Family Focus: Family Blog Post #17 Terrifying Teens
“Mother Nature is providential. She gives us twelve years to develop a love for our children before turning them into teenagers.” ~William Galvin
Well, whether or not you agree with Mr. Galvin as to who was behind the design, it is irrefutable that some teenagers are very hard to like. Some parents consider the teen years to be more trying and exasperating than the Terrible Twos, and one big reason is that you now have to try to use reason with them. When they were two, we didn’t try to use logic and reason with the little critters… we simply took control. Tough to do that with someone almost your size or larger – and sometimes smarter than you.
When I raised my brood, I has this principle – challenges to authority would always result in a “no”, while challenges to reason or desires to understand were always met with discussion and dialogue. If my daughter wanted to do something, like spend the night with someone we did not know (nor their family), I would say no. If she challenged me with a “why”, I would try to determine if she 1) wanted to understand or simply 2) wanted me to change my mind. If it were the former, then I would discuss; after all, one of the basic duties of parenthood is to transfer our values to our children. I wanted them to know “how” I thought about things, about what values were brought to bear when thinking through issues and deciding on courses of action. We would discuss the truth that families have widely varying norms of behavior and without some good evidence otherwise, I could not let them be in a vulnerable situation (in a private setting with unknown adults and the special vulnerability of being there and sleeping). I wanted them to have that skill set of thinking through dangers and benefits and objectively weighing out options when they finally left the nest. If the “why” was nothing more than a challenge – an attempt to get me to change my mind and give them what they wanted, I would respond by reminding them of the rule. If they simply wanted me to change my mind to match their thinking, it was a sign of disrespect for my role as a parent. If they just wanted their way and were pressing me to back down from my position, then entering into the discussion would be teaching them a behavior that was, in my mind, not a part of good character -insubordination. If I could not tell what their real motive was, I would say “no” and suggest we talk about it the next day or after the event occurred – that would tell me how much they really wanted to understand.
Character development was the utmost responsibility I had as a father. Making them happy was not. Of course, I loved them more than life and cared deeply about their subjective happiness, but I also knew that development of good character is more important than fleeting happiness… and not only that, it produces long lasting joy.
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