There’s a general consensus among parents and adults that teen years are the most compliant, agreeable, joyous, non-brooding, self-deprecating and cooperative period in a young adult’s life. Forget those giggles you may have experienced when they were toddlers, as well as the frequent “yes mom” or “yes dad” when they were between the ages of 6 and 10. As for tweens, well that’s another story! Teens bring a sense of calm to their home environments and never raise their voices to complain, stomp up and down steps to show their displeasure, loudly close doors so that you can’t see them when they’re angry, argue, or break any of the rules that are established by their parents. Curfews are never violated, rooms are always clean because you asked them once, chores are done without reminding or raising your voice, and grades are always outstanding because that is your expectation and they always, always meet what expectations you set as a parent or adult. Insurance companies also agree that these individuals exhibit an amazing amount of responsibility and minimal impulsive behavior (especially boys) and will lower your insurance rates when they’re notified that a 16, 17, 18, or 19 year old will be added to your vehicle policy. Who knew there was an economic benefit to having a teen driver?! 🙂
As I think about my teen years I can vividly recall how I also followed the rules that were established within our home. My younger sister, Iris, was the rebel; I knew better. I was always dispatched to bring her home when the street lights turned on, and I recall standing there in shock on more than one occasion as she stood her ground with our parent. What’s even more amazing is that parent happened to be a 6’3, 240 pound man. Our teenage years were spent in a single parent household headed by a no-nonsense, construction working father. He laid out the rules and it was in our best interest to follow them. Getting an education was our #1 job, we had schedules for kitchen duty and other chores, we were required to respond with “yes sir” or “no sir” if he asked us questions, couldn’t use the word “lie” because it was akin to cursing, and would NEVER consider disrespecting another adult because we knew it would likely mean death. Yes, if I decided to get bold with another adult in my neighborhood who chose to correct my behavior I’d immediately return to my home, put on my best suit and draft an obituary in preparation for an upcoming funeral….my own!
Now, let’s consider what’s been discussed. The section on teens and how they conduct themselves within their homes can be seen as sarcasm. Most agree that the teen years are challenging for parents. Although you may have birthed and raised them, they will occasionally do something that causes you to ask your spouse, “Who is this child?” Even though they belong to us, we accept that they have their own mind and don’t always do what we ask. Confession: I’ve asked my teen daughter if she has lost her mind on more than one occasion — this week.
The discussion about my no-nonsense father is true. The rod wasn’t spared, and I certainly wasn’t spoiled. He ran a very orderly household as a single father and had an old-school perspective concerning children respecting adults. Despite his rules and the potential consequences within our home, I still ran into trouble at school.
It didn’t happen often, but I occasionally told teachers no. I failed a few classes and had my fair share of detention; I was suspended for fighting on the first day of school my sophomore year, and cursed at the teacher who tried to break it up. Ironically, the teacher told me the suspension was for cursing and not the actual fight because he felt I was a good kid. It must have been that excellent home training. Believe it or not, on the last day of school and a few hours before graduation I was in the deans office because of a stupid mistake in an effort make a class assignment more realistic. I was describing how to make egg-nog, and used a real prop of an unopened bottle of rum. I know — what was I thinking? Now we know there’s research that shows how teens actually think differently and do not-so-smart things. No, bringing a bottle of rum to school wasn’t a very smart way to make a class demonstration realistic. Despite my father’s hands-on efforts at ensuring I was a respectable, respectful, well-behaved and focused young man; I had moments in school where I behaved counter to his expectations. Welcome to parenting a teenager.
As I read the various comments on social media about the young lady who was manhandled by a police officer, I’m amazed and saddened at the comments by adults who were once teens (I think), or have parented a teen. The comments ranged from saying she received what she deserved to those being critical of her deceased mother’s parenting skills. Some have even predicted how her future will be filled with criminal behavior after this single incident at school of sitting in her seat and refusing to leave the class for a phone violation. Saying “no” is something teens NEVER do and parents never experience. As adults, we recall NEVER saying no as a teen or acting out in school. More importantly, as parents we’ve never experienced disobedience from our teens, right?
Teachers at every level will agree that children routinely engage in behavior that’s counter to what’s taught in their homes. The child who engages in bullying at school can have kind and loving parents. The child that doesn’t appear to care about academics can have a parent that is highly educated and helps their son or daughter with (reluctant) homework. The child who talks back to her teacher can have parents who insist that she always respects adults. Not only do I see how there can be differences between parental expectations at home and actual child behavior at school, I engaged in contrasting home and school behaviors when I was a student.
As I close this post and ponder some of the terrible things I’ve read this past week, I have a simple question. When did we become so cynical and hostile towards our children for minor mistakes? That question isn’t to police officers, but to adults who feel children get what they deserve when they’re treated like hostile adults by law enforcement. Isn’t the purpose of childhood to allow humans to figure things out before becoming adults? I’m also curious and concerned that appearance plays a role in our willingness to show understanding towards ALL children. In other words, does a child need to look like you in order to receive your compassion? Similarly, do you feel that you should have been treated in a similar manner when you were a child and figuring out how to navigate this world? Or, were/are you simply…perfect?
The children: Tamir, Ahmed, Handcuffed children with ADHD in KY, H.S. Student in SC, Your child. I see you. I saw you. Fyi, that’s not a tally. It’s reassurance to those parents, and a reminder to everyone else, that the only things children deserve are opportunities to be be treated like children.