Standing Strong As A Catholic Parent Of Teens

by Parenting, September

The beauty of the beast. “Sixteen is the terrible twos times eight plus a driver’s license.”—One mother in speaking for many. “Just enjoy them now; those teen years are coming.”—a forewarning from veteran parents to the beginners.   

Poll one hundred parents, and the majority would tag the teen years as the toughest and trickiest. Put me in the minority. Sure, teens can be moody, testy and ungrateful—some say this is their natural persona. The natural persona of the teen is just the opposite: full of life, energy and fun.

Adolescence does bring fast changes—hormones surge, bodies stretch, and the kids push for more perks and privileges than their parents know are good for them. Yet, as a psychologist—and father of ten children myself, seven of whom were simultaneously teens—I’m convinced that today’s teen turbulence is more cultural than developmental.

Would a farmer in 1900 lament, “My son just turned fifteen. He’s getting to be a real teenager. I can’t get much cooperation from him anymore. I guess I just gotta ride this out.” 

Not something heard 100 years ago, when “teenager” wasn’t even a word. Today’s parents must navigate a soul-misshaping culture. Still, with lots of love, supervision and calm discipline, they can make the teen years more enjoyable than others tell them to expect.

Express vs Respect

Let children freely express themselves, so express the childrearing gurus. Yes, but free expression ends when disrespect begins. “Mom, I really don’t see why I can’t go to Snake’s party. You say, ‘Be responsible, and you’ll get more privileges.’ I think I’ve been pretty responsible.” Sounds like Conan is expressing himself respectfully. 

“You are being totally ridiculous. You make rules just to show you’re boss. This house stinks.” Not too hard to hear the difference between Angel’s and Conan’s free expression.

Isn’t backtalk “normal” teen behavior? Normal doesn’t mean good or right. 

To tame tough talk, set a house rule: For any kind of disrespect—words, tone, “back looks”, Polly will write an essay on self-control, respect, gratitude—hand-written, your length, and polite. Otherwise, slander just morphs into libel. No privileges until essay is complete. 

Expression or disrespect? A simple test: However your teen is talking to you, talk likewise to your boss, best friend or pastor. Anytime anyone says anything you find disagreeable, respond, “Yeah, right. Whatever”. Throw in an eye roll or huffy sigh. After one month, ask, “Do you still like me?” Disrespect doesn’t sustain friendships for very long.

A Bad Call

Since Adam and Eve, the prime shapers of the next generation were the family, clan, or tribe. No longer. Our culture now accosts the youth, “Think and act like this way.” Like the relentlessly invasive vapor in the horror film, “The Fog”, it seeps through the tiniest cracks of the family’s protective defenses, seductively undercutting morals and mature living.

Parents ask, “What one thing will most undo my parenting?” Hands down, give a smart phone, early (average age is now nine to eleven), with unlimited access. It connects adolescents to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Is that a healthy thing?

Hold the phone until age thirteen—still too early and much to Alexander and Belle’s wailing and gnashing of teeth—and you will be with ten percent of parents. The pressure to relent from every direction will mount. Brace yourself, strong parenting is not consensus parenting. 

Age is not the deciding factor in cell-phone custody, trustworthiness is. If you need a reminder, I’ll text you periodically.

One In A Hundred

I ask parents, “Do you want to raise a typical teen? Or, do you want to raise a one in a hundred teen—in character, virtue, maturity?” No parent yet has replied, “Typical is fine.” All answer, “One in a hundred.” At which I ask, “Are you willing, then, to be a one in a hundred parent?” This means you’ll supervise much closer than most. You’ll discipline when others are lax. You’ll give social freedoms later than their peer group and technology freedoms much later. In short, you’ll teach and live by standards higher than the crowd’s. 

Also, you’ll be misunderstood and second-guessed, not only by your teens—that’s to be expected—but by other adults and experts who intone, “Set your standards too high, and your kids will rebel.” Huh? Teaching morals and virtue will be the very thing to drive your kids to reject morals and virtue?

The crowd pushes you to allow too much freedom too early. Resist the crowd for your kids’ sake. Stand strong. Parent above the norm. Then others will say, “He’s one in a hundred.”

This is an excerpt from Dr. Ray Guarendi’s newest book, Standing Strong: Good Discipline Makes Great Teens. Order HERE!

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Image: Photo by Frank Lloyd de la Cruz on Unsplash

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