Why Teens Don’t Follow Rules

debate small Why Teens Dont Follow RulesSometimes we are so busy trying to get our teens to follow a few simple rules and conform to our direction that it is easy to forget that the main goal of adolescents is to actually to do the opposite of what we want.  Teens are determined to differentiate themselves from their parents at all costs.

Because teens are trying to separate themselves from their parents, there will always be a desire for distance between the teen and his parents.  They have very little motivation to connect with their parents through being the same.  Let me explain this – teens want your love but they don’t want to be like you in order to get it.  As parents, we like who we are and believe that modelling our lives has some value.  We hope that our kids emulate our work ethic and values.  But this is the exact opposite of what teens are trying to achieve during the stage of adolescence (and it is just a stage – it will end).  Sure, teens still want the love of their parents and will do many things to achieve a connection, but they also want to separate themselves from us as parents in order to create their own individual identity.

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” John F. Kennedy

If they can’t separate in a healthy way, they will do it more forcefully.

Rebellion might actually be in our DNA.  Even our nation was founded as a result of rebellion and the fight against conformity with the Catholic Church in Europe.  Yet, we have a deep desire to be connected.  We want to be known and understood by others.  This tension between a desire to be connected and rebellion plays out in adolescence.  Teens want to be separate and still be cared for.

How can they separate themselves from you if they continue to listen and follow your direction for life?  They will not want to change their destructive behavior if changing means being more like their parents.  So we need to be mindful of the changes that we are asking of our kids.  We want to give them an escape route – an opportunity to be their own person, but still remain in relationship to us.

So take time to determine with your spouse what you are trying to accomplish as a parent.  Don’t discuss these goals with your teen initially, and perhaps never.  These are simply larger parenting goals.  When it is all said and done, what do you as parents hope happens when your child is in your home? What are your top priorities – faith, safety, education, athletics, or service?  What areas of life are you leading them toward?  By having larger goals, you might find that you are able to let go of some of the smaller stuff.  In fact, the small stuff might actually be getting in the way.  For example, I really hope that my daughter leaves home with a strong sense of self and has strong spiritual values.  Yet, it seems like I spend a lot of time challenging her to work harder in swim practice, and I spend very little time actually praying with her.

At our treatment facility, we encourage parents to sit down and discuss between themselves what they are trying to accomplish with their child.  I don’t think you would be surprised to find that most parents have pretty different views of what should happen with their sons and daughters.  Becoming unified as guardians will bring peace to the home and allow you to focus on what really is important.  Let go of the small disputes that derail your relationship with your teen and focus on the things that you really want them to learn before they leave home.

In what ways are you training your child?

The Sad Popularity of Bullying

I’ve read too many stories lately about bullying. A recent study showed that 23% of elementary students reported they had been picked on in the last month. It is believed that nearly 100,000 students carry handguns to school. A recent survey showed 77% of high school students felt bullying was destructive in their schools. Emotional, verbal and physical abuse occur way too often in a typical school day and chances are your teenager is affected in some way.

I remember the summer after 6th grade I was playing in my backyard in Fort Worth with some friends and we planned a campout under the trampoline that night. We were putting sheets over the trampoline to make a fort, when none other than the “snooty” kid from down the street came over to play. He was just kind of mean to most kids, but he and I had got along okay. He stood there for a while and then asked if he could spend the night with us. Kind, sensitive, godly me said, “no” and went back to working on the fort. That kid left, went home and told his mom that we wouldn’t let him spend the night. His mom called my mom and guess what? After a pretty tough lecture from my mom, he spent the night with us. I’m guessing it wasn’t much fun, but I think back to that incident and I think I was the one being the bully.

There should absolutely be no tolerance for kids that beat up kids, emotionally or verbally. School should be a place of protection and safety. But it is important, too, to look at the “whys” behind the perpetrators of abuse. Typically, they are kids that have been abused. They are kids that need to be loved and the abuse is their irrational attempt to be protected.

We need to teach our kids to report bullying and set their boundaries. But we also need to teach our kids to love. My mom taught me a good lesson that summer day. She taught me that it’s not okay to bully the bully. She taught me that rejecting the rejected only leads to more rejection. I ended up being pretty good friends with that kid, not best friends, but friends.

Teach your teen to set boundaries but teach your teen to love the unlovable. Of course, it’s difficult to teach what we don’t practice, so pray for a heart that loves and respects the unlovable.

Take control back from Manipulative Teens

Tired of being manipulated? Want to take control back from the manipulative teens in your home?  Find out what makes us as parents an especially easy mark for our own kids to take advantage of.

First (Knowledge) – our kids know us pretty well.  After all, they have been watching our every move for many years and have a deep understanding of our verbal and non-verbal cues.

Second (Predictability) – we tend to be pretty predictable.  As adults our values remain pretty consistent and therefore we rarely alter our opinions, comments, or expectations.  We tend to walk through disagreements and decisions with our kids using the same rationale, delivered in the same manner and even at similar times of the day.

Third (Instability) – as parents we are not sure where our kids stand.  Their undeveloped commitment to values makes them appear less stable and this flexibility gives them a tremendous edge during debate.  Unable to pin them down parents tend to put a lot of extra effort into explaining themselves.  It is like they are able to confuse us.  While we make a concerted effort to communicate in a logical, methodical, and calm manner the manipulative teen keeps his or her parents guessing as to how to lead in the home.

Manipulative teens might act confused and deliberately “misunderstand” what is being said, keeping parents off balance.  Unsure of how to get their point across parents will eventually become worn down, leading to ambivalence regarding outcomes.

Their ability to act confused gives them the upper hand in debate and usually takes the steam out of a parent’s argument.  Any time we are required to repeat ourselves the impact of our message is reduced.

Now that you understand how a manipulative teen is getting what they want through their use of the ‘Confusion Principle’ maybe it is time to use this same approach occasionally yourself.

The Principle of Confusion works so effectively because it destabilizes ones world and forces them to think at a deeper level. Jesus was a fantastic example of someone that always changed the pattern of interaction.  He used parables to change the paradigm of discussion and it always had the same effect.  It stopped the manipulative Pharisees in their tracks, forcing them to go away and think more deeply about themselves and their approach.

Watch this video to learn more.