Parenting expert Dr. G offers Latrobe audience advice on raising kids in age of technology
Dr. Deborah Gilboa admits some of the parenting advice she offers elicits raised eyebrows — especially her warning against routinely tracking children with a phone app.
Popularly known as Dr. G on her website and on daytime talk shows, the Squirrel Hill family physician, mother of four sons and parenting expert told Latrobe and Derry area parents this week that remotely monitoring a kid’s every move is bad for both the child and the parent.
She said that practice “is making our kids more anxious,” while research indicates it doesn’t make them any safer. She explained it gives kids the mindset that, “if we don’t know they’re OK, they’re not OK.”
Gilboa addressed about 300 parents and educators from the two communities Thursday evening in the Greater Latrobe Senior High auditorium. Her topic was “Get The Behavior You Want From Your Child Without Being The Parent You Hate.”
Tracking children, she said, also makes parents “way more anxious. We need to practice at letting them go.”
Gilboa noted she doesn’t track her kids unless they’ve been grounded for an infraction. She suggests letting children, when they’re ready, spend a few hours at the neighborhood park or stay overnight at a friend’s house, without constantly monitoring them.
Gilboa also cautioned parents against focusing too much on their children’s achievement in school.
Citing a study of families with children attending middle school, Gilboa noted that 80 percent of parents who were surveyed said they value kindness in their children more than academic performance. But the majority of students had a different impression — more than 70 percent thought their parents valued academic achievement most.
“When we focus on children’s achievement, their character suffers,” Gilboa said. “When we focus on character, the achievement usually follows.”
Before speaking to parents, Gilboa spent the day talking with Greater Latrobe students in grades 7-12, in large and small groups. When she asked the students what privileges they’d requested that their parents had denied, she said, responses included being allowed to have a pet, to stay up late and to do their homework in their rooms.
Instead of simply saying no to such requests, Gilboa said, parents should explain the concerns behind their denial, opening the door for children to earn privileges and to prove they’re ready to responsibly handle them.
Jeff and Darcy Fearer, Latrobe parents of a 12-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl, attended the talk hoping to pick up tips that will help them “avoid some of the same problems we had when we were the kids’ ages,” Jeff Fearer said. Noting how social media can magnify the pressure children experience, he said the couple wants to “head off at the pass issues of anxiety and depression and stop some of the problems later in life.”
When it comes to raising good citizens, Gilboa stresses her own three “R’s” — respect, responsibility and resilience.
In teaching self-respect and respect for others, Gilboa said, parents should guide their children’s behavior while accepting their emotions. “Telling someone how to feel doesn’t work,” she said, but added, “It’s a mistake to excuse bad behavior because of their feelings.”
Gilboa suggests parents have their children join them in performing a community service to help others in need. “It helps them re-calibrate what need is,” she said.
Gilboa cited a 2015 study as an indication that fewer of today’s parents are requiring their kids to do household chores compared to previous generations. She promotes chores as a way to teach responsibility and to let children know “they’re not just loved, they’re needed.”
While too much stress can be harmful, Gilboa argues that children need to experience some level of stress in order to develop resilience.
She said parents need to refrain from providing a solution for every challenge their children encounter, instead letting them solve problems on their own.
“Our kids need empathy without intervention,” she said.
More information is available on Gilboa’s website, AskDoctorG.com.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .