Somedays it gets hard. Being a parent. A therapist. A Former Marine. Which strategy will work best when working with these seemingly ungrateful children that we raise? My teenage mutant ninja daughter texted me this message after one dispute where I asked her for the phone number to the home of a male friend that she wanted to “hangout” with; here is her explanation of why not:
“…because 1) it’s creepy 2) It’ s unnecessary 3) You’re being overprotective for no reason and its annoying ’cause you’re always like this and my friends are gonna stop inviting me over. You do stuff like this and then you wonder why I don’t wanna tell you stuff.”
Now (pause). After receiving this message, I thought…let me go dust to dawn on her super attitude, brush off my m16A2 shoulder fired musket and administer what the Marines call a “Butt Stroke”. Seriously. All it would take is one. Problem corrected. Has anyone ever felt like this? Or is it just me? I know. I know. It’s not very “The-ra-peutic” Mr. Therapist. So, I had to sit back and think about this one. I don’t normally treat children. I save this for my very skilled office mate and colleague Cheron Crouch, LPC to deal with my child issues. She’s excellent with these little people. But, I still remember a few things from my schooling about these little super egos that helped me through this moment that other parents like myself may find useful…before resorting to military tactics.
The stage of development in humans know as Adolescence is an actual milestone, and in some ways a crisis for the growing child due to its difficult and often rapid changes. Here are a few changes that I thought was interesting to note:
1. Teenagers go through several physical and hormonal changes that effect their sense of self. They experience new sensations such as:
A) New desires and possibilites that they don’t understand
B) There is an awkwardness as they discover their changing bodies
C) Theirs a separation of peers (those with boobs and those with out or those with facial hair and those still nursing the one strand)
2. Teenagers at this stage often also struggle to evaluate new roles
a) Change of schools (Middle to High School)
b) Their friends now become their focal center rather than family
c) They begin to struggle with what it means to be independent, yet at the same time be conformist to their peers
3. Give yourself some grace
a) You as the parent are doing the best you can. There is no one method to raise a child
b) Research shows that most Teens after this discovery stage DO adopt the basic core values of their parents; which include political, social and religious precepts.
c) This is the last stage before then can legally LEAVE.
As a parent, I don’t remember when my voice changed or when I started really sprouting pubic hair. But, I do remember, although vaguely, my struggle for independence. Now in my later years how do I wish that I had some one to take care of me. However, these developmental stages are critical in the development of the human child. The great development Psychologist Erik Erikson called these stages Identity vs Role Confusion and Intimacy vs Isolation respectively; where as failure to complete one task led to the development of the other. A clear example of this is the three types of role confusions often seen in those who are not successful at establishing an identity of their own marked by:
a) Role diffusion: The child has no strong pull towards anything. Nothing seems to matter
b) Role Foreclosure: Their identity is dictated by others (parents, religion, or other strong force)
c) Moratorium: where the child simply puts off all decisions till a later period.
All the above being mentioned. Choking the teenager doesn’t seem to help much with helping teenagers negotiate these stages. What does seem to help however, is having someone they can talk to about the changes they are about to forego…especially and older human who has already encountered these changes and could help them to navigate them in an effective non-judgmental manner. Perhaps thats not me. However, if your patience is greater than mine, than dialoging with these creatures seems to be extremely helpful. If after a day at the office, you can’t muster the strength to deal with your teenager…a word of advice from a fellow victim…don’t let them navigate this world with another teenager. Offer them the services of a professional in a non-pathologizing way and keep your fingers crossed.