The World Through the Eyes of a Young Teen
Breaking Family Ties
Emotionally and financially, young teens are still very reliant on their parents. Yet, in their own minds, they picture themselves as more mature, more independent, and altogether more cool. A shy young boy may imagine that he's the swaggering lead guitarist from his favorite band; an unpolished girl may fantasize that she's the poised model on this month's cover of Seventeen.
Your teen is trying to establish his independence and to differentiate himself from his family; but the resulting behavior may express itself in strange ways.
He may snap at you over the strangest questions, like when you ask, “What time are you leaving for school?”
Sure, you meant, “What time are you leaving for school? I'm going to set the alarm.” But your teen may have heard it as, “You're never ready! Why are you always late?” And so he tells you to get off his case. His snap may actually be a very positive sign of a kid who's trying desperately to get it together to get out the door on time!
This is also the age when your teen will walk a dozen feet ahead of you in the mall or on the street (when she condescends to go out in public with you at all). This, too, shall pass—although unfortunately, it may take quite a few years.
Your teen's growing maturity and capacity for advanced thinking is good news for you. You're in for some good times if you seize the moment and listen when he's ready to talk. Even the teen who never seems to pry his thumb off the video game controls may amaze you with his opinions on everything from the current U.S. government to the state of our environment. Your maturing teenager can enrich your life—if you listen to him.
Are you confused? Your teen certainly is, and that helps explain her mood swings. One day she imagines she's in charge of her world, ready to tackle anything; she doesn't hesitate to tell you that you were born in the Dark Ages and you don't have a clue as to what's going on with kids today.
The next day, she feels overwhelmed. A rough time at school, a personal slight, and she's curled up in your favorite chair (claiming your space as her space, the way she used to when she was little), asking you what should she do next.
Just what you have time for, right? You're working, you're harried, you've got two other kids (or a lousy ex-spouse) to worry about, and here's your teen looking like a storm cloud part of the time. (If your teen looks like a storm cloud all of the time, talk to your pediatrician for a referral to a counseling group of some type. Excessive bad moods are a call for help.)
Otherwise, just try to weather the storms without getting involved, and try to create opportunities for improved interaction between the two of you. No matter how busy you are, inviting him to a quick lunch at the diner may do both of you a world of good.
These are interesting days, and they're destined to get even more interesting. So hold on.
More on: Teen Behavior and Discipline
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager © 1996 by Kate Kelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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