Posts Tagged ‘teenager’

Heretic, Rebel (Teenager?)

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

He drew a circle that shut me out. Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win; We drew a circle that took him in.–Edwin Markham

When that 6’4” rebel was just 3’ tall, it was so much easier to draw the circle that brought him in. You told him ‘no’. He couldn’t play out front without adult supervision. He crossed his little arms and stood glaring at you, letting you know how angry he was. All you needed to do was take a couple of steps forward and find that ticklish spot on his tummy. Laughter replaced the defiance. He was your sweet lovable little guy again. But time has passed. He’s grown not only in height and strength but in stubbornness as well. He has a sense of himself now and he is determined to make his own decisions. Unfortunately, his growth hasn’t yet extended to wisdom. Some choices he makes are ones you are going to have to oppose. So he crosses his arms and glares at you. He’s outgrown the desire to stand there and wait for you to make it right. And, frankly, tickling his tummy isn’t going to work anyway. He marches into his room and slams that door with a firmness that lets you know you aren’t welcome to follow him. If he lives at my house, he isn’t going to be allowed to lock you out. But the better part of wisdom keeps you from following him. You know this son of yours is playing the part of the heretic. He’s drawn a circle to shut you out. If you follow him blindly without a plan, he’s going to keep that barrier up no matter what you do or say. (Of course, you might get lucky and stumble across the key to breaking the barrier but it’s not likely.) You need a plan.

First, decide to love him. Right now he’s not all that lovable and you don’t have any discernible warm and fuzzy feeling towards him. You may have to get firm with yourself but make that conscious decision to love him. Second, choose not to give up on him. Having a rebellious teenager can give you urges to make some really bad parental decisions. There’s the ‘Fine! Go hang out with your drug dealing buddies. You’ll learn when somebody OD’s!’ When you’re angry, you might be tempted to blurt that out. Bite your tongue! Another common way to give up is to send him to live with his father (or grandparent, or uncle or anyone. Just get him out of my house!) Don’t!!!! The decision to move him out should not be made in anger. Third, formulate the plan. The plan has to involve some way to draw him in lovingly while still keeping him ‘on the straight and narrow’ (as my mother used to say).

You have the option to modify his plan so that it becomes acceptable to you. Or you have the option of offering him an alternative plan. If you can use either of those options, go to his door and knock gently. Let him know you would like to talk to him. In a non-confrontational way say “I know that you want to __________. I’m not comfortable with that because ________. I would be okay with your plan if you would ________. “ (or ’I would prefer that you do _______ instead”). The fact that you are seeing his side and trying to compromise will help release the anger he feels much like tickling his tummy used to do. Things get a little more complicated if your child’s plan actually involves hanging out with drug dealers or doing something else that puts him in harms way. There simply is no way to compromise or modify plans of this kind. You still need to let your son know that you understand how he feels. Everyone needs friends. It’s those particular friends you can’t approve of. Everyone needs to have a fun time out once in a while. It’s just that particular activity you can’t allow. Drawing the circle that brings him in requires his participation so ask him what he thinks he can do. Does he have other friends? If not, are there activities that he likes that would get him involved with other teens his age. For instance, local sports of some kind or church related activities or 4H groups or maybe even getting a part time job. Ask him if one of those options would appeal to him. If it’s the activity he wants to be involved in, it’s time to have him think of other activities he enjoys that can replace the dangerous ones. In any case, letting him know you understand and will work with him will help release his anger and rebellion. He may need to sleep on your suggestions. A follow up conversation the next day may be required. Keep working to tear down that barrier he thinks he wants to build. A loving relationship with you is his best defense against an unforgiving world.

Draw that circle!