“My kid will be the death of me.”
“My kid will be the death of me.”
This phrase is so commonly heard among parents of teenagers it could become their rallying cry. It immediately identifies them as a parent of a reckless teen and unifies those in similar situations.
The anxiety and stress that comes along with trying to rein in a wild teenager is second to little else. The parent’s mind becomes a whirl of questions without any peaceful answers:
- Why aren’t they home yet?
- What could they be getting into this time?
- Are they hurt?
- Is this the night I get a call from the police?
As parents, we love our children no matter what. That doesn’t mean it makes it any easier when they’re out at all hours, suddenly disregarding the rules of the household, and shirking responsibility.
Why Teens Seek Out Danger
When it comes to keeping our children safe, teenagers seem to take it as their sacred duty to make it as difficult as possible. It’s normal for teens to try out their independence and have some new experiences, but why are some teens prone to reckless and irresponsible behavior? There are two schools of thought on that.
Live Forever Syndrome – One common perspective is that teens feel they’re immortal. They know it all, while adults are simply lame and forgot how to have fun. This frees them up to disregard all advice they’ve heard and strike out to discover what’s really dangerous and what isn’t.
Won’t Grow Old Syndrome – The other possibility is that many teens don’t believe they’ll ever see their 30th birthday. In a study authored by Dr. Iris Borowsky they found that up to 15% of teens feel that with the dangers in the world, likely along with many negative influences in their life, they believe their chances of reaching adulthood are slim to none. With such a pessimistic outlook, it’s no wonder they feel they have nothing to lose when taking risks.
The Struggle for Identity
The teenage brain is a land of contradictions and hormones. They’re transitioning from child to adult, but as they cast aside the clothing of their childhood, they’ve still only got one leg in their big boy or girl pants.
Life had been so simple, and now they’re facing a future where they have to make their own decisions, and discover who they actually are as a person. Before, their identity was defined by their family – by you – and the simplicity of life. As a teen, in order to understand their own mind, they need to strike out on their own. This is both freeing, and scary.
Unfortunately, in some cases teens take this too far. Their impulse control is still in development. When we see our teens spiraling, our first impulse can be to step in and try to take control. This, however, is wrong.
Your teen is trying to discover their own strength by experimenting. Demanding to know every aspect of their life may give you more information, but it will also encourage worse behavior, such as lying and sneaking out of the house to avoid your overbearing presence.
Your child is becoming an adult, and adults must think for themselves. Instead of demanding your child do as you say, and think what you want them to think, you need to teach them how to think. Instead of telling them what to do, make sure they understand how to weight the risks, get their own information, and make decisions of their own.
Of course, teens making their own decisions could inevitably lead to lawsuits as they get into worse and worse trouble, and docking their allowance wouldn’t really cover the damage.
In the end, we need to do our best to raise our teens to not necessarily run from risk, but to know what they’re getting themselves into. As long as they know we’re there for them, it takes some of the risk out of growing up.