Help! A Teenager Has Moved into My Child's Body!
Parents, have you experienced the teenage time warp phenomenon yet? One minute you're snuggling with your kindergarten-age child, who has crawled into your bed on a lazy Saturday morning, and the next minute you're staring at a Keep Out sign on her bedroom door. Ohmigosh, what happened to that little girl I once knew?!?
Yes, it happens. Our children grow up and begin to reveal different dimensions of themselves. Cute may turn into confrontational. "I love you, Mommy" might be retired in favor of "Mom (drawn out to three syllables), not in front of my friends!" What's a parent to do?
Well, first of all, relax. What you're experiencing is all part of the developmental process, the growth from dependence to independence and, eventually, interdependence. Jonas Salk long ago defined good parents as those who give their children roots and wings, the former to provide the rituals and traditions of healthy family life and the latter to prepare the child for the time she will leave the nest. That teenager is not yet ready to leave the nest, but she's beginning to test her wings. And that's a very good thing, so we need to relax.
And we need to remember the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with our teen, even if he is acting as if we are members of an entirely different species. Given that normal teenage need to individuate, to set himself apart, how do we maintain that relationship? By remembering that a healthy parent/child relationship is based not on control but on encouragement, supported by healthy family structures (like family meals and family meetings) and guidelines (like family rules around TV viewing, Internet usage, video game playing, curfews, chores, etc.). When we attempt to control, we invite open resistance, rebellion, or a form of compliance that looks suspiciously like passive resistance . . . and may morph into outright rebellion.
Raising teens can be fun. (Really, I'm serious!) In fact, teens can be pretty funny people! If we can let go of the need to control (or the fears that drive us to control), we will be able to appreciate the fun of the teenage years. They will see in our eyes our continuing love for the persons they are and our delight in the persons they are becoming. And our relationship will be secure.
Mike Brock is a counselor in private practice (LPC) and at the University of Dallas. He is certified in a number of popular training programs, including True Colors and Positive Discipline, and is author or coauthor of several books, including Victoria's Mountain: A Journey of Heart, Mind, and Soul, 7 Strategies for Developing Capable Students, and Positive Discipline in the Christian Home. Mike has spoken to audiences throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Mexico, and Central America, on a wide range of topics including parenting, leadership, communication, school discipline, stress, personality styles, and spirituality.