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My teen isn't lazy: Parents blast stereotypes in #ToMyTeen campaign

The teenage years can be tough — for both parents and teens. And complaining about the rocky adolescent years is all too easy.

But a new social media campaign aims to show a side of the teen years we rarely see: Parents publicly declaring what they like about their teenagers.

Today
Keonte Smith poses with her son Kaden.

As the mom of a 12-year-old, Keonte Smith never knows whether she should give Kaden space or talk to him constantly to gain insight into his life. When a friend told her about the #ToMyTeen social media campaign, she used it as an opportunity to re-connect with Kaden.

“[It] forces you to actually sit and talk with your teens,” she says. “They are at a stage in their lives where so much is going on.”

The two snapped a few photos of themselves as part of the project, a rare occurrence.

“He used to be really interested in being in pictures with me,” says Smith, a blogger who lives outside Annapolis, Maryland. “Now, I have to bargain with him.”

#ToMyTeen encourages parents to empower their tweens and teens by dispelling myths about them. Parents take pictures of themselves answering four questions: "My teen is _____;" "My teen isn’t _____;" "Dear parents of younger kids ______;" and "Raising teens is ______."

Then they post the images on Twitter or Facebook. The social campaign is sponsored by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents over-the-counter medicine manufacturers.

Today
Scott Melville, president and CEO of Consumer Healthcare Products Association, takes part in the campaign.

“There’s clear research that self-confidence is highly correlated with lower risk taking in teens,” says Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a parenting expert.  

Parents can build self-esteem in their teens and tweens by complimenting them in a deliberate way, focusing less on looks and more on behaviors. “Praise them for their efforts and actions,” Gilboa says.  

What she likes about #ToMyTeen is that it allows parents to focus on the good in their teens and tweens while using social media.

Peggy McKibbin’s daughter, 11-year-old Mairead, took her photos.

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Peggy McKibbin shows off her signs.

“She thought it was a lot of fun being a part of that,” says McKibbin, a school nurse who lives outside of Dover, Delaware.

A misunderstanding with her 17-year-old son Sam provided McKibbin with a chance to chat with him. When he read the sign “My teen is not lazy,” he failed to see the “not” part and protested. This gave his mom the opening to talk about all of Sam's good qualities.

Today
Meagan Francis and her son Isaac pose together as part of the campaign.

Meagan Francis’ 15-year-old son, Isaac, joined her. When he realized his mom thought he was reliable, Francis saw a noticeable difference in Sam’s demeanor.

“He just kind of got this cute smile on his face when I showed him the pictures,” says the blogger from St. Joseph, Michigan. “With teenagers, you have to watch how they act.”   

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