Skip to content

18 Rules To Keep My iPhone? No Thanks.

January 3, 2013

I woke up this morning to many posts about Janell Hoffman, the mom who gave her son an iPhone for Christmas which was accompanied by a list of 18 rules that he has to follow if he going to be allowed to keep “his” phone.  I commend Janell for taking responsibility as a parent and laying out some expectations for her son.

In fact, most of the rules are pretty reasonable and cover a lot of the mistakes that young people make these days with such powerful communication devices.

However, I question some of the rules.  So many of them seem to be about controlling her son and his behaviour I suspect that they are going to work against Janell’s goal of teaching her son to be “a well rounded, healthy young man who can function in the world and coexist with technology.”

Rule 1: Who owns the phone…mom or her son?  She says “you are the proud owner of a new iPhone” and then in Rule 1 she says “it is my phone.”  I hope that not all gifts are given that way.  Her son needs to learn to take care of and take pride in himself and his things.  He won’t be able to do this if everything is on loan from mom.

Rule 4: Turn the phone off at night?  Don’t communicate with your friends by phone if you would not call them?  The way that teens communicate has changed.  It always has and it always will.

Rule 5:  It seems to me that you are trying to teach your son a little about self-regulation.  That’s going to be tough when you are regulating every moment that he is able to use his new phone.  What better place to learn that self-regulation than at school.  There are rules at school, about when a student can and cannot use a cell phone.  If it gets taken away by a teacher…he will have learned his lesson.

Rule 9:  Allow your son to have realistic conversations with his friends.  You have set out a great guideline…but it should be just that, a guideline.

Rule 10: I’m glad that you have created a healthy open environment for your son.  There are things that he is going to search for online.  That is okay.  He will have questions and things that he will want to discuss with his friends.  That is okay.  Thirteen may be too young for pornography…but he should have some privacy with his internet time.

Rule 15: This may be a better suggestion than a rule.  I hope you don’t tell your son what clothes to wear, what movies to watch.  Don’t tell him what music to download.

Rules 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 17:  All wonderful.  So many parents are afraid to say things out loud.  Stating these things lets your son know that you know what happens when young people use these devices.

In the end, I believe that you and your son are better off.  It is better to have received his iPhone with a list of expectation than to not have had any discussion about it at all.  But please…give your son a little more freedom and allow him to make mistakes.  His mistakes and the lessons that follow will be the greatest way for him to learn right from wrong and how to navigate the social world that he (and his phone) are now a part of.

Michael is a social worker and therapist in Toronto.  He specializes in working with teens and their families.

Michael will be presenting a workshop Talk To Me, Not Your iPhone in February 2013. Please contact Michael for more information.

January 1…Set Those Goals.

January 1, 2013

We’re just a few hours into 2013.  Happy New Year.  Now is the best time to forgive yourself for everything you did not accomplish in the last year.  Let’s look toward the future.

You don’t always need a date or time to start that thing that you want to accomplish, but some people do…and what better time than a new year.

Whether your goal is to be smarter financially, lose some weight, take more time for yourself, get better grades in school, get and stay organized, reconnect with old friendships…here are my 6 1/2 suggestions on how to achieve the goals that you want!

1. These are GOALS, not new years resolutions – Notice how up until that last sentence, I never used that term.  While the new year can be a great motivator, it should not be your reason for wanting to make change.  What happens too often, is people hit the second week of January and say “well, I’m already off track, I might as well give up.”  Goals are meant to change and be adjusted to fit your life.  You can use the new year as a time to make change, but remember that change that can happen at anytime.

2.  Be Specific – Being specific about your goal leads to the most success.  Look at your overall goal and think about what it is that you want to achieve.

3. Make it Measurable – Now you know what you want to achieve and how you will do it.  The next step is to give yourself a tool to measure that you have achieved it.

4. Ensure your goals are Attainable and Realistic – Setting a goal is something that we do when we want to make positive changes in our lives.  Setting attainable and realistic goals will ensure our success.  Unattainable and unrealistic goals will not be achieved and will leave us discouraged when we inevitably fail at achieving them.

5. Make sure it is Time-Bound – You’ll need to set a date so that you’ll know when you have to re-evaluate your goals and also when you have achieved them.

6. Write it down – You want to see your goal at least once everyday.  Put it somewhere that you will see it.  In your closet, on your bathroom mirror, as the wallpaper on your cellphone.  Being reminded of your commitment to yourself will ensure that you achieve what you set out to do.

6 1/2. Don’t be upset if you don’t achieve or have a setback.  That’s life.  Take it in.  Try to understand why it happend…and move on.

Please contact me if you want to know more about setting goals, achieving your best or making 2013 your best yet!

Wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy new year.

Being Home For The Holidays. Enjoy Your Winter Break.

December 24, 2012

Two weeks ago, I wrote to many of you who were on the last leg of your Semester 1 University or College exams.  Congratulations!  You finished the semester and hopefully it was everything that you hoped it would be.  Next week we’ll talk about setting great goals for the New Year.

Now you’re home.  The laundry is done.  You’ve had a few home cooked meals.  And you’ve had the chance to sleep off your last few weeks of studying (or) cramming and living at the library.  Being home feels good.  But in just a few days you’ll be wishing you were back at school and living on your own again.

Here are my 6 ½ tips to surviving the next two weeks at home before you go back to school.

1.  Adjust To The New Normal – Its true, no matter how your family is composed, they have had to adjust to you not being home and now you’re throwing off the whole routine

2. Respect The Rules – Being on your own is great.  But your family and home have rules.  You must follow them.

3. Help Around The House – Little things.   Make your time at home positive.

4. Talk – You learned a lot this semester.  Show off what you learned!

5. Communicate – True, living on your own is great!  You don’t have to tell anyone where you’re going or when you’ll be home.  They’re not babying you.  They’re interested!

6. Adjust Your Habits – You’ve worked hard the last four months.  You’re on vacation.  You deserve to sleep all day, or stay out late with your friends.  But you don’t want your parents thinking that’s what you do every day at school

6 ½. Spend Time With Your Family – They missed you.  And they’re happy that you’re home.

Want to talk?  Michael is available to do telephone or online sessions.  Develop a therapeutic relationship in Toronto and continue it while you’re away at school.

Feeling Good As You Send Your Kids To School

December 17, 2012

Like so many of you, I watched the terrifying images of the events in Newtown, Connecticut over the weekend.   Like so many of you, I thought about all those affected by this tragedy.  And like so many of you, I started to think about my loved ones and my community.

As the weekend draws to a close, I think about my own Monday Morning, walking through the door of the elementary school where I work (one of 6 elementary and high schools) where I provide counselling and support to students, staff, teachers and families.  On Monday morning I will think about all of the students that will walk into their schools with the expectation that they will be safe

For parents, there will likely be some fear and anxiety as you get your children ready for school on Monday morning.   And if your kids know about the incident on Friday, they will likely be a little anxious themselves.

Here are my 6 ½  tips for getting your kids through the door of their school on Monday morning so that parents and children feel safe.

1. Validate Their Anxieties – If they are scared or nervous to go to school, tell them that you understand and ask what you can do to help them feel more comfortable.

2. But Don’t Let Them See Yours – If you are more scared than they are, they will pick up on that and it may escalate their feelings.

3. The School Is Your Friend – If they are really nervous, call the school, explain the situation and ask them for support.

4. Don’t Bring It Up Unless They Do – Kids spend a lot of time thinking about themselves, even the sensitive and caring ones.  The morning before school is often spent thinking about the day ahead – not reflecting on the news of the weekend.

5. Monitor The Media – Like above, if you can keep it from them while they are getting ready, they are less likely to think about it.

6. Take That Extra Moment – Even if your kids don’t know why, give them a hug and a kiss, write a note and leave it in their lunch, send an extra special text message.  It will make everyone feel good.

6 ½. Say I Love You.

Too Late To Study…Time To Cram

December 10, 2012

Winter Break exams are almost here. Or perhaps for you they’ve already started. As you spend your days in the library or in your room with your face in your book your thoughts go between “its just days until I’m lying on the beach” and “why did I spend so much time on Facebook and not enough studying.”

Lets face it – you left most of your studying to the last-minute. Your early mornings spent searching for a seat in the library wouldn’t be as stressful if you had taken and reviewed your notes, gone to all of your classes and did the readings…all things you promised yourself you would do when school started for you in September.

I’m not trying to get you down on yourself. We’re being realistic here. I want you to say “I’m glad I’m not the only one.”

At this point though you’re not studying. You’re cramming. That’s right – studying is the process of devoting time and attention to acquiring knowledge on an academic subject. Time and attention. You’re cramming, the act of attempting to learn large amounts of information in a short period of time.

So here it is, my Top 7 ways to ensure that your end of term cramming is most successful. (I made it 7 because I know you’re busy and don’t have the time to read through all 10).

1. Eat – Regular meals. Especially breakfast. But nothing too heavy or you’ll be tired. And avoid excess sugar, it will make you too hyper.

2. Stay positive. – If you start to get negative about your exams or studying you’ll end up filling your head with negative thoughts.

3. Review past tests, exams and questions. – The best predictor of future tests is often past tests.

4. Take a 5 minute break every hour. – Stand up. Stretch. Drink some water. A proper 5 minute break will help clear your head and allow to focus for the next hour. This is not a good time to smoke a cigarette. Smoking will raise your blood pressure, give you a head rush and cloud your ability to focus.

5. Write down the key ideas/formulas on a sheet of paper and keep on studying from that sheet. – Repetition is important.

6. Turn off the Wi-Fi. – If you’re using a computer, remove all distractions. Face the screen towards the biggest crowd of people. You’ll be less likely to re-watch The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show if you’ve got everyone in the library watching you watch it.

7. SLEEP. – Give your brain and your body the time to refresh. Aim for at least 6 hours a night. You’ll be better off. But set your alarm…especially if your exam is in the morning.

Talk To Me…Not Your Phone

December 9, 2012

Michael is going to be presenting “Talk To Me, Not Your Phone” an opportunity for parents to learn how to engage with and speak to their children and teens in a way that they will connect.

When: Thursday January 24th 2013, 7pm-9pm
Where: The Village 9505 Keele Street, Vaughan

For More Information Please Call:


May 24, 2012


Tonight Michael will be a panelist for a very important discussion about Teens and Drug Use.

7-9pm At William Lyon Mackenzie CI.