Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Rant

... about something that bugs me.

Teenagers.

Not the kids themselves, but attitudes to them. If I had a pound for every time someone has groaned or expressed sympathy when I tell them I have a fourteen year old, I'd be a rich woman ... well, OK, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but I would certainly have enough to keep me in chocolate for quite some time.

I always told Angel was looking forward to her becoming a teenager - quite genuinely, and also hoping to counteract some of the bad press teens get - and I was right to do so. At fourteen she is a mature, responsible young woman, and a joy to have around. So far, the teens have been her easiest age. And it really bugs me that people assume that as soon as they hit their teens kids turn into some sort of parental torture device. How often does that become a self-fulfilling prophecy I wonder?

21 comments:

katherin said...

Oh, I agree wholeheartedly. Emily at 13 is a joy. I've had more people than I can count tell me to "just wait!" I think you're on to something about self-fulfilling prophecies.

Meredith said...

My *new* teen girl is the sweetest teen I know! Not to say we don't have drama and emotional outbursts, but on the whole, she is a delightful teen :) I think it's all about the ennvironment don't you??

Elizabeth Foss said...

I have found that 14 is very, very difficult. I'm someone who loves the so-called terrible twos.I even love colicky infants. And I'm also someone who always thought that tough teenage years were self-fulfilling prophecies. Perhaps my children have been parented poorly after all, but we've struggled mightily here with all three of our first boys right around 14. We make it through and we come out better on the other side, but a lot of tears are shed and a lot of prayers are said.It's discouraging to think that other people have decided that since they haven't had a struggle at all, people who are struggling must have somehow set themselves up for it. I assure you we've stayed connected and we've always expected the very best of our children. I never thought the teenage years would be difficult. We were surprised by the intensity and unpleasantness of 14. Maybe we'll get better at it as we go along.

Jennifer in TX said...

I was in the checkout line at Target a few weeks ago and a a young mother with a three or four year old little girl was checking out next to me...Out of the blue, another lady behind her in line, made the comment--"to enjoy her now because once they become teens they hate you and live to make your life a living hell." That poor young mom, she didn't know what to say...I wanted to go up and pat her and tell her that I love the person my thirteen year old daughter is becoming...she has really blossomed this year and her maturity is remarkable. Sure, she has hormonal moments (so do I), but I am proud of her and try to let her know that each and every day. :) Self fulfilling prophecy, indeed!!

Catherine said...

Amen! I love having teens!!!!

The Bookworm said...

Hi Elizabeth, I wasn't commenting on the parenting skills of anyone who has difficult teens, just on the widespread assumption that having a teen always = misery. I don't remember anyone ever even hinting at the possibility that it could be enjoyable to have a teen. Of course there can be very difficult times during the teens, and some teens are very difficult indeed, but I do think that applies to other ages as well. Some people have dreadful times with 2 year olds. Here 8 has been an awful (truly awful!) age with both my girls. It may be that 15 or 16 will be awful, or that one of the other girls will be horrendous during her teens, but having a difficult time with a teen still doesn't add up to the automatic teens = nightmare scenario that so many people make it out to be.

I wonder if 14 is a particularly difficult age for boys, but not girls? So far everyone who has commented on how much they enjoy their teens has younger teen girls. IRL Angel's girlfriends mostly seem to be on a pretty even keel, but a good friend with a 14yo son is finding him hard going. Maybe boy to man is harder transition than girl to woman?

Elizabeth Foss said...

I don't know yet whether it's a boy thing; my oldest girl is a few months from being a teenager. I do know for certain that it was not a self-fulfilling prophecy in my house. I was so surprised by our difficulties, it took my breath away. Even after experiencing it with the first two, I was astonished again with the third. That said, I would never make comments like those Jennifer heard in the grocery store. Frankly, I don't know enough to make generalizations like that. And, I'm not so much into negative comments anyway--I'd rather encourage a mom in any situation. For me, the most helpful comment ever came from a mother of a big family who was three teens ahead of me when my first was becoming a teenager. She told me that the early teens were hard for her children but that they circled back and became very pleasant, happy, devoted young adults in their late teens before they left for college. She was a mom I admired and I clung to her observations very tightly. They gave me hope and they didn't kick me in the teeth. It's hard enough to admit a struggle without finding that the admission prompts someone to say that somehow the trouble is all because a parent assumed it would be that way. No doubt, in some cases, parents determine far in advance that the teen years will be tough. But that doesn't mean that all teenage struggle is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some parents really are tortured as they witness the grief and pain their teenagers experience. They don't assume that their children are doing it to the parents, but they feel the pain because they are deeply connected to their kids. There is a pulling away in the teen years. We learn we can't make it all better. I have six more children to become teenagers; two of them are boys. I don't assume that they will become torture devices (and I'd never, ever call them that--their angst is not about me at all), but I will never again be surprised by the early teen trauma. I hope it won't be the way it was for the first three, but I won't be surprised. I won't be nearly as devastated either. I won't spend as much time wondering what I did wrong. I've learned that it's only partly about environment. There's more to my children than what I've made them to be. Instead,as I spend the next 15 years with an early teen, I'll know that I can pray a child through the tough time and that sometimes, that's really ALL I can do.

Sarah in England said...

I think every child is different. My two are an example. Chatterbox was a nightmare baby who would not sleep at all at night for the first three months. But now she is a good sleeper and very secure in herself. Squidge slept, well, like a baby as a baby but then as she got older got worse, lol. She's also very clingy and cries at the slightest thing. I imagine Squidge will be a bit of a tearaway teenager and Chatterbox will be the model teen, but they could surprise me yet!!

It's very sad when people make such generalisations like, "oh coming up to the terrible twos!", or "just you wait for the sleepless nights, you'll wish you were back being pregnant", or as you lament "just you wait until they hit the teen years, then you'll have problems". People can be so negative.

My bug bear is people who tut-tut mother's in supermarkets who are dealing with an irritable child the best way they can. I always try to smile in a sympathetic way and hope my smile isn't miscontrued as smugness.

Parenting is an emotional minefield and we all worry we aren't good mothers when things go wrong. All we can do is trust and pray - to be more like Christ and that our children will find Christ; I reckon put that first and all the other stuff will fall into place. Not that I'm saying it will suddenly be like Walton Mountain or something, but that God will make all things right and can turn the heart of any child or parent even during the hardest times.

Lol, long comment...

Hugs.

Sarah in England said...

"mother's" my other bug bear is the misuse of apostrophes and then I go and do it myself! :) It should of course read "mothers in supermarkets"
LOL!

molly said...

Great post-
I see it as a world of over-indulgenced children, being catered to their every whim, and parents complaining when their children live up to their standards.
I see it constantly, and it bothers me to see these young adults get treated so poorly.
BUt, hey, thats just my opinion:)

Elizabeth Foss said...

Still thinking about this...perhaps it's true that many children of parents who assume the teen years will be difficult (and worse, articulate that) end up with difficult teens. But I don't think it follows that anyone who finds herself with a difficult teen must be there because of a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I don't think anyone here has said that. I do think we make a mistake as parents if we think that our children are entirely products of their environment. I don't think that is true at all.
Whether a child is two or fourteen, environment is only part of the puzzle.

Theresa said...

It also really bothers me that folks assume a teenager (or a 2 year old) will be awful.
Of my 4 teenagers (so far) only one of them has been difficult. And she was always difficult so it was no surprise, LOL! Some kids just seem to ease through the transition years more gracefully than others. Perhaps it is temperament more than anything?

Meredith said...

Well, considering my comment was about the *environment* I'll come back to this. My very newly turned 13 yo daughter is the only experience I have as of yet with the teenage years, and I have to agree that with our society the way it is today with it's poor messages towards teens and the culture's insistence on taking away purity and morality from children at such an early age, I am happy that my fairly sheltered daughter has not yet been exposed to it and can still be a *young* teen and not be caught up in the pitfalls that plague our world's teens. I do not suspect that my children's teen years will all be a bed of roses, but assuredly my dh and I will be continuing what we feel to be the best possible environment and support for them every step of the way! One of the best books I've read recently about the teen years (and before) is Boys Should Be Boys, it's an incedible insight into the culture that's literally crushing our boys desire to just be the boys they were meant to be. Happy weekend everyone! Many blessings,

Dorothy said...

14 = great with dd
14 = trouble with ds

Don't know why. Probably just that they are individuals. Or maybe there;s something difficult about being a 14 yo boy at home with mum and sister, being home-educated?

I do agree that our expectations do come into it.

I was wary about teenage years for G but they have been the easiest of all! J was a delightful little boy and...well...I look forwrad to seeing him again when this 15 year old who looks like him finally leaves. J himself tells me that my lovely boy will come back one day. {g}

I do think it's a struggle, coming into manhood these days.

katherine said...

What I take as a matter of a "self-fulfilling prophecy" is what Elizabeth also wrote about in her last column. The father who openly compared his children to the Foss kids..."Why can't you behave like those children?" I think that when a parent has an openly negative attitude toward a child, the child will respond in a negative way. So I would say that it is very likely that a parent who is negative about their children to the point that they would go to the extreme of sharing their discontent with perfect strangers is most likely to have a troubled child, while having a troubled or struggling child does not necessarily mean that the parent is to blame.

I have experienced situations such as the one that Jennifer mentioned more times than I can count. And I have found it very discouraging. So I definitely feel that my perspective is not a matter of looking at what other parents are doing right or wrong, but finding it discouraging that strangers would feel the need to instill fear in parents or discourage them in any way.

I don't think it's possible to raise a child without struggle. No one who has parented can be considered to be someone who hasn't struggled. But all of our struggles are different. Our children are persons and it would be rather prideful to think that all of their strengths or weaknesses were the simply the result of what we had done or failed to do.

Michele Quigley said...

I have to agree with Elizabeth. I am about to enter the teens with my 6th child (but first girl) and the first 5 (boys) all have had varying difficulties but 14 for the one currently there really surprised me. He was a very easy and pleasant 13 yr. old who became a sullen, moody, temperamental 14 yr. old. Almost like someone flipped a switch! I know from experience it will get better and that does make it easier to manage but wow was I surprised. I do think hormones play a big part in it and that can vary from child to child. My current 14 yr. old has been having a major growth spurt the last year and it certainly could be connected. I do also wonder if boys have a more difficult time --I'll let you know my conclusions on that in a few years. ;-)

The advice you got from that mom was good Elizabeth --I do wish I had had someone share the same with me because it would have made things easier for sure. :-)

Lovely new template Kathryn!

Cay G. said...

I think Katherine's post has nailed the points I wanted to make.

I find it has been the pre-teen years that we struggled through the most.

Chelsea is 11 and we're in the mist of mood-swings and wanting to argue, etc. The routine.

I also find I've struggled more with the girls while dh thinks they're still sweet little dolls. And the boys and I get along famously while Dad is expecting too much of them and is very hard on them. Of course, it depends which side of the barn you're looking at. I admit I learned that when dh comes down hard on our second son, I need to step back and keep my mouth shut. I stepped in too many times w/ the firstborn, when I shouldn't have. I've learned I really know nothing about raising boys.

I'm thinking it has more to do with the parent's attitude and mind-frame than the child's and I've tried conveying this to my dh.

It seems that I handle these years better than he does because I expect some of the attitude problems and I prepare myself ahead of time to be cheerful and postive no matter what.

Not to say we haven't had our ups and downs and tears and all that, but the teen years have not been as bad as what the world has made them out to be.

If this sounds confusing, it is. I still haven't figured it out yet.

The Bookworm said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. I don't think I've ever had a post spark so much conversation! It definitely seems that boys are more likely to have crises in the early teens than girls. Katherine, I think you hit the nail on the head - children are individuals and all parents will have their own, different struggles, but the negativity about teens is depressing. It was the negativity I was really ranting about.

Dorothy said...

You are right, K. The negativity is horrible!

The lack of respect people have for our teens is something which I find shocking too. It's as though, because society has decided that teenagers are horrible, that therefore all teenegers must be treated disrepectfully. That's also a self-fulfilling prophesy, I think.

Cay G. said...

Had to come back here with humility.

After a stressful week w/ one of my teens, a week of listening to three friends talk about their teenagers and during a breakfast-date with my niece concerning her best friend, I can see why teenagers are getting a bad rap.

The Bookworm said...

Ack! Cay! I'm sorry it has been a rough week :(.