Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Parenting Teenagers

It's a scientific fact that teenagers are ill-equipped to handle their own lives.  The part of their brain that controls rational thought and seeing the final outcome of decisions is not fully developed until you are in your early 20s.  This is why they are risk-takers, are often hostile and irrational, and are extremely selfish.  It's not really their fault, it's just the way they're hard-wired.  Teaching teenagers for fifteen years has taught me that this is true.  There have been a few exceptions throughout the years, but for the most part it's fairly universal.

I thought that teaching teenagers would give me greater insight into being a parent of one--when the time came.  Boy, was I wrong.  While I theoretically know why my teenager acts the way he does, I still can't comprehend it. It seems like overnight he has gone from being a sweet, loving boy who was very sensitive to the feelings of others to a moody young man who only cares about himself (and thinks that his dad and I only exist to put limits on what he can and can't do.)

Our latest drama revolves around him wanting to go to our town's skate park.  He has friends from school who go there regularly to skateboard, but I know for a fact that so much more goes on there than just skating.  It's also located by the soccer fields where Courtnie had practice last year, and I would often sit and watch the teenagers that hung out there.  Most of them smoked, the girls dressed like hoochie-mamas, and the foul language was abundant.  I have heard that drug deals and gang activity happens there, and there are frequent fights and other unsavory activity.

Our son is a good kid--he has tried hard his whole life to make good choices and he has our trust.  While I don't believe that he would engage in the activity that goes on there, I just don't feel right about allowing him to go and hang out in that environment.  I know that I can't protect him from all of the evil that goes on in the world, but I feel like it's my job to save him where I can.  When his dad talked to him last night and presented different scenarios that could happen to him while he was there, he didn't have a clear "what would you do" answer. 

I've always hated the term "peer pressure," but I do know that it is REAL.  Even the most stalwart of youth can be persuaded to do wrong if put in a situation where they want to save face.  It's a parent's job to see situations through to their final conclusion and to help their children see that every action has a consequence.  I know that children need to learn some things the "hard way," but if I can help him avoid heartache, I would certainly like to try.

Children don't come with owner's manuals or instructions.  Gordon and I have made mistakes as parents, and I am sure we will make many more, but we are trying so hard.  Our family has been reading the Book of Mormon the past few months, and I am reading it with a different perspective as a parent.  1 Nephi was especially helpful, as Lehi deals with his two rebellious sons.  It was a perfect parenting manual, and has helped me to understand how to deal with difficult situations.  I'm so grateful for the scriptures--a solution to all of life's problems can be found therein.

So in between wanting to pull my hair out in frustration, worrying constantly, and being happy for his progress and accomplishments, we're getting through.  I love him.  I think he knows that, and I hope that some day he will look back at this time and know that his dad and I only had his best interest at heart.


mom2six said...

Ah! It's so hard to parent these teens, isn't it? I am right there with you with knowing the reasons but not comprehending. I truly believe that reading the Book Of Mormon as a family is one of the best things you can do. It has worked miracles in my home. It's not a perfect place, but I know without a doubt that we would not be where we are today without doing that.

Bill Cobabe said...

I tell Ammon all the time that line about there being no instruction manual for kids... Usually it's just after the times when I've offended him for something stupid I've done and I'm apologizing. And it's hard, because he resents you for putting reasonable boundaries on his activity - and he's really bright enough to understand why they're there, he just doesn't like the imposition - at the same time, he NEEDS (nay, REQUIRES) you to put them there, not only for his own safety, but in fulfillment of every child's need to have authority and order in their lives. You're doing the right thing (of course). It doesn't make it easy...

We pray for these strong, independent, healthy, intelligent children, and then we get them... :)