It seems like there is a constant battle in homes with parents and teens. There’s a dynamic tension between the rules and regulations of the house, and the sense of freedom and growth a student needs to be able to grow the skills to make good decisions.
It’s easy to set out rules, demand our kids follow, and then discipline accordingly. After all, that’s a clear black and white type of existence.
Take out The Trash, or you can’t use the car.
Make A’s, or you can’t play those video games.
Be respectful to your mother, or you’ll never leave the house.
Black and White Rules are easy to follow, keep accountable, and understand each other. But what if Black and White thinking isn’t allowing us to experience the growth we need to provide for our students.
Boundaries are Important
I’m not advocating for an anarchist way of living in family units today. It doesn’t have to be an either or situation. You don’t have to have a lock down, rule driven, dictatorial home OR some willy nilly type of feeling your way through existance.
Obviously, in any community environment there are boundaries and rules that allow for the community to function. It’s necessary to set out the lines and “out of bounds” areas where anyone in the community will know This is how we do life in our home.
Problems arise when teenagers, who are supposed to be testing and challenging the status quo of their environment, aren’t given the space to choose. The rules of the community start dictating the ability to develop a meaningful skill set of choosing wisely.
Most notably a parent might say, “But I know how to keep my kids safe.” And rightly so. If there is anything in the home that compromises the physical, mental, or emotional safety of a child, this idea of Freedom of Choice needs to be challenged. But if there is, in the realm of possibility, a way to say “YES” to your teenagers and let them make the good choice or the poor choice; they’ll begin learning what it means to navigate behavior through the lens of freedom rather than dictator.
The Need To Push Your Buttons
It’s no secret that teenagers push the buttons of their parents. They know how to get under your skin, argue their point to absurdity, and make sure they wrangle the attention of the family when they want.
There are two big mistakes going on here. 1.) You think you have to play in logic while they are playing in emotion. and 2.) It’s TOTALLY NATURAL.
First, the student who wants to argue with his or her parents is on a long journey of brain development. They don’t have the necessary skills to be logical, only to regurgitate some kind of argument they feel. It doesn’t make the arguments they use in the home invalid, but you certainly, as a parent; have to enter the arena of emotion rather than logic.
You have to see the emotional argument for what it is, and respond accordingly.
If my kid wants to go out with his friends, but we have something planned as a family; I might hear, “This is so unfair…” and so on.
If I put my foot down and say, “Well, I’m the dad, so you’re going to do what I say.” He stomps off in an emotional rant he feels as though I’ve attacked him.
If I say, “I’m so sorry. Next time we need to talk about our plans a little bit a head of time. I know that’s a bummer you won’t be hanging with your friends.” He feels heard, understood, and many times I curb the argument waiting behind the emotion of rejection and embarassment.
Students are emotional.
Parents are Logical.
Students feel their way through decisions.
Parents try to orchestrate life to everything works in harmony.
Students are using the skill set they’re prepared for.
Parents need to remember the language of their youth.
Secondly, it is 100% natural for a student to test the boundaries of the home. They want to know where the lines are. They want to see how far they can go. They’re made to grow from children to adults, and this adolescent time is the time where they push and try to figure out who they’re going to be.
There may come a time where you feel you’re loosing ground with your teenagers. Don’t fret. They’re working diligently to figure out how they’re going to live life when they go out. Sometimes, they don’t even know what they’re doing. They just lash out, do their own thing, and it feels like you’re the most insignificant parent in the universe.
You’re not alone.
Teenagers that react, are simply reacting to what they see in contrast to what they feel. There’s ALWAYS more to the story than what you see at face value.