Sunday, January 20, 2013

How to have a new teenager by Friday ... a follow-up

So, I didn't really expect to have a new teenager by Friday. Part of it was just my own historical pessimism; the other was that I didn't believe that one book by some well-known Christian psychologist was going to turn my kid around in five days.

However, I was pleasantly surprised at the strides that were made in one short week, and I'd highly recommend the book to anyone in my parenting position.

To recap, "Have a New Teenager by Friday: From Mouthy and Moody to Respectful and Responsible in 5 Days" by Dr. Kevin Leman was alleged to help me:

-communicate with the "whatever" generation
-establish healthy boundaries and workable guidelines
-gain respect--even admiration--from their teenager
-turn selfish behavior around
-navigate the critical years with confidence
-pack their teenager's bags with what they need for life now and in the future
-become the major difference maker in their teenager's life

The chapters were broken down into days of the week, which I didn't really pay attention to since I just wanted to drink it all in and implement his suggestions when the situations came up. 

Case in point: new, 2013 school night rules dictate that all electronic devices be charged in Mom's room at bedtime, to prevent any "I can't sleep so I'm going to play Angry Birds until I fall asleep then be really cranky the next day" issues, as well as finding texts back and forth to friends at 3 am. The night before they went back to school for the semester, I woke to find my oldest son surreptitiously seeking out his Nexus. I told at him to go back to bed. That was all. But the next morning, when he asked where it was so he could take it to school (for "note taking"), I said, "You disobeyed me last night, and I don't appreciate you coming into my room in the middle of the night. Therefore you cannot take your Nexus to school today." It was like I had just slapped him. First of all, he wasn't used to me not reading him the riot act about how he had done this stupid thing and how my trust in him had been once again broken. Secondly, he was not used to being disciplined after the fact and in such a, well, justifiable manner. He went to school without the Nexus, and since then, has come into my room before bed every night to charge his devices.

Leman talked about this "after the fact" kind of discipline in his book, but I was still adhering to the tactics I used when they were younger, and that is, punish immediately because if you wait until later, they've forgotten what they've done. I hadn't updated this and they had been playing me for YEARS. They do something wrong, I jump down their throats, they tune me out, I give up. Cycle, cycle, cycle.

I did it again just the other day. My son lied about toast. Just toast. Simply toast. I knew he lied. Later, he asked if he could have a sleepover. I said no. He asked why. I said simply, "Because you lied about the toast." "But Mom! That's so stupid!" was his reply. Said I, "It was a stupid lie."

I've also said no to hanging out with friends during the week, at least until the grades improve. I'm not too thrilled with some of the kids he's chosen to chill with these days, anyway, but have felt somewhat powerless to do anything to change it. Oh, I could forbid him to see them, but I know that will just make him find a way to rebel against me no matter if he wants to see them or not. But you know what? A part of me thinks he's relieved at my new rule. Relieved to have an excuse NOT to hang out with them because he knows they aren't straight up. Because he hasn't fought me on it. In fact, we hang out more now; watching TV, or him showing me YouTube videos or stuff on his Nexus. I know - we're not doing puzzles or playing board games or discussing politics, but still, I'll take it.

And I've started listening more - another Lemanism, so to speak. He encouraged  parents of teens such as mine to not try so hard to parent at times, and just listen. So when my son said, "When I grow up, I'm going to be a video game programmer and make a ton of money" I didn't tell him that I think that's a less than wise profession and that he'd better get his grades up and don't expect to make money hand over fist the day after graduation. I simply said, "Cool." And ya know what? He kept talking. And he talked himself through it himself. "Well, I'm probably won't get a video gaming job right out of college, so maybe I should get some sort of computer technology degree..." I was interjecting as needed, but mostly I was just listening. And yes, I have drawn blood by biting the side of my mouth to not say the first thing that comes into my brain.

Oh, and did I mention his grades are up?

So, like I said, I'm not convinced I have a new kid. But I do feel like he maybe has a new parent. A parent who has started to figure out that I can't parent him the way I did when he was seven. A parent who needs to stop trying to control and start trying to communicate. A parent who is starting to once again enjoy her teenager (did I just say that???) more than I ever have. On the flip side, he seems to have a little more respect for me, and sees me less of something he just needs to tune out. Because suddenly I'm showing him that what he says, no matter what I think of it, has value. And I'm doing it quietly. I'm disciplining him quietly - minus the lecture he's heard a thousand times before.

I say this with trepidation. I say this with caution. I say this while knocking on wood. Because I know that these smooth times are often mottled by bumps in the road. In fact, the road itself is not unlike many in Peoria: riddled with potholes and bumps but with a sporadic smooth patch where the workers have recently been out. Eventually, that smooth patch will become bumpy. Cycle, cycle, cycle.

Pray that this continues. Pray that this is a breakthrough and not just God throwing me a bone because he knew I was ready to throw in the towel. Oh, and if you can relate?  Buy the book. Better yet, I'll loan it to you. It just might break that cycle and get you closer to where you need to be with your teenager.


  1. Trepidation warranted. And be careful not to bruise your knuckles knocking on wood so much. But stay the course; you are on the right track, regardless of impending bumps.

  2. Sounds like you're making some great strides. With that whole free will thing, you definitely have a challenge on your hands. Someday your kids will realize how lucky they are to have such a caring Mom that is doing her best to guide, teach, and help them grow into productive and responsible young men. Hang in there.


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