As a mother of two little girls, I tremble at the thought of the teenage years and the battles my kids and I will have over still-undiscovered technologies. Today's tweens and teens are addicted to Facebook and text around the clock. What will my kids be doing – and using – in 2020?
(At left, Lonnie Mishoe Sr. plays video games with his son Lonnie Mishoe Jr. as seen on The Early Show Thursday.)
Well, let's just say after the family I met – and you are about to meet – my anxieties have been dramatically reduced. The Mishoes of Bergenfield, N.J., are the kind of parents I think we all want to be. After I spent some time with them, I remarked to producer, Josh Gaynor, who found the family for us to profile Thursday in our "Where America Stands" report on The Early Show, "If every family in America were like the Mishoes, this country would be a whole lot better off."
(Watch Thursday's segment from The Early Show below.)
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Consider first their dizzying weekly schedule. Mom Nicole works overnights – from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. – as a hospital clerk and then goes to nursing school full-time during the day. Some days during the week she gets only two hours of sleep – two hours!! And dad Lonnie puts in 14-hour-plus days as a driver with UPS. On any given weekday, the couple might spend as little as 15 minutes awake together, if at all. With those schedules, it wouldn't be hard to imagine the parents not having the time or energy to monitor their three children – ages 15, 13 and 12. Oh, but that is not the case with the Mishoes.
"We don't want to suffocate them but at the same time, they have to understand, we're the parents, there are boundaries," Nicole told us. What the Mishoes try to do is keep tabs on what their kids are doing online and on their cell phones without making them feel like Big Brother is constantly looking over their shoulders. That means checking 13-year-old Kayla's texts from time to time (she used to text, according to her mom, 24/7) and monitoring what Lonnie Jr., 15, is doing while he's actually online.
"I'll be like, 'Alright, excuse me,'" said Lonnie Sr. when his son is on the Web, "and he'll be like, 'What are you doing?' and I'm like, 'Excuse me,' and I'm checking the history to see what he's on and to make sure what he's on is appropriate."
What's amazing is the kids seem to get it and appear to even monitor themselves. Twelve-year-old Hailey, when asked about sexting, told us, "It would be a disgrace to my family. As much as they've taught me and how good they've treated me, I'd just throw that all away and do that."
What I learned – and I think you might learn too – is how open communication works in a family, especially in modern American families juggling time and technology. The Mishoes talk to their kids about everything; drugs, sex, you name it, it's discussed. They also believe in rules and together are united in enforcing those set rules. For instance, TV and computer time are off limits until all homework and chores are done. Lonnie actually bought a lock for the television two years ago when he felt the kids' grades were suffering.
"When I first did it, I felt a little like a heel, I didn't know if I was doing the right thing, I didn't know if I was taking it too far, if it was too much," said Lonnie. "In all honesty, it was like, 'I gotta try, I gotta try something.'"
Despite the strict rules, Lonnie and Nicole parent with a hug and a pat on the back, not with an iron fist. They want their kids to learn the value of hard work but also want them to know they have their support 100 percent, no matter what.
The Mishoes are trying every day to instill the right values in their kids so that they'll make the right decisions when they enter the real world, Nicole said, when mom and dad aren't there to protect them.
As a fellow parent, I applaud what they're doing and hope we can all learn a thing or two from them. I did. Those teenage years, still daunting, seem a heck of a lot more manageable.