You’re Not the Boss of Me
Part 2: Teenagers

Well, bad news: here is comes again. Same issue. Same need. Separate out and become independent. And, yes, your teen announces he/she knows better than you. And in some ways, he/she does with the world today when the pressures presented are so different from those we faced. Bigger with more dramatic implications. But, yes… they are not that wise and do not have all the answers. Gosh, but half the time we do not either!

The challenge is again mastery. Hey, even if you keep the keys and check the grades, day by day it is in the teenager’s hands. We remain concerned about safety and continued development of judgment and conscience. They often see that as control and lecturing… doubting their “maturity.” It comes with eye rolling, door slamming, and short, clipped answers to what used to be reasonable queries. All the while they still want (need) you to buy the food, get them to school, and support them during the times they want you to be there.

What worked during toddlerhood works again: if distraction worked, use it again. If listening without a reactive response, go there.

At least at this age the cognitive skills are better developed. Listening (and not getting caught up in the AFFECT) helps. Skip the “yes, but” and hear it out. Present your concern… as it truly is concern. Set a “if… then.” Be fair and be responsible. Yes, you are in charge but hear the worries from that side too. Family meetings and dialog are of value, although not in the heat of the moment. I remember when an incident would arise with my son. It did not matter if it was presented to me or his dad. The response was, “There will be a consequence. I need to step back and think about this. I need to discuss this with your dad (or mom) and we will get back to you.” The teenager has time to also step back and regroup, and then come to the table with a clear and focused head. And, food helps.

But, there is the big stuff:
You awake at about 3 a.m., as a parent often does, with some hope of finding your sleeping child. You find an empty bed and the window open. And the keys are gone. First comes panic and then fury because of the betrayal. First issue: is your child safe? It’s good to have the “find friends” or “live 360” phone apps. After all, you probably pay for the phone. You wait up, which is not the easiest. Or, if push comes to shove, move into your child’s room! Now, you could wait to have your child own up to it, but why set up that game which may not work? So, this may not be the time for the dialog… but the adolescent knows it is coming. My “sleep well message” would be, “There will be a conversation and a dialog. We both need to gather our thoughts.” And end with warmth.

Tasks include to be independent and separate from the safety and security of the family; develop a sense of right and wrong (this is a work in progress), express resistance while forming a suitable identity. A consequence which “suits the crime is in order.” If you are not reasonable, the adolescent will be accusatory versus taking ownership. Note your fears and the consequences; the responsibility for others and the importance of trust. Tis so much harder to be an adolescent now… which means more understanding but structure.