Josh in a Box: Helpful Advice For Parents of Teens!

heyjosh grownupsOct. 21, 2009 What if I told you a few of my favorite advice slingers and youth analysis pros aren’t even parents at all?

There’s Anastasia Goodstein of Ypulse speaking from the GenX pulpit (ok, her days are numbered; she’s about to go on maternity leave) and Courtney Macavinta of RespectRx…Along with wünderkind GenY entrepreneur and media machine Vanessa Van Petten, author of ‘You’re Grounded’ and Radical Parenting (from a kid’s perspective) and Josh Shipp of Hey for teens and Hey Josh for Grownups, who happens to be newly crowned one of Inc. Magazine’s “30 under 30” watch worthy souls. What makes them all credible? Unique? Refreshing?

For starters, they’ve all been through some fairly heavy duty teen fires adding perspective, vision and clarity on the digital generation with a double dose of reality check tossed in for good measure. Last time I wrote about Josh Shipp he was opening the Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup self-effacingly describing himself as “a goof ball guy who self-defined as a high school class clown with hair that “looks like a chia pet”…

Having heard him speak to a rather skeptical, staid group of marcom and branding pros (talk about keynoting a tough crowd!) I can honestly say, ‘you either get it or you don’t’ when it comes to Josh’s casual, approachable, “shoot from the hip and tell it like it is” candor. I get it. I got it. And yep, now I even want to buy it…just to see what else he’s got to say in his ‘virtual version’ packaging himself in a box to help parents and teens build their own ‘brand’ of relationship around identity and respect. (launches today…)

hey josh for grownups

Josh in a Box is available “for a limited time only” which is either a pilot project/test run or marketing genius of scarcity; either way, such is the magic of youthful charisma and smart as a whip branding.

When I asked him about the ‘why to buys’ as we say in the advertising business, it came across sounding more like a labor of love than salesmanship…This endearing, useful, pragmatic “I really wanna help” kind of genuine charisma is exactly what makes ALL ages tune in rather than out.

For those of us who have heard his compelling story, and his lightswitch moment when his foster parents said, “Josh, to us you are not a problem, you are an opportunity.” (or some fascimile thereof) his heart on the sleeve interactive engagement comes across as pure and sincere without an ounce of hucksterism or spinmeistership…despite his proclivity to be at ease in front of a camera like an amped up Sat. night live sketch.

josh shipp twitterJosh said,

“I get so many requests to personally mentor teens its overwhelming. This is my way of doing such. I’ve invested a lot of time and my own money into making a cost effective, interactive solution for parents to give their teens, that the teen WILL ACTUALLY watch, apply and think is cool.”

On his site, you can FEEL the outreach, as he says, “My heart and my soul are in this program and I’m thrilled to be able to give you the same tools that turned my life around when I was a troubled teen.”

So what if we don’t have a ‘troubled teen’ per se…?

Why do we even need this youthful advice? What’s changed? Why can’t we just ‘parent as usual’ with common sense?

We can…and we should. But let’s also face facts…

Access to 24/7 ‘always on’ ambient media influences have shaken up relationship dynamics, as we muddle our way through newly emerging roles trying not to:

Over friend/under friend (social media or otherwise!)

Use ‘School Loop’ homework tech tools landing in our inbox but not over-react if the most recent data isn’t inputted.

Text, but not tether via mobile

Share media to engage but not pry

Instill healthy ‘question authority’ life skills without subjecting ourselves to sassy hurtful sarcasm or verbal abuse ‘as seen on TV’…

…And on and on ad infinitum…

We’ve all heard the ‘media as super peer’ analogy and ‘The Other Parent’ trotted out as if it’s the source of all woes but at the end of the day as David Bowie would say, “Turn and face the strain…ch-ch-changes…”

Get used to ’em, cause they’re very real, and they’re not goin’ away any time soon.

I’m not saying I’m always going to agree with media savvy advice slingers like these every time, but much like parenting pundits, you glean what you can use in the au courant media/mindset scenarios that sometimes have expiration dates in the nanoseconds. (I can almost picture Josh stamping his forehead with a ‘past due’ date for emphasis, yes, he’s got THAT kind of wacky teen appeal…In fact, he closes his shows with:

“I’m Josh Shipp…in your face, but on your side.” Love it.

in-her-shoes.gifWithout sounding TOO airy fairy, to me the idea of working with a teen identity project like his is a bit like slipping into someone else’s shoes knowing you won’t be wearing them for long…

You get a modicum of comfort or (dis)comfort, familiarity and a sense of the fit, a bit of off-kilter balance of being in foreign environs and a touch of tactile reality/trust building  intimacy. Working through identity issues…figuring out ‘stuff’…

The “put yourself in their shoes” commitment to engage makes sense really, in a Freaky Friday sort of reverse role-bonding sort of way…

(Visual credit: In Her Shoes in Palo Alto a fabulous nonprofit boutique & spa gifting 100% of profits to the Global Fund for Women!)

gen yIt’s actually an extension of our own philosophy here at Shaping Youth of mentoring peer to peer in a downward stepladder to empower kids within a year or two of each other, then having the kids ‘mentor’ the adults in areas where they could use a hand. (technology, social media, or even our intervention games and challenges to ‘sell up’ concepts like going green or eating whole foods)

Is this TOO much ‘Gen Y’ youth empowerment? Are we ‘turning over the reins’ to wild child notions of ‘parents without borders?’

Nope. Don’t think so at all. In fact, it’s always irked me that media and marketing stereotypes of kids and parents are fueled as adversarial, because statistics show otherwise, and frankly if we really were as ‘lame and clueless’ as we’re all depicted (both age spectrums) we’d be in deep kimchee!

Anyway…Here’s Josh with HIS pitch on what we need and why, ironically, published first on Radical Parenting’s site, who we’ll be hearing much more from on a weekly basis in the year ahead.

(Yep, that’s right, I’m reformatting, shortening, and tweaking this tome by year’s end compiled from readership input over the last few years. And yes, we’re still looking for more interns to help: Find our posting on or just leave a comment here and I’ll zap you the scoop)

p.s. And no, I don’t know Josh personally, nor am I paid in any way shape or form, I just like his attitude and conviction. He speaks to me, and crosses boundaries.; a gift at any age. Plus, he can be freakin’ hilarious. (see? channeling my teen there…)

Josh In A Box: Who Am I? The Core Conundrum

Teens & the Importance of Identity by Josh Shipp

…Is your teen acting up in school? Or rebelling at home? Maybe they’re lacking motivation, engaging in risky behaviors, or struggling with relationships. You see, nearly every stereotypical teenage “problem” is really just an expression of this #1 issue. Frankly, it all comes down to this: IDENTITY.

I get these questions all the time—from parents AND teens. Questions like this: “My teen is really struggling to find out who they are…” “My dad wants me to pursue business, but I don’t think that’s what I want…” “People call me a freak. How do I deal with being labeled?”

Why is this so important? Because identity is at the absolute core of me, you, teens—everyone on the planet—and shapes virtually every choice we make.

Why does one teen smoke and not another? Why does one teen get straight A’s and another one drop out? Why does one teen volunteer in his community and another refuse to even get a job? Answer? Identity. Who they are.

Or—more accurately—it’s who they BELIEVE they are.

The  topic of identity is very, very personal for me. For me, I had a pretty rough childhood, which started to creep into my teenage years, which, frankly, at times were very, very miserable. You see, because of my past, growing up in foster care, the abuse, the neglect, the hurt that I experienced… I allowed that to label me. I allowed that to shape my identity and to shape the core of who I thought I was going to be in the future.

And then I let other outside influences shape ‘me’ as well, sometimes people negatively labeling me, and identifying me. I literally remember one point, this guy yelling at me, “Josh, you are just a punk, orphan, foster kid. That’s all you’re ever going to be. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

I mean, it was literally those words…I can still remember how he sounded saying them. And sadly, in that moment, I let those words label me. I believed him. “Yeah, you know, I am a punk, orphan, foster kid. And I guess that’s all I’m ever gonna be. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

When my last set of foster parents sat me down and said “we don’t see you as a problem, we see you as an opportunity”, they gave me a different future.
Speaking to 1,000,000 kids over the last 10 years has taught me that the importance of that moment.  And once I saw myself as an opportunity…for learning, for good, for joy, for healing, for helping others…my behavior naturally aligned with who I really was.

How do you get through?  Well, I can tell you how I do it.

1) I Engage teens with humor, by listening…by really truly paying attention.  When a child really knows you’re paying attention and are 100% focused on them, the results can be radical (in a good way).

2) I Inspire teens with my story.  I break their pattern of thinking I’m another ‘boring speaker’ by talking about a very difficult past…and where I’m at now.  When I show them and share examples of people who have overcome incredible things, suddenly some of their ‘struggles’ are put into perspective.

3) I Empower teens with specific tools.  I give them ‘how to’ videos on my website for life skills.  I give them advice, I give them films that presents big issues in entertaining and fun ways.  So actively look for things you think can help them…but ASK them what they think.

If you buy them something ask them what they think before you mandate they read or watch it. It needs to entertain them and be something they aren’t embarrassed to share with friends.  Start by explaining you want to help and ask them for stuff they might consider watching or using…(Ed. com: I’m assuming he’s talking about Josh in a Box here? -AJ)

Remember the #1 issue; it’s who they think they are that is responsible for the bad and the good behavior.  Practice engaging them and empower them to explore the ‘core’ of who they are.

Josh Shipp is a teen advice guru, a marathon runner and a guitar hero.  He gives thousands of teens advice through his website He has a television series “Jump Shipp” debuting this fall and a new book for teens coming out in 2010.  Josh will be releasing his first ever program for Teens & Parents on October 21st, 2009.  (Today!) You can access his expertise for free at Hey Josh For Grownups and you can

rp logoSpecial thanks to Vanessa Van Petten from Radical Parenting for the content swap on this piece…

You can always find her linked on our sidebar with a youthful perspective and pragmatic parenting tips…plus firsthand guest posts from teens telling you their own point of view.

To get a feel for her wit and style tackling similar subject matter…Here’s one of her posts on ‘labels and identity’ with a different spin called “Teacup Parenting: What Kind of Kid Do You Have? 4 Types of Millenials” You can also ‘follow Vanessa on Twitter’ here.

Details below on Josh in a Box; might order it myself, looks fun!



  1. Amy,

    You always have such informative and noteworthy posts! You are an information diva…whose words make a difference!

    Keep shining bright!


  2. Kind of you to say, especially coming from Miz “” herself!

    Yah, I know I ‘deep dive’ in my lengthy prose WAY too much for the average Joe, but then again those of us who live for this stuff, we really need to know enough about the work and its merits in order to do a shout out, ya know?

    I consider you and the other parenting posse on Twitter my ‘guides’ and ‘human filters’ of solid info in many ways…so I think we help each other ‘prescreen’ a bit to get the good stuff to the top! 🙂 Thanks, Wendy to comin’ over to ‘long form’ blogging for a visit, and for taking the time to comment!

    As you know, it’s what keeps us all on track and energized in our ‘virtual’ worlds of commonality…

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