Farewell, Mama Bear: We Need New Role Models.
As you may know, I think parents of adolescents need new role models because we share Mama Bear's instincts to hibernate. During these troubling times (all those hormones and all that attitude, wreaking so much havoc in our once-happy homes!), it is especially important to stay awake. As I will remind you again and again, we walk a fine line every day. We try to find the balance between giving our kids independence and helping them when they need it. Between cutting them loose and keeping them safe. Between loving them and strangling them. Most days are a three-ring circus and it's tough to know where to focus. But sometimes--when our kids are in real and present danger--the picture becomes clear. Sometimes we need to step back and let them fail. Other times we need to step in and reinforce the boundaries teenagers so desperately need.
One of the new role models I offer is the soldier: vigilant, tough, strong -- I hope you'll read all about in this post. But practical advice is the best kind, so here are some Keepin'-It-Real Tips on reinforcing the boundaries that keep our teenagers safe.
Seven Things You May Find Yourself Doing If You Want to Protect Your Teenagers:
1. Staying awake, sober, and fully dressed late into a Saturday night
...because your child has been invited to--God help us--a boy-girl sleepover party. Despite the wicked inconvenience of it all, you let your kid go to the party. But you drive whatever distance it takes to make certain all chicks are bodily secured within the roost at a reasonable hour.
2. Saying THIS to your kid:
"Well, we have decided that smoking marajuana is absolutely forbidden, because it hurts your fourteen-year-old brain. We will be conducting random THC tests at home. We know there's a lot of pressure, and you are welcome to tell your friends about the evil duo at home keeping you on the straight and narrow. We can take it -- put it on us. But you will not be smoking weed."
[2A. Administering pee-tests at home]
3. Spending a day back in high school
Oh, boy, I love this one. Certain parents of wayward youth arrange to accompany the little hooligan to a full day of school. They promise to sit quietly in the back of the class, just to observe, in order to get an accurate perspective, don't you know. [Hint: only ONCE did this beautiful proposition come to fruition in my classroom. The real threat--time taken off from work, honest availability and willingness on behalf of the parent--in every other case was enough to change the problem behavior, and fast. Brilliant.]
4. Throwing money down the drain
As it is with toddlers, some natural consequences make the whole family suffer. (Such as no meals out for a month if you don't eat that seven-dollar mac-and-cheese you ordered. . . .) When teenagers push your boundaries too hard, they might miss out on: dances, concerts, parties, trips, and other excellent opportunities for which you have already paid. Ouch.
Semper Fi; band of brothers; no one left behind. Stay strong, soldier-parents. If it hurts you, it probably hurts them even more. (Tweet this) Consider it an investment in their future. You pay happily for piano lessons; pay cheerfully for life lessons, too.
5. Taking abuse
...because everyone else is going. Because you are so out-of-touch, so un-cool, so unreasonable and ridiculous and insensitive. Remember: the shape of their rebellion takes the shape of your soul. It gets personal. Teenagers denied their privileges (technology, vehicles, social lives) act not unlike inmates during a riot.
You have the protective gear of perspective, because you are not a teenager. You have the armor of adulthood. Sometimes, it helps to visualize yourself strapping on shield and sword. Channel whatever source of strength you have. You can take it, parents; soldier on!
6. Repeating yourself
...like, times a million. During certain points in their miserable development, these human beings are simply (physically, mentally, spiritually) incapable of processing things (please click to read more: when 14-year-olds say they don't know why they didn't turn in their homework, they are not lying!) Forgive them; get used to the infernal sound of your own voice.
Keep saying those things you know really matter: hats off at the table; eye contact; please and thank-you; go to bed; pick up your crap, do the dishes, mow the lawn, be nice to your sister. And then keep on... turn in your homework; don't drink or do drugs; take responsibility; tell the truth; pull up your pants; pull down your miniskirt; use your words . . . oh, I don't have to tell you. Securing the perimeters is a tedious task, indeed.
7. Suffering endless inconveniences
Again with the driving. Few things shock a teenager into reality better than the revoked freedom of the car. Reverting to the role of taxi-driver for a couple weeks seems inconceivable, but you can do it. Likewise distasteful: the idea of being on-call for kids who need to leave parties--no questions asked--if you have promised such a thing. It takes the steel of a soldier to resist asking those questions, but shut your trap; drive everyone home; never regret it. It is also inconvenient to deal with adolescent whining when we prevent them from using their electronics, hanging out with their friends and grounding them old-school-style from fun stuff. It's inconvenient to make them follow through with their chores and to check up on their schoolwork from time to time just to make sure they haven't strayed too far down the garden path. Inconvenient, all of it, but our kids are worth it every time.