“That kid doesn’t have the sense God gave him!” How many times have you made a comment like this one about your child or someone else’s? Either way, your statement is 100 percent correct. Kids don’t have sense a whole lot of the time.
The problem is that they DO have sense some of the time. This confuses us. We watch our children act responsibly, puzzle through a difficult problem, and surprise us with their wisdom and maturity. Then, in the next breath, they ruin it all. They do something really, really stupid. They act like complete imbeciles. They ignore everything we ever taught them, and we stand there, mouth gaping, wondering how we’ll make it through another day of senseless acts committed by our children.
I remind you of this not to make you feel helpless and frustrated, but to point out the obvious – children, even teenagers, are still learning. And this means that sometimes, you still need to tell them what to do. My kids are in their early 20’s and there are times when all of the reasoning and explaining in the world won’t get them to see the other person’s side, so I resort to laying down the law and insisting that they do whatever it is, whether they like it or not. It’s called parenting, and yes, you still have to do it well past your kids’ 18 birthday.
Many parents feel that in the teen years, their kids’ rebellion, disrespect, and defiance are “normal.” And one-third of that thought is correct – it is indeed normal for 13 to 25-year-olds to rebel. It is a natural extension of growing up to assert one’s independence, to question what has always been taught, to expose oneself to people outside of one’s family, to think independently, and to desire a life separate from one’s parents. BUT, it is not excusable for teens and young adults to be disrespectful and defiant toward their parents. Those are chosen behaviors that you, as parents, either accept or refuse to accept. If you allow disrespect to happen, you are tacitly approving it. You can and should demand respect from your kids, and when they don’t give it, or blatantly defy you, they should face negative consequences for that decision.
Of course, the best way to get respect is to give it. Speaking to your children as intelligent, thoughtful young people; monitoring your tone and avoiding raising your voice; refusing to engage in long-winded arguments that beat the dead horse; maintaining a healthy balance of love and discipline; and always, always being consistent and persistent with your rules and expectations will earn your children’s respect. If you’ve fallen short in this area and have some work to do yourself, start today to do better. Regardless of where you are on that journey, do not allow your kids to call you names, turn their backs on you while you’re talking or otherwise “dismiss” you, scream at or threaten you. These behaviors are never productive and set a precedent for disrespectful behavior down the road, not just with you, but with future spouses, bosses, and children of their own. That’s one cycle you don’t want to see continued.
And when they attempt to defy you – and they will – don’t let them wear you down. Teach them that your word means something. “No” is not the beginning of an argument. No means no, every single time. Now, they still might defy you, but when they do, consequences must result. Usually taking away a coveted item (their cell phone, rights to the car, or an event with friends) will send a loud, clear message that there are consequences to our actions. Kids don’t often think that far ahead, and that’s exactly why they still need you to think for them when their heads are swimming with everything else.
So don’t write off your teenagers and assume that you no longer have the control. The control is there for the taking. If you don’t pick it up, they will, and they’ll run right into trouble with it. And don’t assume that as teenagers, your kids have a good head on their shoulders. They probably do sometimes, and other times, not so much. You’re still the mom and dad. Let them know that.