Another New Role Model: Soldier
If teenagers are like toddlers (and they are), they need help remembering their boundaries. A fourteen-year-old, much like a three-year-old, needs to be reminded about basic cause-and-effect phenomena. The stove is hot! The street is dangerous! Laundry in the basket gets washed! Homework turned into the teacher gets graded; homework left in your backpack does not!
But with teenagers, stakes are higher and the danger is real. As Dr. Robert Sapolsky explains so well here, our teens are in peril (developmentally speaking) because of their "weird predilection for bungee jumping." Teens are biologically commanded to rebel, to test limits, to seek danger and rebellion. The always-illuminating Fr. Richard Rohr ruminates here on the human dictate to transgress in order to return to oneness with the divine--or with our parents.
Parents need to actively reinforce teenagers' boundaries, in equal measure to how actively those teens transgress and push their limits. As we leave Mama Bear, then, to her hibernation, let us look to the soldier for inspiration.
Last summer, I was aware of the silent-but-powerful presence of armed military guards in Grand Central Station. They said nothing; they appeared intimidating and approachable all at once; I felt safer because they were there. I didn't feel threatened, but I felt watched. I was aware of my movements and manners. Above all, there was a subtle reassurance that if any nutty shit should hit the fan, there in the vast sea of anonymous humanity, someone would be there to make it all right.
That, my friends, is the parent I'd like to be. The soldier sacrifices personal comfort and convenience in service of a greater good. Such as raising our children to responsible adulthood. You decide what your boundaries are for your kids--they are different for every family--and secure your perimeters.
For Keepin'-It-Real Tips on Protecting Teens, please see 7 Things You Might Find Yourself Doing If You Want to Protect Your Teenagers.