What? You don’t get text messages from your teens telling you they love you? You know, just letting you know they’re thinking of you, they appreciate you, and everything you do for them just for the hell of it? Not because they want something from you, or because they got in trouble, but simply because they want to let you know they love you, even though they’re in school and aren’t supposed to be texting.
Like this message I got from my 13 year old son:
Sweet huh?? Totally made my day. Of course I had to show off how much my baby loves me so I took a screen shot picture of it and posted in on my Facebook. Ohhhh, shut up, you would’ve done the same thing!!
About an hour later I got a phone call. It was the counselor at my sons Middle School. Mrs. “Counselor” was calling to let me know that everything was alright with my son (this is the first thing they say to reassure you as your mind starts to predict the worst case scenario), but that she had to have a talk with him because someone had informed the administration that my son, my intelligent, generous, loving son, had been mooning students after school at the park. I painted a mental picture of my little man, his back to his on looking spectators, dropping his basketball shorts and exposing them with his white ass and a smirk on his face.
Mrs. “Counselor” continued to inform me that while they could not discipline him since he did not commit the offense on school grounds, she wanted him to understand the severity of his actions by giving him a warning and informing me of his inapropriate behavior.
“Ok, thank you for letting me know,” I told her. What else was I gonna say? Thank you for letting me know that my son is a little douche for mooning people? Or, Thank you for making me feel like a crappy parent? Because, after all, my sons actions are a reflection of my parenting, right? I mean, do the counselors really call us to “inform” us parents whenever our kids screw up to scare the kid into understanding the gravity of the situation (i.e. “I’m going to call your parents and let them know what you have done”). Or are they actually calling to let us know that we’re doing a crappy job at teaching them civil, appropriate & mature behavior?
Intellectually speaking, I know it’s the former, but I tell you what, as a parent it feels like the latter. Needless to say, although I did find it a bit humorous (but I would never tell him that), I wasn’t too content with the fact that my son was mooning his peers and….well, I was feeling duped by his text message. So, even though I shouldn’t be texting him while he’s in school, I texted him back:
There’s something about shame and facing the disappointment in your parents’ face when you’ve done something wrong. I can remember this feeling all too well, and it was punishment enough. So, that was the look my son faced when I picked him up from school later that afternoon. I turned the radio off and asked him what was going on. Just two weeks previously he had gotten a detention for having run off to lunch before the teacher gave them the go ahead and so, in this moment, he confessed that he was feeling like he just kept messing up and letting me down. We spent the drive home talking about self control and “thinking before acting”, and as my tough little man, who never cries in front of anyone, fought back the tears and his lower lip trembled, I could hear in his reflections that he was also disappointed in himself.
And while many of you may argue that his behavior may merit a punishment or “grounding”, his own personal disappointment was punishment enough for me.
It is my belief, that throughout the different stages of our development we experiment and in turn experience. Every day is an opportunity to learn through the choices that we make, and sometimes those choices are not always the “right” ones, or the best ones. However, if we never screwed up then how would we learn anything?
But sometimes I feel like parents tend to forget what it was like being a teenager, learning about boundaries, and respect, emotions, relationships, drugs, alcohol, sex, etc, etc, and how many times we acted before thinking when making choices. Instead parents present themselves as though they were perfect teenagers who NEVER made a wrong choice or committed a questionable act, so how could their own child possibly make a wrong choice as well….I mean it’s ludicrous right? Yes, we expect our kids to be better and smarter than we were, but how can they learn that if we project a facade of perfection? How could they possibly be better and smarter than that?
Even as adults we make day-to-day decisions/choices, and sometimes they are not always the right ones to make. We understand that every decision/choice has a consequence and we are able to “think before we act”. However, even as adults, we still make incorrect, bad, or wrong choices (and I’m not even talking about illegal choices, but I’ll ask you to reflect anyways: how many times have you made the choice to drive faster than the speeding limit? Or run a red light? Or roll through a stop sign?) but don’t face severe “punishments” or consequences. Yet, time and time again I have observed parents grounding their kids, punishing them for having made a “wrong” choice, stripping them of their privileges and property and confining them to the jail of their room as though they had committed a felony and were now convicts.
The difference between teens and adults, in my humble opinion, is that as adults we have the ability to self-reflect (admittedly not all of us), where as teens, because they are so self absorbed and believe the world revolves around them, have a more difficult time self reflecting. So why, instead of punishing them for every little “mistake” they make, don’t we teach them how to self reflect on those errors by communicating with them?
Sounds easier said than done? I don’t think so. Many of you have applauded me over and over again about the communication that exists between me and my sons, but I can tell you that it doesn’t stop there. I have that with other children, including my sons friends, and even my own college students. Reason being, because I work (no, it doesn’t come natural) on forging a relationship built on trust and honesty that allows me the opportunity to communicate with them and then teach them how to self reflect.
But if grounding works for you, great, keep up the good work! Although I do have to say, from what I have witnessed, most parents do not have the ability to remain consistent with their groundings, and groundings tend to interfere with the lives of those who live in the house. In the end, most parents tend to give in or “forget” and all this teaches the child is that a “one month grounding” is really only going to last a week and in turn, they become extremely conscious of their parents inability to stick to a punishment and (as I have heard with my own ears) they go around talking shit about their parents for doing this.
Either way, I’m no parenting “expert” (whatever the hell that is); I’m just learning as I go along stumbling my way through parenthood.
Oh and if you’re wondering why he did it…it was a dare!!
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