Sunday, January 24, 2016

A 13th Birthday Party Success: Seeing Your Teenager Make Good Choices

My son turned 13 this past week. 13!! I've never looked at the passage of time so intently as this week. He's on facebook now, he's jaded by media, and he has developed a sense of self-worth based on the supposed quality of material goods flouted by the media and his friends. The mall's shoes and clothes are better than Wal-Mart. He takes pride in 'proving' to me the benefits of buying 'better quality' shoes.
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He's also learning the social nuances in life. He's learning to host his friends and deal with his brother as well as respect his parents. This is a time to look at current events, wars, politics, racism, actions of a few, and hot topics in media and let him know our opinions and listen to his. This is a new stage for me, uncharted waters. Teenage waters.

I was working with a 3 year old this week who is an only child to parents who are older and cherish his every waking moment. Like all parents, they are giving him the best they can. He has developed a style of stalling, asserting his independence, and crying to get what he wants. He easily has his parents wrapped around his finger. They negotiate with him. ..He's 3!! Now is not the time for negotiating! The child did not like that I only gave him 2 choices. "Put your hat on your head or hang it up. It doesn't go on the floor." He tried to stall and whine, but he knew crying wasn't going to work when those didn't. He kept his hat on. After we played together and worked together on the lesson, he knew who was in charge. We came to an understanding. He knew I wasn't being 'mean' but I expected him to be nice to others.
I think the 3 year old and I did this once!

My youngest child is 8 1/2 now. I do not negotiate with him, I give him options. I tell him what he needs to do, how much time he has to do it, and if it is not done, he loses his privileges. When he needs guidance to complete a task, I give it. Sometimes I still need to supervise task like his teeth brushing so he doesn't brush only the outsides, or perhaps give a refresher on which toys go in which bins. His outbursts of frustration are a communication that he feels overwhelmed with a task. It's my job to see him through it. I might get frustrated, too, but I am the adult and I have to model how to handle frustration.

While I spent the formative years not negotiating with my children, at 13, it's time. It was time at 12 to start negotiating. That transition was rough. We had a few yelling matches as he felt I was being too hard on him while he was seeking accolades for achievement and I was looking for perfection in the task. He still has to do them, but with a longer leash to roam and accomplish them on his terms. He wanted more options, more time, and more freedom to make mistakes. This teaches him to manage his own time, a crucial skill for the new middle school student.

Asking your child to complete chores and assist with maintaining a clean house instills not only respect, but boundaries and a sense of duty.  If the jobs are not completed, natural consequences ensue, including no pay, dealing with stuck-on foods, stinky trash, or angry and disappointed parents. Giving your child an allowance, bargaining for internet time, maintaining that you expect homework finished and chores complete before doing fun stuff online keeps the ball in your court. Giving your child everything they want is passing the control to them.

For his birthday party, my 13 year old wanted to impress his friends. He took initiative with the chores, moving laundry, washing dishes and counters with a speed and diligence unknown in previous weeks. He even swept the floor until he complained about people soiling it! He shoveled the show off the walk for his guests and helped us clean the garage floor so it would smell nice inside the house with little complaint. (The dog had been housed in there when the temperature dropped below zero.)

Enter the guests.
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When your child respects you, they will project that air of respect to their guests who come over. While I gave my son and his friends free reign over the video games all night, they did not trash my house. I asked them to refrain from stomping about, shoot any more nerf weapons in the house, and to beware that the couch eats everything. I slept pretty well. They stayed up until 4AM and I do not have a large house. Had my son not had respect for his space, he would have told his friends it was okay to do things that I and his Father might disapprove of.

It was heart-warming to have him choose friends who are like him and who share similar values about entering the homes of others. I sat and enjoyed some videos with the boys and stayed out of their video game time. We chatted over pizza at the table. I listened to what they wanted to share with me and was 'cool Mom' for once in my son's life. That feels good.
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