Dealing with Put-Downs, Rolling Eyes and Smoking — 13-18 Year-Olds
Practical advice from child psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman to help parents overcome obstacles and lead their teens into responsible, successful adulthood.
The teen years can be a wonderful season, but also a time of unique challenges for both parents and kids. Some of the challenges for parents include dealing with teen put-downs, rolling eyes, and destructive behavior such as smoking. Here are some suggestions on how to overcome these obstacles and help your teen develop into a responsible, loving adult.
Dealing with Put-downs
When I was a school teacher, I transferred from elementary to junior high. Thankfully, I found many things that I loved about junior high students. But there were a few things I didn't love, including the way students often put each other down. Unfortunately, this behavior doesn't just happen in the classroom, but also in homes. If you parent kids between the ages of 13 and 18, you may have experienced this and, like me, know the frustration this behavior brings.
In his book Have a New Kid by Friday, Dr. Leman gives great advice on how to deal with put-downs and regain your sanity.
Remember that kids are like little adults.
Sometimes parents scratch their heads because they wonder what could make their otherwise angelic children put each other down. Not surprisingly, it's the same motivation that adults have when they engage in the same behavior — usually pride or insecurity. No matter the age, people put one another down to make themselves look good, and according to Dr. Leman, kids may also put one another down to get their parents' attention.
So if you're tired of listening to your teens bicker, Dr. Leman suggests sending your teens into a room and telling them that neither of them is coming out until things are worked out to your satisfaction. This, says Leman, will teach your kids that you are not going to do their fighting for them, that they are responsible for their own actions, and that you live by a "no put-down policy."
This policy is important, not only because it fulfills Christ's command to love one another, but because it will also encourage family unity. Dr. Leman said it sends the message, "In this family, we're not going to tolerate put-downs or name calling. We're a family. That means we support each other … When you put each other down, that hurts everyone. And it breaks down our family."
I recently heard that 70 percent of what you communicate to others is non-verbal. There are plenty of negative non-verbal cues that kids send to one another and to their parents, and one of these is rolling eyes.
Dr. Leman says, "[Preteens and teens are] masters at the rolling-eye syndrome. It's their non-verbal way of saying, 'Please, not again!' 'Dad, you're embarrassing me. I can't believe you did that!'"
Eye rolling is a molehill, not a mountain.
One of the things that make parents effective is remembering what's a big deal and what isn't. Dr. Leman says that while talking back and being a smark-aleck is a big deal, rolling the eyes isn't. This means that, yes, you should correct it, but no, you shouldn't act like it's a mountain when it's only a molehill.
A lighthearted approach works best.
Dr. Leman says, "Parents, this is not an issue to go to war on. So why not have a little fun with it? The next time you see the eye roll, say, 'Oh, that was great. Would you do it again? In slow motion?'"
When one of my good friends was in high school in the 60s, some things just weren't cool, and smoking was one of them. Now, smoking is accepted among teens. While you hope that your voice of reason will speak loudly when it comes to lighting up, there is no guarantee. So what do you do if you discover that your teen has taken up smoking or is dabbling in it?
Remember that smoking is dangerous and it's stupid.
In his book, Dr. Leman says that it's stupid to smoke because of the health damage it causes. In fact, Leman says there are numerous studies that show both first-hand and second-hand smoke are harmful. This is important to remember because if you allow your child to smoke, you are not only allowing them to ruin their health, but hurt others around them too, and that may include you.
Help your children educate themselves about the stupidity of smoking.
If you discover your child is smoking, Dr. Leman suggests that you have your child do a 5-page report on the ills of smoking and that the paper has to be handed in to you before his life goes on — or before he can do anything else. That means that if he has plans to go to the movie, the paper has to be done first; if he had plans to play football, too bad; he'd better get busy writing.
If you suspect that your child is smoking marijuana, take her to do the doctor to request a urinalysis. If you find that your child has indeed been smoking pot, Dr. Leman says it's important to take action. Form an intervention group and remove any privileges your child has, such as driving the family car or receiving an allowance. "A wise parent will take a hard-line approach to get the behavior stopped immediately. There is far too much at stake."
One of the main things to remember as you teach your teens to become responsible adults is not to worry too much about being a friend. Sometimes it's important to take a harder approach to get your teen's attention.
Copyright © 2008 Shana Schutte.