What’s All The Fuss About Anyway?

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I ALWAYS love my child, but sometimes I don’t like her. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. And, if you were alone, in a sound proof room, with no one around for miles, and were completely and totally honest with yourself, I think you would say that you sometimes feel this way too. Why? Because of this little thing that’s called Parent-Adolescent Conflict. We know it happens. It happens to most of us and it happens pretty frequently, whether we want to admit it or not… but what is all the fuss about? WHAT do parents and teens argue about??

When it comes to content, disputes between parents and teens aren’t typically over huge, significant, life-changing issues like educational or occupational goals, moral values, etc. Conflict between parents and teens is usually over everyday, mundane issues such as homework, chores, getting along with siblings and choice of friends, music, and clothing. These are the times that you say things like “Didn’t I ask you to pick up those dirty socks off the living room floor nine times already?!?” Or “You’re wearing that itty-bitty, microscopic skirt to school? …I don’t think so. Get back in there and change into something decent, young lady!” Most teens would then come back with a multitude of rapid-fire responses, all of course, dripping with a sarcastic, snarky, or condescending attitude. Interestingly, researchers have noted that in the context of parent-teen conflict, parents tend to focus on the social expectations and norms, whereas teens tend to see the issue over which they are arguing as a personal statement. For example, the mother of a 15-year old girl who just got matching green Mohawks with her best friend may say “Good Lord! What are the neighbors are going to think? …that I’ve raised a completely insane, green-haired hooligan!” or “Your room is such a pigsty! …now, go in and clean that room before your grandmother comes over and thinks that I’ve raised you in a barn!” Conversely, teen’s responses would go something like this: “This is MY hair, MY body, and MY room…and I should be able to color my hair green or poke holes in various body parts – Hello…I AM making a statement here!  Screw what the neighbors think!

The good news is that somehow we learn to manage conflict with our teens as they reach middle-adolescence and begin to feel a bit more like we’re in a semi-amicable relationship with another human being once they reach older adolescence. This is just about the same time that our teen begins to realize that our IQ has risen and her mother isn’t as big of an idiot as she used to be! In my Adolescent Psychology class, I always ask my students why they think conflict between parents and their teens decreases after 18 years of age. Any guesses? The first response I inevitably hear is: “they move out of the house”, which is, in part, very true. As teens hit older adolescence, they broaden their social and circumstantial horizons by either going off to college, moving out, getting jobs, etc., which all serves to provide more space, both physical and otherwise, for all to gain a little perspective. In this case, at least, it is true what they say about the heart growing fonder with a little absence – or at least a little less in-your-face bickering. What also happens in late adolescence is that your child is not only gaining perspective, she is becoming significantly more mature – not just physically, but cognitively, socially, and emotionally as well. It’s as though her brain and heart finally catch up to her body. Now these well-rounded, mature children of ours begin to actually appreciate us as human beings, and as individuals. They not only have this new-found appreciation for how you manage to do a great job at work, kick butt at being a good mom, and perform all things with Super Human strength; they also begin to look back and realize that they were a royal pain in your rear end during their early teen years. So many of my students, after learning about parent-adolescent conflict and parents’ perspectives, say that they are going straight to the florist to send their mother flowers! In the event that you randomly get a beautiful bouquet accompanied by a sweet note of appreciation from your older child…you are welcome.

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Sleeping In

Do you remember the last time you slept ‘in’? What does that even mean, anyway…”sleeping in”? My younger brother always points out that the inability to sleep past 9am as an adult is a sure-fire sign that you are getting old. Really old if you can’t sleep past 7!  By those standards, I’m like in my 90’s. I normally scoff at this type of youth-centered dribble, but you know what? He may be right. Think back to when you were a teenager and could sleep the whole day. I remember being able to sleep until 1 or 2 in the afternoon and wake up feeling completely refreshed – and later that same afternoon, take a nap on the couch! My bed really did feel so much more comfy in the mornings when I was a teenager!teenpost about sleeping in But, of course, this would only happen if my parents weren’t home because for some reason that I still can’t figure out, my Mom and Dad truly believed that a teenage kid sleeping past 8 in the morning was tantamount to the most egregious and insultingly disrespectful thing to do ‘to’ adults who can’t sleep. Wha? They would dish out heaping doses of value judgement about time and my misuse of it:  ” …you know the whole day is gone and wasted; you can’t get that time back…”, with a nice, steaming side of guilt when they inevitably brought up all the impoverished, yet dedicated and hard-working teens out there working right alongside their parents at manual-labor jobs that start at 5am – working for pennies, all while your lazy ass was just laying there in bed sleeping the day away. Sigh…those were the days. Now, the only way I make it to 8am without any type of sleep interruption is by way of a medically induced coma (read: tylenol PM or benadryl), and even then, I’m lucky if I make it to 8am. Just one of the many perks of getting older, I guess. Thanks for the insight, bro.

The two teens in my house, by contrast, can sleep for days on end. And, unlike my parents, I really don’t mind. I am aware that as they transition though adolescence and into adulthood (where, of course, their ability to sleep will dwindle), their sleep schedule has shifted, and even after getting 9, 10, or 12 hours of sleep on any given weekend, they are still operating on serious sleep deficits. You may have noticed as your child has hit the teen years that your ability to set and actually follow through with a curfew regarding anything happening late into the evening: getting home at a certain time; getting off the cell phone by a certain time; computer usage ending at a certain time, etc. is met with major disagreement and rebuttals such as “Mom, the party doesn’t even start until 11!” or “Ugh, I’m SO not tired at midnight and can’t sleep, so what am I supposed to do, just sit there and be bored??”staying up too late

Teens are usually wide awake at 1am and ready, of course, to socialize with all their friends who are also wide awake at that time. For various reasons, their sleep patterns have shifted. Where are we, the parents? Sawing serious logs in the other room, pretending to wait up for them so that we can follow through with our deadlines and rules. Because of the fact that they don’t get to sleep until ridiculously late, and the fact that they are likely still texting while they are supposed to be sleeping, it should go without saying that being the one that gets to go in and wake them up on school days is not a pleasant job. Good Lord! If you have a teen in your house who has to get up for school, you know exactly what I’m talking about. When I have to go in to wake up my 19-year old son at the ungodly hour of 9am, it’s like walking into a bear’s den right in the middle of his hibernation. And no matter how gently or gradually I try to wake him, he is cranky as hell. I’m serious…we’re talking foaming at the mouth and everything! So, I have decided that this situation, like many others with my teens, is not as big a deal as I make it out to be, in the grand scheme of things. Simply put, I need to ‘roll with it.’ What I mean is that I have so many other things to do and worry about that I need to put this into perspective. Here are some tips:  1) Remember how you felt as a teen and accept/respect that your teen is right there, right now; 2) Try to not take your teen’s growls and grunts personally when you have to face the cranky bear; and 3) Get him an alarm clock and let him know that if he is late to school, work, whatever, then he will have to pay the natural consequences. Natural consequences being: too many tardies and they turn into absences, and too many absences and it could mean summer school…yuck! Or, too many late arrivals at work means no more job, and no more job means no more money to spend on taking the girlfriend out! Adolescence is a perfect time for our children to start being responsible for their own actions, or inactions as the case may be. So, in the end, your teen learns to be responsible and you, my friend, no longer have to fear being eaten by the bear every morning.

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