Discussion of NurtureShock, Chapter 7 “The Science of Teen Rebellion”

We're talking about NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman allsummer. One chapter every Friday. Jump in whenever you'd like. The first week we talked about Chapter 1 about praise.
The second week we talked about Chapter 2 about sleep.
The third week we talked about talking about race with
The fourth week we talked about why kids lie and how
inadvertently promoting that.
The fifth week we talked about
intelligence testing for preschoolers for school placement purposes.
Last week we talked about how having siblings socializes children. This week we're talking about why teens lie to their parents and engage in risky behavior.

This chapter, entitled "The Science of Teen Rebellion" wasn't as
thrilling to me as previous chapters, undoubtedly because I don't have
teenagers yet. But I also thought the structure and writing in this
chapter is weaker than in the others we've read so far. The first
section (a terrifying expose of one teenager in Florida that I didn't think was actually necessary) and the last
section (I'm not really sure what to make of it) aside, here are the
main points of this chapter:

  • Teenagers lie to their parents. A lot.
  • The main reason they lie to their parents is to avoid arguments about
    things they're doing or want to do.
  • The parents to whom teens lied the least were parents who enforced the
    few rules they had. Parents with tons of rules and parents who were very
    permissive were lied to the most.
  • Kids who argued with their parents saw the arguing as good for the
    relationship when they felt their parents had understood their side of
    things and had compromised with them.
  • Parents, on the other hand, saw arguing as destructive to the
    relationship and didn't notice the compromise as a bonding factor. The inference here is that you might think your
    relationship with your teen is in the crapper, while your teen could
    think things are great because you give them your full attention and
    concede to them sometimes in arguments.
  • There was some program trying to teach kids not to be bored that didn't work, and I really didn't get how it related to the rest of the chapter.
  • Teens' brains are physically not able to experience pleasure except at
    extremes of experience, compared to children and adults.
  • Teens also are unable to make fast decisions about risk and reasonable
  • No wonder they do really stupid things.
  • All that research in the '50s and '60s showing that teen rebellion and
    anger is normal was done on kids in treatment centers for behavioral
    problems. Turns out that when you study a wide group of teens in schools,
    75% have good relationships with parents, and the 25% who don't had
    trouble before becoming teens.

Even though there was plenty in this chapter that seemed not to connect to the main points, I did think this chapter was going to be the easiest to turn into
real-life behavior for parents: The example of a parent who was lied to the least
and had the most harmonious relationship with their teen was a parent
who had consistent rules but was flexible in allowing the teen to
collaborate on occasions in which the rule was changed. Seems pretty straight-forward, and goes along with the parenting by principles, not strictly by rules, approach that we've talked about before.

Thoughts? Reflections on your own teen years? Any really notorious lies
you told your parents? Ready to just give up? (My dad always threatened me with "You know, there's a Lutheran convent in Iowa that takes girls when they're 14…")

46 thoughts on “Discussion of NurtureShock, Chapter 7 “The Science of Teen Rebellion””

  1. I found the teen years (well, most of ’em – got 9 months till Baby is 20, so who knows 😉 ) to be the easiest and most fulfilling by far (of the childhood years – having newly adult children is also a delight.) I spent so many years worrying because every time I admitted I was hopeless as a Mom to a baby or toddler, someone would get very annoying with “well, just wait till they’re tees, if you can’t handle a little baby.” But that turned out to be BS. And I’ve met lots of other parents of teens who feel the same way.And I’ve met lots and lots of really awesome teens, who do great stuff, are smart and kind and compassionate.
    So… yeah, teen years may be a challenge but don’t worry about problems you may or may not have too much.
    Yes, one of my teens did some boneheaded things (2. Total. But major boneheadedness.) And the other stubbornly insisted on being herself at all times, even when going against her true nature would have made her life so much smoother (and mine.)
    But all in all? You may find your teens are just… terrific.
    Of course, having a therapist on call for all parties involved does help 😉
    I was a very “mild” teen, as was my spouse. Aside from the PDA thing, I don’t think I caused my folks any grief.

  2. Just to add – I don’t think I had any magical secret or did anything “right” – any more than I think I was totally to blame for how difficult a time I had with the baby/toddler years. A lot is just the luck of the draw and the personalities involved.

  3. Most of my lies as a teen to my parents were lies of omission. I felt like the chapter completely glossed over the nuances of the lie of omission, and how I really feel in my gut, based on my life experiences, that a parent who is sure they are not actively being lied to by their teen is probably being lied to by omission.My main takeaway is that parents of teens often live in an imaginary lie-free fantasy world, and deal in their own kind of understandable denial about it.
    Is is odd that I thought the teen’s account at the beginning of the chapter could have been pulled direct from the diaries of many of my high school classmates from 15+ year ago, the only difference being the phone technology? I agree it felt like a scare tactic, but unfortunately it also rang true.
    The “arguing is good for teen-parent relationship” (teenage rebellion is always a given) hypothesis is in direct conflict with some of the very persuasive chapters in “Parental Effectiveness Training.” I think in some (ok not very many) parent-child relationships there need not be that so-called ‘mandatory’ rebellion, but it just really depends on the personalities at play and the personal work that’s been going on. For instance, I had two high school friends who truly never lied to her parents nor rebelled, but the parents in both of those cases had been in therapy for years and were remarkably well-adjusted people who did not deal at all in denial, and who knew how to listen without judgment. By that I mean they were able to hear the truth about what was really going on with their kids because their own agenda did not stand in the way. In contrast, my mom in particular had a clear agenda for me, and I kept things from her so as not to burst her bubble of denial. Her agenda seemed to be me as straight A student, who looked a certain way, and did not have sex, and who certainly would never let her parents know she was sexually active until she produced her first child while married and in her 30s. Ironically, I supported her denial because I cared about not hurting her feelings. There is actually a fantastic, very underrated movie out on DVD right now that portrays a family of adult children keeping up a web of lies and appearances for their father, called “Everybody’s Fine” starring Robert DeNiro, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, and Drew Barrymore. Highly recommended.

  4. Hush, I didn’t see this chapter as saying “Arguing is good for the relationship” as much as I thought it was saying “You may see it as conflict but your teen may see it as negotiation.” And the chapter did debunk the “all teens argue” myth, and also talked about how the kids who didn’t cause any waves were also lying a lot.I would’ve liked to have seen the nuances teased out a little more instead of just mentioned, I guess.

  5. Like many teenagers before and since I was actually my widowed mother’s companion and carer. She had by then severe mental problems. Severe paranoia.I didn’t lie so much as lead a secret life. My mother took mail, searched through the rubbish I threw away, listened in to phone calls, questioned me and my few friends who were at all comfortable with her.My friends would look after things, get mail, let me use their phone.I couldn’t talk to my mother obviously.
    We had dreadful roof-raising arguments.Se actually did say I hate you, don’t leave me. It was rather What happened to Baby Jane? But we looked still pretty normal and good to the outside and I did well in school.Relatives blamed me.
    I still wonder how.At the time I felt she hated me and I tried to make her happy. Now I know she was not well.If I had realised that I don’t think it would have done me good.
    My point is that I find a lot of the research about how teens can’t do this or that not so credible. Teenagers have gotten married, left home, joined the army, cared for parents, become breadwinners, become parents through the ages.
    I know now that I wasn’t nearly as grown up as I thought I was. I lacked experience and true insight.But teenagers get metaphors and are capable of complex thinking.They’re not doomed to self-destruct.
    I do think that if your parent or parents can’t look after you you grow up faster. I really couldn’t take risks as there was no safety net.If I got myself into trouble I had but myself to get out of it.
    Ditto on the narcotics/alcohol front. I didn’t want to be out of control. I worried a lot. I was depressed a lot.
    I had classmates in school who acted out more, got entangled in drugs, had more adventures in that sense. And their parents came and got them, paid the bills, the fines, wired the money. That sort of thing. I’m not envious, just that I saw other families where different.
    What beats me now is that as my mother wanted to travel so badly, though it made her much worse, I would organise it, buy the tickets, supervise the packing, deal with the luggage on planes and trains and buses, and plan outings and go on tours with her.
    I still am really good at all that. I make a good hostess or travel companion. Now had I been an adult I would have realised that the whole exercise was nuts and not smart. My mother used to argue with officials at airports etc.It could have gone very wrong. Did I really understand that then? Did I heck. I do think it was because I loved her, not because I was immature.
    I carried on trying to please her well into adulthood. Didn’t see much clearly until she died. But I do think being a teenager is not like being an adult.
    It’s what I mean by seeming more grown up than you are. I was friends with a boy who threw a party while his parents were away. He was 17. The party was crashed and got out of hand. He didn’t know what to do.Very teenaged.
    His brother who was 15 took the circuit breaker out of of the fuse box so the electricity and music went off and threatened to call the police. That worked. That’s a very adult reaction actually.Really he was scared.
    Parents came back and blamed themselves for leaving the boys alone.
    Teenagers really are like people of all ages, very varied. Human.
    I didn’t like the chapter that much, but as I said before I didn’t like the book. Free to good home my copy.

  6. @Moxie, I hear you, and I did not read as carefully as you did. My understanding was that from the teen perspective, arguing is good for the relationship with the parent because that’s how the teens begin to win more autonomy… which is necessary to move psychologically into adulthood though that was not discussed. The term “good” was mine – and I think it is good that some families are creating the space to behave authentically and to perhaps get realness in return, whether they are teens keeping it real with mom, or mom & dad getting out of denial about the fact that their little baby is engaging in some grown up behaviors.I can’t recall, but was the idea of the non-argumentative/non boat-rocking teen personality talked about in terms of long-term problems or benefits? I agree that the authors should have explored more of the nuances.

  7. Re: Teens’ brainsI read somewhere that a person’s brain undergoes tremendous growth and change during the teenage years. This is why (some) teenagers do completely illogical things: the “common sense” part of the brain is still developing!

  8. Hush, they didn’t talk about long-term effects at all, just the frequency of lying (and topics of lying) as teens. I went back and read your original comment and agree that I’d like a ton more about lies of omission. They were mentioned, but not teased out.Wilhelmina, I’m confused about why you didn’t like the book. It sounds like your experience was so wildly off the norm that it really would be a few deviations out from the research on teens’ brains and the lying relationship, so this would be more of a model of what *usually* happens when kids grow up with a mother who’s not sick, as yours was. (I also think the chapter on siblings discusses models in which the parents are healthy, so it also doesn’t apply to your growing up, which sounds abusive and horrible.)

  9. My kids are only 5 and 3, but I found this chapter really interesting, especially the part on boredom and motivation.What seems to combat boredom in teens is intrinsic motivation, but may kids’ days are filled up with activities that their parents have chosen for them and are therefore not intrinsicaly motivating. So even if kids do lots, it doesn’t mean they aren’t bored. In the next chapter on Self Control, the author mentions that intrinsic motivation causes a release of dopamine that makes young kids’ brains work better and therefore helps them learn more.
    Both these facts have got me thinking how important it is to let kids follow their passions. We need to give them the opportunity to find something they love rather to push what we think is good for them, or what they might like on to them.

  10. @enu- thank you for posting. I have to admit that the teenage years scare me. I was a goody-two shoes teenager (for the most part), and am afraid I won’t know how to handle it if my kids aren’t.Thanks for reassuring me that things will probably be OK.
    I found some good ideas in this chapter- like Moxie said, the idea of having a few rules and enforcing them. But maybe I liked that idea because it is in line with my current approach?
    This chapter also reminded me of why I think it is difficult to try to parent by what the current science tells us. The information from science will constantly change, because questioning and testing current knowledge is part of the job description of a scientist. It is expected that something that seems true today will be found to be incompletely understood or just plain wrong in the future. So it is no surprise really that the science on teenage years has changed. It is not that the findings of the original studies are invalid, just that the studies were limited by their methods- and all studies are. Those limitations might have been carefully spelled out in the original papers, but those sorts of caveats often get lost when the science is reported in more mainstream media.
    I think the science is on firmer ground in some areas than others, but that this is not always obvious from reading books and reports in press aimed at the general population. Child development is not my area of science at all, so I struggle with this as much as anyone, and I don’t know what the solution is. It is very hard to clearly convey the actual state of the field to a non-expert.

  11. I like what Moxie said about how most of everything talks about people who are in more-or-less healthy families. When your experience is so far from the norm, it is hard to know what “normal” looks and feels like for real. I have a very hard time with this. I try. I do. But, my husband and I had such vastly different teenage years that we are having some very basic disagreements like whether we should save for college (i.e “is it my responsibility to provide education for another adult?”), whether jobs are mandatory in HS (his job growing up was going to school and doing well), and things like this.Basically, the difference comes down to: how much do you expect your young adults to act like adults?
    And I think in the framework of lying, arguing, and rebeling, this is probably at the root of it. If you are 17 and terribly busy, there isn’t a ton of time to rebel. You can’t drink or do drugs because you have to get up early to go to work on Saturday. You can’t blow work off because you need the money, etc.
    These problems of rebellion almost seem like problems of affluence. Throughout time, teenagers were considered adults who were needed to do adult things around the home and farm.

  12. As a teen, I certainly kept things from my parents instead of arguing, at times. I never liked confrontation, especially with my unpredictable-tempered father – so if I figured my parents wouldn’t like it, I would hide it or lie outright. I think I would have been more willing to share/discuss if I felt that they would have been nonjudgemental and respected my ability to make my own decisions.In my extended family, one of my aunts has two teenagers, and the daughter especially seems really close to her mom. The aunt has been known to complain, jokingly, that she hears way too much about all the questionable activities the kids at school are engaging in – back when she was that age, boundaries were clear-cut and if you and your friends were stepping outside the line, you certainly didn’t tell your parents about it! But now, with facebook and cellphones and liberal parents, things are more open.
    I guess that anecdote is sort of a counterexample of what that chapter of the book is talking about – maybe just to make the point that you can’t generalize too much, since just as every baby is different, every teen and every teen-parent dynamic is different, too.
    I hope when my daughter is a teenager, she feels like she can talk to me about anything – but that she also has the common sense and strength of character to be able to make her own decisions (and make reasonable ones… or at least avoid the *really* bad choices) even if she doesn’t want to consult me about it.
    A friend of mine’s dad used to sometimes say “Be good, but if you can’t be good, be careful.” I loved that line, and plan to use it with my kid. It sort of covers both sides – that there are rules, you should follow them, but sometimes you won’t – and if you do decide to break the rules, at least look out for yourself while you do it.

  13. @SarcastiCarrie – Good luck bridging the gap between your hubby’s family-of-origin parenting and your own, with regard to how to raise your future teens. It is awesome that you are talking about it so proactively.I had a teen upbringing that sounds similar to your DH’s. My parents were not rich, but they only had one kid and were prepared to pay for college. Then I won a full scholarship, so they chipped to pay some of my living expenses and then used the rest of the money they had saved to move into a lake house. Win-win I think. My responsibility during high school in preparation for that privilege was to be a Super-student and athlete and to win as many scholarships as I could. Which I did, by being in a ton of activities and competitions. They wouldn’t have been able to afford a decent college if my parents had forced me to work an actual job, because then I wouldn’t have had the time to build the resume and qualify for the specific athletic scholarship I earned. So my viewpoint is a bit skewed.
    I feel sad for kids like our 16-year-old babysitter whose parents made her quit her soccer team and get a job at mcdonald’s! She can’t really be a kid and participate in all of the best things about high school like sports and other extracurriculars, simply because her parents want her to make that extra 9 bucks an hour. Seems cynical. Kids have the whole rest of their lives to hold down shit jobs and “build character” IMHO. High school is over in a flash, I hate to see that time wasted like that.
    It is hard to generalize though. I know people whose parents abandoned them at age 15 who are great successes today, just as I know people who were born rich who have amounted to nothing. If only there were a simple solution like ‘don’t give them anything’ or ‘pay for it all.’ 😉

  14. I was mainly a very *unhappy* teenager, as was my younger brother, and I think that’s what I fear the most. My parents didn’t really know how to respond to our unhappiness, and my eating disorder and his alcoholism stepped up to bat. Then the conflicts generated by those behaviors sort of monopolized things for years. I suppose I will want to be on the alert for stress and unhappiness and ready to present myself as an ally — rightly or wrongly, both my brother and I resented feeling that our unhappiness was not as much of a concern to our parents as our addiction. (To which they might well say that keeping us alive was their primary concern….) I worry about this partly because my other two brothers, who had reasonably happy adolescent lives, remain MUCH closer to our parents — it seems like in our family, those teenage battles and feelings of betrayal have left deep scars on all sides.

  15. I have to say I am dreading the teen years with my daughters. I was a difficult, rebelious teenager. I crawled out my bedroom window at all hours of the night to go to parties where there was excessive drinking and drugs. I didn’t do any hard drugs, but definitely drank way too much for a 15 year old. I had a terrible relationship with my mother, we fought constantly and I lied lied lied. Almost all my lies were so that my parents wouldn’t know what I was doing, and almost all our fights were over my choice of friends (some of which were getting me in trouble, but most of which weren’t and my parents really had no reason not to like them).I was in one of those homes with too many rules, and I often felt the rules didn’t allow me enough freedom. At 16, I think a person is old enough to make their own choices regarding religion, for example, but I was not. I had to go to church every Sunday or I was grounded.
    FWIW, I have a great relationship with both my parents now, but that didn’t come until I was in my 20’s and moved out of the house.
    And my oldest daughter is showing signs of being just like me in her personality. Very much her own person, very independant and very stubborn. I’m hoping that by the time she’s a teenager, I still remember my teen years and can learn from my mother’s mistakes.

  16. @SarcastiCarrie- Hubby and I are also from very different backgrounds on the college funding issue, but mostly because he comes from a country that covers a lot of the cost of college (there is some sort of sliding scale, and he had some loans, but not many and they were paid of quickly).We’ve settled on an approach similar to what my parents did for me and my sister, but with some more advance planning.
    We think paying for college is a joint responsibility of the parent and the kid. I had a scholarship and a very small amount of loans. I worked through high school and college, but part time, and studies clearly came first.
    My older sister didn’t have a scholarship and is still paying off her loans. She also had less choice about the work she did in college. So while I got to work in a lab, she ended up working in one of the college cafeterias for awhile. Nothing wrong with that- but my lab experience helped start me on my career, and I don’t think she feels the same about her food service experience! This example has made me and my husband start college savings funds for our daughters. I will expect them to work part time and take out a small amount of loans, but not need the massive loans my sister needed. She is not miserable by any stretch, but those loan payments are a drag on her income.
    I want my girls to get to choose any college that is a fit for them, without having to worry about the cost, because that is essentially what I go to do, and I have to say- the expensive college I went to was absolutely the right choice for me, for reasons that I won’t go into here. I’ll just say that I think it is the reason I became a scientist.
    And if we get lucky, and my girls both win full scholarships and don’t need their college savings, maybe I can figure out a way to donate them to a kid who does need the money. I feel that the scholarship that allowed me to go to the college I attended without going up to my eyeballs in debt was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I’d love the chance to pass on that good luck.
    On the rebellion thing- I did a few things my parents wouldn’t have approved of and that I didn’t tell them about (drank a bit, had sex before I finished high school), but I was always very careful. I like the line about being careful if you can’t be good! My parents had rules, but not a lot, and they enforced them, although I don’t remember that being necessary all that often. I’ll have to ask them what they remember!

  17. As Moxie points out, at the heart of this chapter is some common sense: don’t be too strict, don’t be too lenient; be consistent but not rigid; be willing to listen to reason, even if it’s coming out of your child’s mouth.Easier said than done, no doubt. I worry about this phase when my kids grow up because my own family was so dysfunctional (v. controlling, narcissistic parents who basically told me everything I felt, did, or thought was wrong, wrong, wrong). So I have no idea how the interaction between a mother and 16 year old kid is *supposed* to go. The big element missing from my upbringing were respect and entitlement– respect for me as an individual, separate person with my own needs and entitlement to have my own feelings, however unpleasant those feelings may be for my parents. I think those are two things I’ll strive to bring to my parenting whatever age my children are.
    My husband doesn’t get the rebellion thing because he and his sister didn’t/don’t have a rebellious bone in their bodies. They come from a Middle Eastern culture where loyalty and respect for the parents is paramount and where the parents literally live for their kids. My husband would sooner stick a fork in his leg than disagree openly with his father and he’s 40 years old. He just thinks it’s American culture that makes teenagers here so rude.
    My husband also lived in Germany (my extended family is in Germany, too) and our German friends also express dismay at American teenage behavior– of course, teens in Germany aren’t perfect angels, but they seem to be treated more like and act more like adults than teens here. They are expected to accept increasing responsibility along with increased freedom and it seems most of them do. I think there is something to be said for the cultural argument, inasmuch as expectations play a big role.

  18. I was a good (non-rebellious) teenager. I don’t remember lying, though I’m sure I didn’t tell my mother everything (definitely not my father, the non-custodial parent). I didn’t actually have many restrictions to rebel against. My little brother was needed/got more structure in the form of things like curfews.My husband remembers being a snotty teenager. I don’t think he was self-destructive, more self-centered and sullen.
    I’ve been spending a lot of time in therapy talking about my non-rebellious, self-disciplined childhood/teenage years vs. my self-destructive procrastination now. It’s as if I’m reliving adolescence with myself as both exasperated parent and stubborn kid (just do your work! you could have finished by now! step away from the blogs! think about consequences!).

  19. I lied constantly to my parents as a teen and engaged in extremely reckless behavior all through my teens. Luckily I didn’t end up addicted to drugs, but I did have a fairly severe alcohol problem by age 16 and became addicted to cigarettes (a habit that took 10 years to shake) by the same age.Until fairly recently I blamed my parents, subconsciously or consciously, for my intense unhappiness and out-of-control-ness during the teen years and my early 20’s. Certainly they were involved. My father was verbally and emotionally abusive, my mother is so different from me that she never seemed to have a clue what was going on with me, and they moved us around a lot and did lots of things that are correlated with behavior problems in kids and teens. Very wacky, unhappy family, although it wasn’t all negative, at all.
    The insight I have had rather recently is my role and responsibility in all of this. It’s not so much that I let my parents off the hook, as I see MY part in the dysfunction come into focus, while their parts (which I have obsessed over for years) finally recede.
    I have a personality that’s wired to need lots of stimulation – ADHD, though it was undx as a child. I also have an anxiety disorder and would probably have one even if I grew up with totally laid-back parents. It’s just who I am genetically to be kind of crazy and anxious. I learned maladaptive coping skills – more sensitive parenting could have helped me channel my personality into more adaptive behaviors. But, I think I still would have been a “difficult” teen.
    I see a lot of myself in my daughter, and I hope that I can provide that sensitive parenting that helps her get through the teen years in a healthier way and with a much more secure foundation for adulthood. However, even though she’s only 5 I have no illusions that I can prevent her going a bit nuts as a teen. So much of it really does come down to how the hormones of puberty affect their dear little brains. 🙂

  20. I’ve loved the rest of this book. Haven’t participated in the rest of the discussions because I just got my library’s copy!This chapter, though. . . did any one else find it offensive that here we get the book’s only feature of a Latina–and she happens to drink vodka out of water bottles?
    I realize that part of the message is that the sex and drinking and lying is more common than we think. But come on.
    Also: I was an awful teenager. But to be honest, I’m not sure what my parents could have done differently. Seems like they had the mix of consistency and flexibility described–but the peer pressure was so so so enormous. And it took a long time before I had the maturity to stand up to it.
    I guess I’m wondering about the role of the environment, neighborhood, peer group. Because looking back for me, those pieces were the big ones.

  21. When I first read Moxie’s review of this chapter I couldn’t remember reading it (I read the whole book a good 4 – 5 months ago) and then finally a light bulb went off! I skimmed this chapter and didn’t pay much attention to it because a) my children are so young I’m not even ready to comtemplate teendom and b) because my own teen years were pretty dysfunctional so I knew that my experiences would be outliers to the studies.My parents were divorced, most of my time was spent with my single mom who was still trying to find herself and busy dating, etc. and I wound up being the more grown up of the two of us during this time. I (luckily) was very conservative and didn’t get into trouble (like my sister did) because I sure had the opportunity. I wound up with a bunch of similarly conservative friends and we kept each other in line (reverse peer pressure of sorts).
    I do worry about my boys being teenagers mostly because we have a lot of addiction in our family so they have a good chance of having that tendency. If they do wind up with it, playing around with alcohol will wind up with markedly different results than for the “normal” teenager. I guess that will have to be part of our discussions as they grow up.

  22. This is the only part of the chapter that reasonated with me:”the parents to whom teens lied the least were parents who enforced the few rules they had. Parents with tons of rules and parents who were very permissive were lied to the most.”I lied to my parents ALL THE TIME. And yet, I think I was a really good teen. Straight A’s, captain of every sport team, never partied, never drank or did drugs. Smoked the odd cigarette, and that was it. But my parents had so many rules, and the rules seemed to change all the time, and they never gave me the benefit of the doubt, so I just lied. It makes adult me sad for teenage me, and sad for my parents too.
    I find the discussion about teen responsibility/paying for college really interesting and my husband and I talk about it all the time – mostly because we have no frame of reference. We both grew up comfortable but poor. Parents living paycheque to paycheque. The day after I graduated highschool my parents started charging me rent to live at home. So even with scholorships we both worked our way through the local university despite opportunities to go to other places, that we couldn’t afford. Now, we’re in a position that we probably could pay for our kids college if we want to, and I want my kids to be able to take advantage of every opportunity without money being the determing factor. BUT, we think we turned out “successful” because of the process we had to go through. Still not sure where we are going with this. I read a great Warren Buffet quotation where he said his goal was to give his kids enough financial resources to try anything, but not so much that they could do nothing. Just not sure where that line is.

  23. Like a previous poster, I was a conservative teenager, and I have no idea what I’ll do if either of my boys run into problems. (They are 3 and 5 months, so I have many years to worry about this.) I also don’t remember lying to my parents much. I always figured if I was doing something I couldn’t tell them about, I probably shouldn’t be doing it. What a lame-o teenager, huh? I have reason to know that my husband behaved about the same, since he was my high school boyfriend.The book’s recommendation about having a few rules consistently enforced brings me back to the same question I always have about authoritative (vs. permissive or authoritarian) parenting. I think it sounds great, and I want to do it, but I don’t always know what that balance should look like.

  24. AmeliaV, I thought they were bringing up her being Latina to set her up to be the SuperAchiever Model Minority, so the vodka and sex thing would be even more shocking to parent readers. But yeah, clumsy. And I still don’t know why we needed that anecdote at all. We were all teenagers, and even if we didn’t lie all the time, our friends did. Not a big shocker.

  25. I seldom lied outright to my parents, but I also seldom thought to tell them about important or dangerous things that were going on in my life.While that might be officially counted as “lies of omission” I wasn’t deliberately hiding things from them — it just never occurred to me that they would want to know that I was being bullied, that I was frightened of violence at my high school, or that some of my friends did a lot of drugs. They were working at jobs with a long commute, and it never occurred to me that they might be able to help.
    This, of course, suggests a level of disconnection that isn’t very good…

  26. WRT education funding, a lot of this is cultural. It was assumed that parents (with help grandparents and other family) would do everything in their power to fund their kids’ college.And I in turn grew up knowing that I would be expected to provide the same for mine, so we started saving for the kids’ college before they were conceived – and we were pretty young parents, so this boggled most of our peers.
    This was a priority that they were aware of all along. “I’d rather put it towards your college” was my standard line when asked why I didn’t buy X thingy or the more expensive brand of Y.
    Cash gifts to children generally go to “The College Fund” with a small kickback to the kids. This is understood by the larger family, who dole out very generous cash gifts. We do the same with gifts to our little relatives. And plan to provide what support we can to our granchildrens’ (should we be so lucky) education.
    So you are born in debt to your family, but isn’t that true anyway? With an obligation to future generations. It doesn’t absolve you of responsibility, it just pushes it off till you are older and have more earning power.
    Cash gifts from rels to the college fund make everyone feel good and means there is less crap coming into your house that no-one wants, and the rels don’t have to stew over what the latest trend is…. the kids still get plenty o’ crap from their friends for birthdays 😉
    It does help if, just after the economy tanks and all your college savings you’ve been gathering for 20 years take a major percentage hit right when it’s time to pull the money out, the kids get significant merit money from the schools. Thanks, kids!

  27. I don’t remember lying to my parents. However, my parents raised us to be so independent that it bordered on not caring. As an example, I stopped showing my parents my report cards after 8th grade. They never asked. I filled out, payed for and submitted my college applications by myself and only told my parents when I decided which college to attend.All my friends had strict parents, so I ended up living by their rules. I just wasn’t exposed to drinking, drugs or sex as a teen because I was shy and my friends weren’t into it. I had no curfew, and no rules to speak of. As others have mentioned, this worked okay for me, but my sister ended up getting caught up in all the things I managed to avoid, just because she had different friends and a different personality.

  28. It’s been a while since I read the book too, so this chapter is definitely a little hazy. Probably because my guy is only 2, so this is a ways off for us.After reading @Paola’s comment, I remembered that I was particularly interested in this part of the chapter (boredom & motivation) as well. Probably because it was something I could apply sooner than when DS becomes a teenager. And quite frankly, even if I hadn’t read the book, I would have approached interests this way anyhow. But it was interesting to hear the reasoning behind it all.
    Otherwise, I just found it to be further confirmation to approach both being laidback/flexible and having rules, with moderation.
    As a teenager, I’d say I was pretty easy going. I told the run of the mill lies for the most part (saying I was at a movie instead of actually being at a house party, etc.). The biggest lie I ever told my parents was that I was staying at a friends house for the weekend, when said friend and I went to another city with 2 guy friends for the weekend. (Reliable guys…well, in my eyes anyhow ;). The weekend went fine, we didn’t engage in any risky behaviour other than a bit of drinking. But I think my parents never figured it out. And to this day, I haven’t told them!
    @Jacq, Just to give you another perspective on the education thing, here’s my story. My parents paid for all of my university education (including housing which was off campus as my university had/has very limited dorms). I worked as a teenager because I wanted too, liked having the extra cash, and it was something social as well (worked at a movie theatre). My last year before university, I did save a lot of the $$ I earned to pay for some of the costs of moving away. I’m so glad my parents were able to pay for my tuition – for many reaons. One of the biggest being that our program was so intense that you really did not have time to work. I did homework and assignments until all hours of the night, often staying overnight in the lab. And even then could not get all my coursework done. I was not the exception. It was like this for everyone. You basically had to decide what assignment you weren’t going to do that week, so you could focus on getting good marks on the other ones. The classmates that had to work had a really hard time of it and often suffered academically. They just didn’t have time to complete the work.
    Anyhow, all this to say, that experience shaped my life and like @Cloud, I really believe that it led me to where I am today. I believe I turned out a success because of my work ethic. Not because of the help I was (or was not given). There were definitely times where my parents had discussions with me about finances. It wasn’t easy for them to do what they did and they made that clear to me without holding it over my head.
    As @hush said, there is no simple solution. And I think it’s a complex equation. There’s more to take into account than how the parents raise the kid. The kids own personality has a lot to do with it. And that you have to adapt with all the variables in your particular equation. I think you’re off to a good start with that Warren Buffet quote.

  29. And oh yeah, one last note: My mother told me years ago that it was clear to her and my father early on that I was independent and they knew I was just going to do what I was going to do. No sense in trying to convince me otherwise. So they were never really strict with me. They had some basic rules. But otherwise were pretty laid back. Granted, I was a pretty shy teen, got good grades, was heavily into figure skating etc., so it was probably easier for them to be fairly relaxed.

  30. Wow, this book has opened up a can of worms! I was only taking it one day ( at most a year) at a time and now I’m thinking about the teen years and my kids’ tertiary education. Am I the only one thinking this?Education at all levels is means-tested here where I live and relatively affordable so no need for a college-fund per se. However, what I would be saving on education I will be spending on general living expenses seeing Italian kids don’t leave the nest until their thirties, so maybe some ckind of fund wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.
    Unless of course we end up moving back to Aus ( possible in later years) and then putting a child thru school could cost into the millions depending on the type of school. Urgh!!
    I am of the belief that a part time job gives benefits on so many levels. I worked as a waitress throughout Uni and was able to pay for overseas trips and buy my first car, something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I hadn’t worked. And I still managed to do well in my studies. I don’t expect my kids to pay their way thru school, but certainly don’t want to have to keep them till they graduate. I only hope the job market becomes more flexible here as it is fairly difficult to find casual work ( other than tutoring ) unless it is paid in black.

  31. Oy, again no time to read what are probably outstanding comments…My mom had a few rules, with specific consequences.
    1) Don’t get pregnant or contract an STD. Information on how to avoid that freely given. Opportunity to talk freely available. Reference books on an open shelf readily available.
    2) We decide together on what time you’ll be home. Provided you meet that time, same rule continues to apply. If you fail to come home when agreed, or fail to call to renegotiate due to circumstances, Mom gets to set the time for the next instance. As often as not, Mom would say ‘hmm, I think 10 sounds a bit early for that kind of party, is 11 fair?’
    She also had a strategy I failed to figure out until much later, which was that she would be up in the middle of the night for a drink of something (coffee at 2 AM?) about 10-20 minutes after I got home. I was always up for a chat and linger over a snack, and she just happened to have woken up and wanted something from the kitchen. I didn’t figure out that this was on purpose for YEARS after I was grown and out of the house. D’oh!
    We go with the negotiation from Parent Effectiveness Training, and I think that’s probably functionally similar to the value-add from argument. It is a smoother way of negotiating, less stressful, but provides the same benefit to the teen – that is, we respect each other’s thoughts and needs enough to compromise on the solution.
    We’re in the middle of this with Mr G, who is coming up on 13. He really wants an air gun, but he’s ‘got’ that he has to prove the case that he’s in total control of his impulses before he can have a weapon that could cause serious harm. He has also ‘got’ that he likely will be in his late teens at best before he’ll be able to implement that kind of control. It’s on him to prove the case, and he knows it. Assertions will not fly. On the heels of that discussion, he asked for a phone upgrade. And indicated that he had indeed proved the case – he doesn’t abuse his cell phone privs, he has periodically misplaced but never lost his phone (and no misplacement recently), he keeps it charged, etc. Therefore, his opinion, he can be trusted with a better phone and perhaps expanded access. He argued the point, and I conceded that he was right, and we’d have to look into cost, as that was another factor. It could have been a ‘fight’ but it was just a discussion, following the P.E.T. protocols. Same value for him, plus value for me (recognizing his growth), and no stress.
    There’s a ton out there in the research easily accessible for teen behaviors. This kind of summed up a lot of it, but the main points seem to be that:
    Respecting and integrating the opinions and needs of a teen will improve the relationships all around.
    Having open warmth/affection plus high expectations and being willing to enforce a few key rules (especially regarding knowledge about where they go and with whom) seems to create kids who apply self-discipline.
    Also, mom’s expectations tend to be the benchmark. If her expectations are high, the kid tends to meet them. If her expectations are for rebellion, misery, etc., the kids also tend to meet that.
    I’m not too worried about the teen years, so far. There will be things I don’t know, but that’s really what should happen, IMHO – they start living their own lives. I want them to come to me if they need to come to me, or have others to go to who are trustworthy, and have the skills to identify ‘trustworthy’. The idea of having shared ‘everything’ with my mom gives me the shudders. Just like with siblings, there are some things where a chosen peer is really the better outlet. I like a bit of boundary in my relationships, thanks! Learning to set those is part of growing up, so … where else but the teen years to start?

  32. I haven’t read the posts, my bad. My rant is about the use of rebellion. I’m swamped so I’m knocking this out. Hope it makes sense and isn’t full of mistakes.Rebellion: Can be defined in so many ways. I prefer to look at teen “rebellion” as defining. The child is defining who they are. They begin that process by defining who they are in opposition to who you are. Which is why most parents see the teen years as rebellion.
    Teens pull away from the parent in order to define who they will be as they grow. Depending on the relationship with the parent, is how the defining will go. IMHO very strict, or very permissive, very rebellious. Balanced parenting creates a more balanced defining period.
    Preschoolers: There’s a direct connection between the preschool years and the teen years. A teen unconsciously remembers whether or not his/her parent held the family boundaries or was a push over when he/she made his/her first run at independence, ages 2-5.
    That’s why I work in early childhood, and all my seminars are about helping parents establish those boundaries. Once a child has the firm, yet loving experience that his parents mean business as the foundation of his psyche is being created, ages 2-5, he draws on that knowledge all the years of his life.
    Relationships: Teens are cool and teens are a pain. I had two amazingly wonderful pains during those ages. What saved me, yes, even as a parent educator I was challenged – there is no perfection folks, was that I knew this wasn’t forever. I knew that who they were at their core was simply being masked by development and defining. I likened it to trying on a different hat each day to see which hat was the best fit. And of course the hat the parent wears is the last hat to be tried on. And it’s only tried on after much trial, error, frustration and grumping. Again not all children go through the teen years as intensely as others, but most do have some challenging moments as they are defining themselves. The teen usually comes around to the realization that the parent’s hat, i.e. parents values and rules may actually be the one the teen feels most comfortable with.
    I’ve found the teens years to be a wonderful age. I not only had my two teens but I worked in 5 teen pregnancy programs during that time as well. Must have been crazy!
    The biggest aha for me while raising my two was learning to let go. I knew this was the last “under mom and dad’s wing” type of protection the kids were going to have before entering the big bad world. So I let them make mucho mistakes, and learn tons of lessons.
    I wish I had the knowledge I have now. I’d have had them learn much more at a younger age. That’s exactly why I do what I do and produce the seminars I do, because after being through the whole process, I’m convinced that it’s easier to establish loving firmness during the preschool and elementary ages than it is to attempt in later in life. So if you’re concerned about having teens, focus on your now, establish rules and boundaries in a loving, firm conscious way and you’ll be well on your way to having a more peaceful time when the kids become teens. Back to work!

  33. I am a college counselor at a high school. I work with teenagers every day, and I talk with families about the college search all day long, which has given me a window into how different families handle the transition from childhood into adulthood. I’m going to stay anonymous for this comment, because I try to keep my work separate from my online life, but I wanted to include my professional background here because I think it’s relevant.I found this chapter fascinating. It was a good reminder to me that no matter how well we think we know our kids, by the time they’re teenagers they are forging very separate identities from us, and that’s healthy as long as we acknowledge that it’s happening. In fact, I sent a copy of it to the vice principal in our school because she hears from so many distraught parents who say the teenage tensions in their households are making life stressful. Hearing that teenagers don’t see (a reasonable amount of) fighting with their parents as a negative thing could, I think, reassure these families that their kids’ memories of the teen years aren’t going to be all terrible.
    The discussion about who pays for college and where kids are encouraged/allowed to get an education varies so widely (maybe a topic for another post, Moxie?) and is only getting more difficult as college costs become absolutely ridiculous (even to me, a private liberal arts college graduate who is willing to pay more for that kind of education) and scholarships/financial aid aren’t keeping up. My simple advice to anyone talking to their kids about life after high school is to a) first, keep an open mind about all options, and be clear that you will support your kid however you can but b) also be clear from the very beginning about the limits of that support, whatever they may be (financial, religious, geographic, you’re-going-to-my-rival-college-over-my-dead-body, etc). Saying, “I can’t pay for college but I’ll do everything I can to help you find a scholarship” is a completely different conversation than “You have to pay for it yourself, we can’t afford it.”

  34. I agree w/hedra about mom’s expectations. My mother’s parenting philosophy when we were teens was simple & succinct: (this is an exact quote ,btw) “trust ’em ’till they f$%^k up.” She said to tell us that they trusted us to make good decisions & follow their (few but reasonable) rules, and that the onus of keeping trust between us, and the privileges that went with it, was on US. So we were taught to be responsible for ourselves. As a consequence we rarely misbehaved or lied. The kids I knew who lied all the time had parents who were too strict, afforded them too few freedoms, and treated them like children (therefore they felt justified in lying to their parents, because there was no trust between them to be lost).I did lie to my parents, mostly about small things, like in response to the question “Was there drinking at the party?” I didn’t drink, and I didn’t feel badly about lying. Teenagers often lie when they don’t want their parents to misunderstand, judge, or freak out about stuff the teen doesn’t want them to freak about. I also think a certain degree of lying, as well as hiding things or just not talking, are normal and maybe even important developmentally, since being a teenager is about figuring out who you are and separating from your parents and their values a bit. Teenagers need privacy, and some secrecy, even if they’re not doing anything “wrong”. And even if they don’t talk to you about their life, it doesn’t mean they’re not listening – I definitely believe those studies that say that parents are the #1 influence on their teens. So I would say, talk to them, even if they don’t talk back. I couldn’t bear to tell my mom how I felt about “deep” things (sex, love, God, meaning of life), but I respected what she said to me about them, even when I disagreed.

  35. DS is 2.5, and while I myself was a teen, I feel the specifics of what I went through are too particular to be of much use. But here’s my data: I have taught freshman college classes for several years, and from that experience I have learned that most teens (here I’m talking 18-19 years old, but I suspect that range stretches) really rise to the occasion when they are expected to act as adults and held to that expectation. Whenever I gave in to the temptation to be too hands on, things went to pot fast. Whenever I made it clear that the responsibility was theirs (to show up for class, to do the reading, to find paper topics, whatever), what I thought the consequences would be if they didn’t do the right thing (and was matter of fact rather than emotional about that), and solicited requests for help (yeah, just saying “office hours are . . .” or “I’m hear if you need me” doesn’t seem to be quite enough) — whenever I did those things, My students aced the class. When I didn’t? Varied responses.

  36. Wilhemina, if you are serious about giving away the book, and if Moxie can pass on my e-mail address, I will take it. I’m in the UK.

  37. Moxie, I’ve discovered, rather sheepishly, as in very sheepish indeed that it’s why I bought the book and when that’s making me dislike it so.It’s not a bad book at all. I do think it is, naturally, aimed at the North American market, but it’s not bad. There is now a UK paperback edition with a different cover.
    A Princes on Board sign for the rear window of a car cut in half rather than the cracked egg with bandage.
    I pre-ordered the book at a time of great stress and strain and grief and terrible fear. My daughter, then 18 months, had a very bad anaphylactic shock. Also I miscarried and learned that there would be no sibling for her at all.
    Pretty much simultaneously.
    In the cracked egg I saw a symbol of that fear and grief. Either the chick is ready to emerge and prevented to do so, fatally, or the egg breaks and the potential chick lost despite a desperate attempt to glue the egg back together.
    Nothing in the book is really shocking I think. It has good thought-provoking article type chapters. I saw what I wanted to so or dreaded to see more like. Losing my daughter despite loving her and caring for her.
    If I would have had the book in my hands I wouldn’t have bought it.
    I am fortunately in a much better place now.
    At Dr. Confused, I’d be happy to send the book, hopefully Moxie can help put us in touch.

  38. “If you are 17 and terribly busy, there isn’t a ton of time to rebel. You can’t drink or do drugs because you have to get up early to go to work on Saturday. You can’t blow work off because you need the money, etc.”@SarcasticCarrie, I find this quote really interesting because in theory, it seems like the completely logical outcome. But like you, I had a very different upbringing than my husband, and am not sure I would want our children to emulate him – despite how well he turned out. He started working at probably 15 or so, and was never long without a job after that. Extremely self-motivated, he put himself through college and graduate school, he had a DJing business, he traveled the world on his own dime. He also partied, A LOT. To the extent that I would be horrified if our children followed in his footsteps. He was given a ton of independence and took advantage of it in ways that were both good and potentially very bad. I, on the other hand, had the “my job was to do well in school and get into college” upbringing, didn’t get my first job until I was 19, and only moved out of my parents house because I wanted to be closer to school. I did argue with them a lot, but over silly little things like chores. I didn’t “rebel” in the traditional sense against their rules, or even really do anything my mom would have disapproved of, until I was in my 20s.
    I guess my point is that it’s almost impossible to determine the right “recipe” for getting through the teen years because no one particular method seems to work for every kid. I had a lot of restrictions, but I could see the rationale behind all of them to the extent that they kept working on me until I was an adult and was better able to handle “mature” decisions about things like sex and alcohol. My husband had very few restrictions, grew into an extremely responsible and hard-working adult, but also got into some situations I would never want for our children. Fortunately, we have years before we have to decide just how to handle our own teens, but those decisions do scare me. Maybe the best thing is just to remember that both my husband and I DID turn into productive and, IMHO, pretty successful adults despite our wildly divergent backgrounds, and odds are our kids will too, whether we raise them according the what the studies say or not.

  39. Finally, I’ve caught up and can comment (though my memory’s hazy on the details of the chapter). But I did like the chapter, more than many of the other ones. Probably because it calls out the permissive parenting model. I grew up with a single mom, very permissive, all my pals loved her (she was also permissive as to what went on in her basement). Very undemanding, anti-establishment, no personal boundaries. Bottom line? I tanked academically during high school, slept around, and despite having a lot of advantages and potential, basically frittered away my early adulthood. Not enough expectations, partly. Or just vague, hazy “I’m sure you’ll do well” ones. For me, this chapter went hand-in-hand with the praise one.Sure, I guess I got over that and am successful-ish now, but could be more so. Good talk therapy helped a lot. I feel I’m a good mum to my twin 3-yr-old boys, not overly worried about the teen years. But I’m going to really work on @Sharon’s point about establishing loving, firm boundaries during these years.

  40. Larry, thank you for your comment. The misison and vision of Progress for Pawling is in complete agreement with you concerning not re-inventing the wheel. P4P rejoices, celebrates, and supports the Town Teen Center and its programs. I, personally, have been very pleased with recent developments and programs at the Teen Center and I hope to become more informed so that P4P can more fully support the Teen Center and communicate its services and programs as one of the key spokes of Pawling’s wheel of services.The Teen Center that has been discussed by P4P has, first of all, been on the coalition’s wish list since its inception, but second, was aimed at youth who cannot or will not go to Lakeside Park and / or fall outside the scope of programs provided by the Town Teen Center. There are youth in our community who are actively engaged in risky behaviors as well as many others who are experimenting or who associate with those who are. P4P desires to see our community provide services to this group of youth as well as those who will participate in more traditional sorts of extra-curricular activities such as are well provided by the Town Recreation Department and Teen Center. P4P desires precisely NOT to re-invent the wheel or to duplicate services and programs already active in our community. This is where Communication, Coordination, and Cooperation are of key importance. P4P would like to see some sort of drop-in service, perhaps closer to the center of the Village, that would be a safe place to hang out and where youth counselors might be available to provide help, in the form of talking, to youth who desire it.The short of it, Larry, is that P4P does support the Town Teen Center and does not seek to duplicate its programs or services. Perhaps in August or September 2011 the P4P Steering Committee could meet with you and the Teen Advisory Board and discuss the youth community of Pawling in total and see just what it is that our community offers and what it does not that perhaps it could.Thank you for your comment. And, thank you for your selfless service to the youth of Pawling and to our community as a whole.+ Jon M. Ellingworth

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