy, it’s not a major problem, etc.

Here are a few alternatives to “what’s wrong”:

1. “How was your day?”

Alright, so your teen probably (most likely) always answers this question in five words or less. But even if they don’t regularly give you a particularly detailed answer, your child is always forced to reflect upon his or her day for a moment or two when being asked about it. If something happened that day and you ask about it, your teen will think about their day and possibly feel up to talking about whatever transpired.

2. “We can talk if you’d like to.”

Reassuring your teen that you can always talk is a gentle invitation to conversation. It’s subtle enough to not sound offensive but also direct enough for your teen to understand you feel that something’s upsetting him or her and are free to talk. Your teen won’t feel pressured to talk to you but will be aware of the option.

3. “Is something upsetting you?”

If you feel like something is distressing your teen and they’re not talking to you about it, this is a to-the-point way to get him or her to talk to you. Though this question is very similar to “what’s wrong?”, the different wording will make your teen less at fault. “What’s wrong?” can make it sound like you’re asking, “What’s wrong with you?” But if you ask what’s upsetting your teen that places the (of course unintentional) “blame” elsewhere.

Real-estate agents say a deal is all about location, location, location. Parent-teen relationships are all about communication, communication, communication. However this can be very difficult in a world where teens are infamous for telling their parents, “OH MY GOD LEAVE ME ALONE”. They are so notorious for saying/yelling/screeching this phrase, in fact, that is has developed into a cinematic stereotype. But when your teen tells you to leave him or her alone, about 95% of the time they don’t entirely mean it.

Sometimes being left alone is great- it can give one time to think things through and come back to a situation with a fresh perspective. But other times, teens just want to talk but grow uncomfortable at the prospect of doing so. So, as a parent, it’s important to keep communication lines open and approach your teen gently and invitingly.

Talking With Your Teens

I recently did a radio show Fire It Up with CJ on Talking with your teens.

Show Summary:

  • Segment 1: How to get your kids to open up to you?  Vanessa shares a simple tech tip to separate your child’s school and home life.  Learn how to read your child’s face and whether they are experiencing fear about a situation at school or home.
  • Segment 2: How to tell if your kids are lying? You want to know “What happened”, but you aren’t sure if your child is telling you the full story.  How can you tell if your kid is lying to you?  What body language can you look for when someone is lying?
  • Segment 3: How to have a difficult conversation with your teen about drugs, sex, etc? 4 steps to prepare yourself for a difficult conversation and an example of what a productive conversation would sound like.  2 simple tips for getting your child to trust and open up to you during a challenging conversation?
  • Segment 4: How to place respectful and well-considered limits on social media? The good and the bad of social media for teens.

Listen to the show here: Talking With Your Teens

Talking to Kids About Drinking And Driving

On June 22, 2013, drunken driver Matthew Cordle hit and killed Vincent Canzani. In a somber YouTube video, Cordle publicly confessed to causing the fatal crash and pledged to accept responsibility for his actions.

This tragedy sends chills down the spines of parents everywhere. How can parents protect their children from drunken drivers, and how can we help our youth understand the importance of driving sober?

Cordle’s YouTube confession, with 2 million views and counting, gives parents an impetus to have a difficult but necessary conversation with their children. Here are some tips for broaching this sensitive topic with clarity and poignancy:

1. What do they know?
When you first sit down with your child, it is important to find out what they already know and have heard about drunken driving. This is important for all ages, because it allows you to dispel any myths and work off what they have already heard at school or from friends. Here are some questions you can ask depending on your child’s age:

  • Do you know what it means to drive drunk? To drive under the influence?
  • Have you ever talked about drunken driving at school?
  • Have you heard stories about drunken driving? What do you know about it?
  • How do you think drunken driving happens?

Read the rest of my article at HLN!

What’s the big deal with failure?

ID-100177579By Jackie Charley, Author of ‘Unlock the Cage: Empowering parents to step out of fear into freedom’

Why are we all so afraid of the ‘F’ word? It seems to be the one thing we run from, or cover up at any cost.

What is the big deal with failure?

It’s always portrayed as such a negative thing. Even schools, which are supposed to be the seat of learning, make harsh distinctions between a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Yet why categorise something as ‘failed’ when it represents such a brilliant opportunity to learn? That’s not failure, that’s an open door.

“Endlessly protecting young people from any experience of failure is unhelpful. It means that failure becomes shameful, incomprehensible and much harder to bear when it happens.” Nick Luxmore, Psychotherapist and Counsellor at King Alfred’s Academy, in the UK.

The thing is nobody likes to fail, even less to be seen to have failed. But my feeling is that we need to stop running from failure.  We need to stop pretending that our kids will never fail, and we need to stop trying to protect them from doing so. Failure is a fact of life. Let’s stop treating it like the big dark bogey-man, the elephant in the room, the one thing we hope will never happen.

Let’s just take away failure’s power to scare us by holding its hand. It will be our constant companion for as long as we have breath in our bodies, so let’s take the sting out of its tail and sit down, as if with a friend, and learn what it can teach us.

How do we do that with our kids?

Well, there are quite a few things that can be done to turn failure into your best weapon, but here are two great ideas for starters:

  1. Empathise.

Let your kids know that you really understand how disappointed or frustrated they feel when things don’t go as they’d planned.  Often we so desperately want to fix things for them, to be the time-travelling hero who puts it all right again.  But even if that were possible it would be giving them a very unreal picture of the world.  What they need to hear is that we understand.  Of course, that doesn’t take away from the fact that failure can really hurt. It stings, it cuts and it thumps us in the chest. So let your kids acknowledge their emotions and cry, shout and stamp about.  That’s OK. In fact, if we truly acknowledge strong emotions they normally only last for about 90 seconds, so let them do just that and then they can move on, sit down with this ‘new friend’, and learn.

  1. Teach them that there is no failure only feedback

Read, repeat and inwardly digest this phrase. In fact, why not make it a family mantra since all our failures and mistakes are simply telling us how not to do something; we just need to work out what to do differently next time round. Let’s join the ranks of Thomas Edison who ‘failed’ 999 times before he found the right filament to make his light bulb work. Or Michael Jordan who missed 9000 shots and lost 300 games during his career but went on to be the greatest basketball player of all time. If these guys had taken failure too seriously they would have just given up. But they didn’t. They just learned from what didn’t work until eventually they found out what did.

Failure is a means, not an end

“There’s a common misconception that children develop resistance by encountering failure. That’s a myth. Children develop resilience by dealing successfully with failure.” Dr Laura Markham

Their persistence, their willingness to try again and again produces a tough internal characteristic psychologists call ‘grit’. It’s earthy, it’s real and it’s nurtured by sweat and tears. As Dr Christine Carter of Raising Happiness says: “We humans develop grit by encountering difficulty and learning to cope with it.”

Wouldn’t it be brilliant if our homes became complete ‘no blame’ zones? Places where our kids made mistakes but weren’t blown out of the water for them. Places where they dared to try new things, to discover, to mess up, and for it all to be part of the fun of learning. In this kind of home kids would learn how to look at failure without fear. They’d learn that experimenting and working out what went wrong when the honeycomb toffee hit the ceiling instead of just bubbling slightly in the pan, was just par for the course. And they’d try again. They’d become resilient and learn how to deal with disappointment. They’d learn how to adapt and change. These skills will serve them well both in their personal lives and in their future employment. What boss wouldn’t value someone who’s prepared to pick themselves up when things go wrong, who has a fearless desire to learn? Hey, what robust and independent young people we can help them become.

So, I dare you to add ‘the love of failure’ to your family’s list of values.

You up for it?

Let me know.

Image used courtesy of stockimages/ freedigitalphotos.net/

Contact details:

Jackie Profile PicWebsite: www.unlockthecage.com

Email: Jackie@unlockthecage.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FreetoParent

Teen Voluntourism: A New Teen Travel Trend

Courtesy of Flickr User Mike Baird
Courtesy of Flickr User Mike Baird

Are you looking for a different kind of vacation opporuntity for your teen? A new trend called Voluntourism provides an amazing opportunity for young people to do good with their vacation time and give back while exploring the world.

Families can pick a destination and type of project. Here are some example voluntourism trips:

  • Wildlife conservation in Peru
  • Endangered species work in Africa
  • Building Schools in Southeast Asia
  • Helping Orphanages in South America

How can parents and teens voluntour successfully? Here are some tips for you:

1. Don’t Expect Luxury

Voluntourism is about helping others–it’s not about luxury hotels or big buffets. So be sure to get in the right mindset.

2. Practice A Language

While many trips do not require foreign language skills. if you took Spanish or French in High School consider signing up for a trip in a country that speaks that language. This can help you practice and your connection with local people.

3. It’s Not Free!

Usually voluntourists pay for travel expenses and sometimes even lodging or food. While this is far less than a vacation, think about it as part of your investment in doing good.

4. Safety First

Check the political climate and area crime reports before booking your trip. Also be sure to get immunizations and a full medical check-up before leaving.

5. Do Your Due Dilligence

Make sure your program is legitimate and has had success in the past. Go through a reputable organization and get references from past participants. Here are some great programs for teens.

Voluntourism Trips for Teens

Books Every Parent Should Read: School Counselor Book Recommendations

This article is by our resident school counselor at Radical Parenting. Check out her bio and other articles or submit a question at School Counselor’s Corner: Q&A with Dr. A. 

As many of you know, here at Radical Parenting we are trying to encourage literacy and reading. So our resident School Counselor Dr. A. has chosen Books Every Parent Should Read as well as some recommendations for students. Check out her top list:

Books Every Parent Should Read

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Wendy Mogel

Dr. Mogel uses Jewish teachings to address issues that every family can relate to, including how to raise self-reliant, appreciative children.  This book is full of stories that make you really contemplate your approach to parenting and the balance in your family. 

The Five Love Languages for Children, Chapman, Campbell & Campbell

Children all experience and show love in different ways.  This book helps you determine which love language best suits your child.  The more you know about how to connect, the stronger your relationship will be and the more effectively you can communicate.

Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things I Want My Kids to Know, Hal Urban

An easy to read book that pinpoints twenty principles to review with your family.  These topics come from Hal Urban’s years of teachings and are great connecting points for parents and grandparents to spur discussion with the children in their lives.

Parents, Kids, & Character: 21 Strategies to Help Your Children Develop Good Character, Helen Legette

I love a good book on character and this book provides an easy to follow strategy to developing your children’s inner soul.  High expectations and good role modeling are the keys to help guide your children to success in life.

Helicopters, Drill Sergeants, and Consultants: Parenting Styles and the Messages They Send, Jim Fay

This short handbook presents a number of tools to help manage common issues that arise with adolescents.  Detailed suggestions help parents try new, practical tactics to increase their effectiveness as parents.

Get Out of My Life, but First Could you Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager, Anthony E. Wolf

Yup, every parent of an adolescent has had that moment where they feel their relationship is suddenly going down the tubes.  Anthony Wolf does an excellent job of using a little humor while touching on all of the basic issues of adolescence and providing some guidance on how to get the parent-child relationship back on track.

For Parents of Young Adults & Tweens

How to Hug a Porcupine: Negotiating the Prickly Points of the Tween Years, Julie Ross

As a parent, it is tough to gauge what is normal tween behavior and what you need to worry about.  Julie Ross helps parents understand what their child is going through and how to handle some of the tough situations that present themselves during adolescence.

Words Will Never Hurt Me: Helping Kids Handle Teasing, Bullying, and Putdowns, Sally Ogden

Sally is a brilliant author and presenter whose passion for teaching children resiliency is obvious.  She uses humor and clever techniques to give children options on how to address teasing, bullying, and putdowns without looking or feeling like a victim.

The Roller Coaster Years, Charlene C. Giannetti & Margaret Sagarese

Covering the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development, this book helps provide insight into how to handle the early teen years.  One of its best attributes is making parents feel like they are not alone with the struggles they are going through with their adolescent.

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 9.17.09 AMBest Books for Young Children

One, Kathryn Otashi

This is a fantastic children’s book for any age.  The beautiful illustrations help make an impact about the power of one and how any individual has the strength to make a big difference.  One of my favorites!

The 7 Habits of Happy Kids, Sean Covey

An engaging set of value-driven stories with lovable characters, this book ends each short story with comprehension questions, discussion points for parents, and activities to work on the moral addressed.

There’s a Big, Beautiful World Out There, Nancy Carlson

Ever feel like your child is a real scaredy cat?  This book shows that although we all have fears, the biggest fear would be to miss out on all this “big, beautiful world” has to offer.  A great reminder for all of us!

The Invisible String, Patrice Karst

Separation anxiety can be a tough subject to address.  The Invisible String addresses separation both through distance and through death through the invisible connection we all have with the people we love.  This is one to cherish.

Today I Feel Silly, Jamie Lee Curtis

If you are trying to teach children to identify emotions, this book is a great start.  With humor and great illustrations, this book uses relatable situations to engage children and their parents too!

Please is a Good Word to Say, Barbara Joosse

Having trouble with manners in your house?  This book helps remind children how important etiquette is to remember.  Harriet is an adorable character with an answer on how to do everything just right!

I Miss You: A First Look at Death, Pat Thomas

When a family member passed away, I searched for an age-appropriate book for my young children. With an honest, sensitive approach to death, this book addressed death as a natural part of our life cycle and normalized the grief process.

Body Language for Back to School

Are there any body language tips for back to school time? Of course! Here are a few tips for parents to make the transition from summer to school easy:

Relaxation is Contagious
Most people don’t realize that body language is contagious. Just like when you see someone yawn, you yawn. This is because of our mirror neurons. We have mirror neurons that like to copy those around us. So, as the first day of school approaches be sure to keep yourself relaxed and calm. If you are nervous, your kids will feel it. So when talking about school keep “relaxed body language” so your kids mirror that. This is relaxed body language:
  • Keep your shoulders loose
  • Use normal volume
  • Don’t cross your arms
  • Head held high
Be Confident Before You Walk In
Most people don’t know that not only do our emotions change our body language, but also our body language changes our emotions. Researchers from Harvard Business School have found that when you have confident body language you begin to feel confident. If you have nervous body language you begin to feel nervous. So, before kids go to school consider pumping them up with the following tips. You can do this by playing some favorite music on the way to school or over breakfast to get kids loose and moving.
  • Smiling
  • Feet firmly planted
  • Hands above head or spread wide
  • Shoulders back and head up
Body Language for Bullies
What should a kid do if he or she has a bully? Above all else they want to avoid “victim” body language. This is the body language we all do when we lose a race or feel sad. Bullies sniff this body language out. What to avoid:
  • Head hung low
  • Body hug
  • Tucked feet
  • Knees turned in
  • Blocking behavior
Then there is winner body language and this is what kids should practice doing to show strength and confidence–remember it helps them feel this way too:
  • Find the sun (chest and head up).
  • Leave torso open
  • Shoulder width feet
  • Arms loose
Again, you mirroring good body language is best of all. We lead by example.
cover hi res copy