Memos from Your Teenager
- Adolescence is a somewhat confusing time and I am experiencing many changes. Many of my behaviors are typical for teenagers. If you can understand some of these changes and can deal with me differently, we can both get through this period of my life without too much difficulty.
- I am starting to change and I am not a child anymore. I am becoming a young adult. You will have difficulty "controlling" me the way you did when I was a young child. Try to deal with me the way you would treat your friends and other adults.
- Opposition, resistance, stubbornness, rebellion, and striving for independence are a normal part of adolescence. Don't be upset if I disagree with you and begin expressing attitudes, interests, and opinions that are different from yours. Be more concerned about "how" I tell you things, rather than "what" I say.
- I have all your lectures on tape in case I want to hear them over and over again. Try to avoid repeating lectures, asking me the same questions many times, and nagging. If you do, I will have to protect myself by appearing deaf.
- I will often feel that you are old-fashioned. You still live in the "olden days" when movies were 15 cents, there were only three channels on the TV, and you had to walk 12 miles to get to school. I am tired of hearing "When I was your age." How could you ever understand me and know what is happening in my life?
- Don't be upset if I do not talk to you or confide in you as much as I did when I was younger. This is typical for my age.
- It seems as if your intelligence has decreased and, in fact, you're close to being stupid. How could you know what I'm supposed to do? How could I take your advice, directions, and suggestions? Bear with me. In a few years I will realize how much you've learned since I was a teenager.
- As your intelligence decreases, my knowledge about the world and my intelligence increases. I am close to being a genius. I know just about everything there is to know. The only people who seem to be as smart as I am are my friends and peers.
- I would rather be doing things with my friends than with you or the family. Don't become upset when I decline invitations to go out to eat, to go to Grandma's house, or to be with you.
- You embarrass me and sometimes I don't want to be seen with you. I may stop bringing my friends to the house. You may have to drop me off a block from my friend's house or the movies, so my peers will not see me with you. In the shopping center I may walk several feet in front of you or behind you, so no one knows you are my parent.
- We do not have as many chances to talk as we used to because I am always busy - with my friends, on the phone, or in my room. Because of this, most of our conversations center around my failures, mistakes, what I should do, what I didn't do, and other negative behaviors. During other discussions you're lecturing, trying to teach me something or get a point across ("the value of education," "what responsibility means"). Let's talk just to be talking. Try also to talk to me about my successes, accomplishments, achievements, interests, and activities.
- It seems that little things you do irritate me. Even simple questions like, "How was your day?" may result in a flippant answer from me. Don't be too upset, as I'm probably disturbed by something else and am taking it out on you. Moodiness is typical for my age.
- Many times it may seem as if I have my priorities confused. This is not true. It's just that my friends, the opposite sex, talking on the phone, going out, having fun, and similar activities are more important than other things such as schoolwork, putting out the garbage, and cleaning my room. It is not that I am lazy; it is just that I have too many more important things to do than work.
- At times it appears that you have developed amnesia. You don't remember what it's like being my age. You forget that you gave me the same lecture last Thursday, two weeks ago, or last month. You don't remember that you gave me the same instructions to clean my room or asked the same question ("Did you study?") 20 times. You have forgotten how to shop and cook. There's never anything good to eat in the house, and I'd rather eat junk food than what you cook.
- Don't become too upset when I mumble under my breath and complain when you ask me to do something - especially if I'm doing what you requested! I am angry at you for telling me to do something, and this is a way to release some of this anger.
- Don't use force with me or try to overpower me to get me to do what you want. This teaches me to be aggressive or resentful, and gives me the message that power is all that counts. It will also make me more resistant, oppositional, and stubborn. This will probably result in my doing the opposite of what you request. I want to be treated more like an adult than a child.
- Although I want to be treated like an adult, I will often act like a child. Rather than stress this, tell me what I have to do or not do to gain more adult privileges, responsibilities, and freedoms.
- Avoid getting into power struggles with me. Power struggles usually result in a winner and a loser. You could win almost all the time when I was young. This might not be possible now. Set rules and consequences for my behavior and consistently enforce them in a calm, matter-of-fact manner. Try to compromise. That way we both win.
- Try not to overreact to some things I say. Many times I am only saying things to get a rise out of you.
- Although it may not seem like it, I need lots of understanding, encouragement, and positive attention. I cannot pat myself on the back, and I rely heavily upon you to do so.
- Treat me the way you treat your friends; then I will be your friend, too. Remember, I learn more from a model than from a critic.
From Keys to Parenting Your Teenager by Don Fontenelle, Ph.D. Copyright © 2000 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
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