Raising Teens

There are no books to prepare you for this.  There is no road map.  No magazine article with the perfect solution.  No one on earth can prepare a person for parenting a teenager.

One day you have this sweet smiling happy complacent child.

The next day you have a person in you house with the vocabulary of an ex-Marine trucker prison guard.

You try to remind yourself “It’s only hormones,” and that “The brain is still developing” as you watch your darling baby make changes that will be devastating to him for the rest of his life.

You reason.  You beg.  You plead.  

Then you threaten, you yell, you contemplate sending the kid to some military camp in Paraguay.

At the end of the day, nothing changes.  You can’t make another person do anything, even if you spent 9 months gestating and another 16 hours in labor to create that person.  

Because that person is insane.

Yes – there are hormones and unbaked brownies for brains.  Yes there is the developmental need to break from one’s parents to become independent.  Yes there are sweaty socks and T-shirts that should be burned.  It’s temporary, but it’s insanity.

None of this new behavior and vocabulary comes close to being anything rational or useful for life.  You get to a point where have to question how any of us made it to adulthood at all.  Certainly many of us didn’t.  I have a laundry list of lost friends.  Kids who died doing all sorts of stupid things, and some who died because others were doing stupid things.  Car crashes, drugs, drownings, the girl who really thought she could fly, the boy who blew his brains out.

Why doesn’t this other person get it?  Why doesn’t he or she understand you when you plainly spell out how the world works and why refusing to do things one finds boring is a first class ticket to homelessness?

Positive reinforcement?  My kids found a way to take that away from themselves.  Instead of working towards something, they would decide that the payoff simply was not worth it.  They have no intrinsic value system, and absolutely no extrinsic value system.

Negative reinforcement?  My kids have decided it doesn’t exist.  But they won’t actually test that theory.  I promise that if they do the work, I will get off their backs about it.  They must really enjoy being nagged.

I have to wonder if this is some bizarre phase of evolution in which an entire generation is set for a big die-off because they refuse to learn how to sustain themselves.  There are only so many ways to teach a kid to shower.  I imagine if they ever move out that I will have to call to remind them to brush their teeth and do their laundry.  When I die, they will move into comfortable to square cardboard boxes under a bridge somewhere.  I suspect they will bring down the property values of the other hobos boxes.

They’ve been to therapy.  They’ve been to the school counselor.  The way they fail their gifted and talented classes, you’d think they love summer school and credit recovery.  They like to do things twice.  It’s apparently easier than doing it once.

Logic does not apply here.

You can’t give me an idea or a piece of advice that I haven’t tried.

I can’t use counseling techniques learned in school, because they are for a different kind of relationship than parent-child.

The school is useless.

Counseling has been fruitless.

My kids resist work as if it was death itself.

Don’t give the parent advice.  They’ve already heard it.  There is truly nothing new under the sun by the time the kid is a teenager.  Different distractions?  Sure.  But they are still distractions.

The fact remains, they are insane, we have to live with them, and they are hormonal lunatics with undeveloped frontal lobes.

Experience tells us that in spite of that, the chances for survival are pretty good.

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