Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A little more about Monday, teens, & texting

Someone wrote to me about commiserating with how much bigger the problems are when your children are teens. I spent so many years thinking about this. I really believed that homeschooling (at least the unschooly respectful way that we do it) would prevent a lot of the teen problems that are so prevalent in society. Here's a few things I thought:
  • Teens are rebellious because they have rigid unalterable rules surrounding them. Let them be a part of the decision-making, make changes to the rules when their positions are rational. Weighing out the pros and cons of something as objectively as possible will be a great skill to learn.
  • If their opinion is valued, they will value others' opinions. There can be no belittling (as is so often seen in high schools). That just makes a person angrier. When the adult belittles you, and you cannot a.) compete with the banter because you're not good enough at it yet or b.) show disrespect to the adult without suffering the consequences, there's no wonder why teens often feel angry or lacking in self esteem
  • Being around adult conversations helps them learn how mature (hopefully) adults interact with each other. Limiting themselves to primarily being around other kids who are still working through a lot of their own issues won't necessarily be helpful, and could actually be harmful.
  • Use others' behaviors as conversations starters. Without being overly critical, help them see when their friends or acquaintances run into trouble, what results happen. Help your teen problem solve how the end result could have been different. Help them figure out what might be motivating the other person. All these things will cross your own teen's path eventually. Maybe some of these conversations will stick.
  • Use natural consequences instead of arbitrary ones
  • Say "Yes" as often as possible. This puts the adults on the same side as the teen. Immediately, you're working WITH them, instead of opposing them. If you start with "No" then they've stopped listening to your wonderful pearls of wisdom.
And even when you have these kinds of guiding principles, the path gets messy. The heat of the moment often wins out over logic.

So, on to our specific teen and her specific texting problem. We really were going to cave in and let her have it at Christmas. All her friends have it. Peer pressure is so much more painful to her than to the others. And, as most people know, at least half the bill was RECEIVING texts, not sending them. But then she got into a little trouble online - she showed some not great judgement. And the thought of making her MORE reachable didn't seem like a great plan.

Add to that the cost...$20 per month doesn't sound that bad, but when you look at it for a year - ACK! Maybe I'm cheap. But it looked like something she could EARN when she demonstrated good judgement. Seemed logical, right? HA! As if LOGIC ever plays a part in all this! We were looking at ways she could maybe pay for it - but she has no real source of income. She has occasional babysitting jobs. We've done allowance off and on, but when the older 2 started working, everyone helped with household stuff and Alyssa got more money if she did more - because she was the one home more. But bills for texting come every month. And her income didn't.

I didn't realize that you could simply turn texting OFF. There's a lesson for everyone here. If your child isn't ready for it, then do that. In the end, Ron went ahead and called TMobile and added texting, just to protect from the cost of INCOMING texts. She doesnt know - heck, she has no phone right now.

Teen years aren't horrible - please know that. When you're connecting with them, it's the best. When you see them making decisions that are smart or kind or full of joy - it's just as great as when you watched them sleep as babies and felt overcome with love. It's just that the pace quickens. The troubles ARE bigger. Mistakes seem to ripple out a little farther than just spilt sippee cups ruining the couch. But I guess all those things help you as parents *prepare* for the life ahead.

Parents are learning too. All the time. And some days still just go better than others.

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