Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tremendous Teens

When you become pregnant, there are a zillion resources for new parents: magazines, doctors, support groups, online chat groups, etc. And about eighty percent of the resources talk about the "heaven-sent little angel" as being the most wonderful miracle in your life. About twenty percent talk about the things that can go wrong. Less than one percent talk about the experience as being "bad" or "negative."

As the kids move from baby to toddler, toddler to child, then from child to tween, you'll find the same thing, but with the ratios of "good" to "bad" moving ever-steadily to about seventy-five/twenty-five. By the time we have tweens, the media has honed in to the fact that this group has more disposable income, so they have Hannah Montanna, the Jonas Brothers and all sorts of other Disney & Nickelodian characters and their media-driven products, at the ready. There are a few resources around for parents, but considerably less.

Then we hit the "Terrible Teen" years. Suddenly, the media can say nothing positive at all.  Headlines always include "troubled" in front of "teen." All the magazines, movies and propaganda are about Teen Sex, Teen Bullying, Teen Drug Use, Teen Cliques and Teen Suicides. And there are little to no resources available for parents that don't involve a parole officer and/or therapy.

I know that teenagers suddenly morph from this baby/child we have cared for and loved- into an alien that is unfamiliar to us. And sometimes those changes are not changes we can endorse or approve. But the teen aged years are also a time when a person begins to sort out who they are. And the years begin anywhere as early as pre-teen (like six in the case of one of my children) to way into the twenties for some.

But they are still our children. They still want our love and approval more than anything else in the world (even if they deny it). And they still need and desire rules (whether they admit to it or not).

The media would have us believe that these teens want to raise themselves with unlimited money and unlimited freedom. But that is simply not true. Rules, love and affection make us all feel safe. And if we can show teenagers how to live and love in a healthy way, they will feel secure enough to realize that drugs to make you "feel" happy don't make you really happy; They will realize that you can have healthy physical affection that doesn't involve sex; And, they will be able to be "normal."

Now, as with anything, "stuff happens." Good kids do bad things. But it just bugs me that when a teenager does a good thing it's totally unnoticed or considered completely out of character.

I'm planning to have fun with my kids as teenagers. I will treat them with respect, since that's how I would like to be treated. I will enforce rules. I will entrust them with responsibility a little at a time so that they can earn it. And if they prove irresponsible with something, I'll retract that privilege until they find a way to earn it again.

I look forward to watching them work through what they are learning, to form their own beliefs and opinions. After all, I'm raising people, not clones or robots. I plan to look at them as special people in the next phase of their lives- not "troubled teens".

Will there be bumps in the road? You betcha'. Will I eat these words? Oh, but of course. But I will also come back to these words, again and again. I don't plan on having "troubled teens"- no matter what the media and/or the world might say. I plan on having "tremendous teens"! That is one of the best gifts my parents gave me. And I believe it's definitely a gift worth passing on- no matter what the world may say to the contrary!
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