Read an Excerpt
Will the Well-Rounded Teenager Please Stand Up?
What happened to my little angel now that she has turned twelve? What once was a smooth, friendly mother-daughter relationship has fumed into a volcano that is about to erupt at any time,' one mother admitted in a parenting group.
'Fourteen was a fantastic year with Pete, but now that he's fifteen, instead of maturing, he's regressed. I don't understand!' a dad said.
Perhaps you can identify with these parents. The trouble with figuring out what your kids are like is that by the time you do, they've done another flip-flop. The only thing that you can count on during adolescence is change!
One day Claudia asked our son who had just turned fourteen, 'How do you feel about life?'
He shrugged his shoulders as if he really didn't know or care, but finally he said, 'Well, I'm not satisfied with my teachers, my friends, or the world situation.'
'What about you?' she prodded.
Laughing, he said, 'I'm the only thing that's perfect!'
Claudia wasn't ready to let the subject be dismissed so flippantly. Really wanting to understand his feelings, she asked, 'How do you feel about being a teenager?'
'I really like it. I get to be an adult without all the responsibilities like earning a living.'
Persistence paid off. Sometimes your kids may open up to you with no prodding; other times engaging in a real conversation with them is like pulling teeth.
While learning to relate on a more adult level at one moment, our maturing teen a couple of hours later was playing 'Capture the Flag' with his younger brothers. One challenge you face as a parent is to understand and accept teens who change like a chameleon, who put on different colors every day. It was easier to accept the changes that normally occurred between babyhood and childhood. Even the 'terrible twos' were at least predictable. It is tricky at best to try to understand teenagers who are still in the process of trying to understand themselves.
Four Teen Profiles
Not only are teens changeable, they are unique. If your kids are like ours, you may wonder how children growing up in the same environment, having the same parents, can be so different from each other. One of our sons was so uptight and self-disciplined that he organized the lives of everyone around him. Another was so laid-back and relaxed that we wondered how he got out of bed in the morning. Yet they had basically the same environment.
A few years ago, after studying our adolescents and their friends, we came up with four teenage profiles (three of which were represented in our home). Being aware of these general types can help you to know what to expect from your teens and also to know that your teens are no worse than other adolescents.
Sally is popular at school, very outgoing, and fun. If a party takes place, Sally's sure to be there or at least to have been invited. She adds that special spice to family life, but sometimes things can get a little too spicy! She has a monopoly on the cordless phone, which has a permanent parking place in her room. What she would really like to have is a beeper and her own cell phone!
She comes with a set of friends who always seem to be around. What a bore for Sal if she is forced to spend an evening alone. She is uninhibited and impulsive --- a scary combination for parents! She has good intentions, but poor follow-through. Like a butterfly she flits from one thing to another, leaving a string of unfinished projects and many messes when she finds something more exciting.
At school Sally tries to keep her studies from interfering with her social life, so the teachers describe her as 'playful,' needing to concentrate more on her work.
Tom, the organizer, is the leader in his group. You always know when Tom hits the door. He confronts and argues with his teachers --- a gifted debater! Tom has enough self-confidence for the whole family. When questioned about his latest purchase and reminded that no one else is wearing such attire, he responds, 'That's okay, I set the styles.' Many times he is right.
Strong-willed and hardworking traits sometimes cause him to be domineering and to walk over other people --- especially parents. He also tends to be selfish, relating to his world in light of 'Tom' and his needs. He considers his brothers' and Dad's closets as his own and helps himself generously to whatever he needs. Patience and sympathy are definitely not his strongest attributes. His teachers enjoy his quick mind but could do without his sarcasm and 'smart mouth,' traits he developed at an early age. Without a doubt Tom is going to contribute to the world in one way or another.
We all enjoy Larry's easygoing, calm disposition. His boiling point is so high he rarely gets angry, but watch out when he does, because he's not always sure of the appropriate way to handle it. His listening ear and dry wit make him well accepted at home and with his peers, but he is much quieter than Tom and Sally. Once on a family vacation Larry was left at a pit stop in Reno and not missed by the family for the next fifty miles!
Life for Larry is a pleasant, unexciting experience. His biggest problem is that he is s-l-o-w and unmotivated. He does not derive his sense of self-esteem from academic achievements. 'Larry's so pleasant to have in class,' his teachers say, 'but can you do anything to help me motivate him to work harder and faster?' He tends to be the underachiever, but once his internal motivation clicks on, he has a steady consistency we all can admire!
Renee is the ultra-responsible teen. She's quieter than her brothers and sisters, but she has a rich inner life. While Sally Sparkle's feelings are oozing out on everyone, Renee's feelings are directed inward. Like Sally, she is feelings-oriented and often rides her emotions like a roller coaster --- high then low, up then down!
A deep thinker and creative teen, she sometimes amazes her parents with her insights, but woe to everyone around her when she begins to become negative and introspective. She convinces herself that she is unloved. Her teachers are quick to tell us that she is a good student, but they think she shouldn't take life so seriously.
What's Your Combination?