My Teen is Out of Control

If you’ve raised kids, are raising kids, or been a kid who’s gone through adolescence invariably, you, your parent, or both have cried out, “My teen is out of control!” (or something similar). Is it really just a phase? And What can you do about it?

Certainly. There is the normal level of adolescent behavior which accompanies the teen years indicating the teen’s quest to, in a sense, discover who they are and to establish their own identity. This process can be uncomfortable as he or she challenges all rules and boundaries. Normal adolescent behavior does not cross certain boundaries.

If you’re pulling your hair out or ready to scream “My teen is out of control” you might be witnessing something entirely different, and it is not your teenager’s loss of sanity.

When your teenager expresses themselves in a highly negative manner, they are not going crazy. When your teenager acts out by yelling and screaming, increases using foul and hate language at louder volumes, causes physical damage to inanimate objects, threatens or abuses others, your child is not crazy.

Neither is your child crazy for being insanely disrespectful, selfish and angry, refusing to honor curfew, staying out all night, getting drunk, high, and/or arrested. No, your teenager is not insane.
You might be surprised to discover that your out of control teenager is not really out of control at all.

The underlying message being communicated through all their appearing to be out-of-control is that your teenager does not have adequate skills to get their needs met, navigate social environments, negotiate, solve problems, communicate effectively, or create meaningful relationships.

So, they act out instead. And after a while, you lower your expectations and standards for your teen because it’s just too hard to deal with.

Now, who’s in control? Your out-of-control teen.

With all their inability to get their needs met, they’ve exerted their power over you by insolence, unrelenting force of will, and angst, and this becomes their method of getting what they want.

If left unchecked, this will follow them into adulthood, and all of us over the age of thirty can easily identify these individuals if they are fortunate enough to keep themselves out of prison. They are the bullies of our society, and we sometimes refer to them as narcissists.

Narcissists are either born or made. In this instance, these out of control teens learn to be narcissistic because this is the only way they know how to get through life. They are often accused of being mean, even though they are not acting out of any malice of intent.

These teens-turned-narcissists routinely hurt others as they try to get what they want or need any way they can, but they don’t mean to. They are just so focused on what they want, that they have no concept of any collateral damage which may occur as a result of exercising their methods.

They, just like you, are only doing the best they can with what they have.
Of course, the best method of preventing your child from becoming an out of control teen is to get to them early. A beloved mentor of mine once said, “If you don’t get them by age twelve, you will lose them.”

Even so, if you’re in the process of parenting a teen who you think is already out of control, there is hope, even though many parents are fearful of exerting any firm parenting skills in the fear that their out of control teen might dial 9-1-1, potentially landing the parent in jail. (This is a very fascinating state of affairs in our modern society.)

Without risking all, you can try to reason with your teen. Of course, their first reaction will be to deny any responsibility and blame their parents, the school, their friends, the societal and legal systems, their parents, and especially you for having to suffer their lot in life.

Maybe you can help them to discover new skills to get their needs met, navigate social environments, negotiate, solve problems, communicate effectively, and create meaningful relationships.

Be careful not to judge, ridicule, talk down to them, or preach to them. Listen to them and seek to understand what they are saying. Interject your thoughts gently and respectively, then let it go. Let your words simmer inside them. And love them.

Love them like there’s no tomorrow. Love them no matter what. Love them like it’s all there is, because it is.

Be a blessing, pray, and let love find the way.

My Child Let Me Down

My Child Let Me Down, Broke My Heart, What Do I Do?

You never know when the time is going to come when that moment will appear when a young person whom you love, trust, and have charge over will put you and him or her in a compromised position.

You can get all selfish and make the incident about you, how you’ve been betrayed, hurt, or how he or she broke the bond of trust, let you down, embarrassed you, compromised your good family name (or any of a long list of other selfish reactions), or you could choose to love him or her.

I am a big fan of asking myself this question:

How can I apply love to this situation?

Especially when I am feeling like I am in over my head and running low on cognitive facilities because I am out of sorts with myself.

If you love and care for this young person, you must get over yourself. This is not about you. This child, tween, teenager, or young adult is just trying to make his or her own way through this life in the best way he or she can.

There will be times when they reach a fork in the road and make a wrong decision and especially if they’ve found themselves face-to-face with the results of having made an error in judgment, the last thing they need is more judgment from you.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “How can I apply love to this situation.” None of us are perfect, and we have all made mistakes, and when you feel like you’ve been let down or have hurt feelings about this person, your first order of business (as soon as you are able to gain some composure) is to love him or her, more than anything else.

Let him-or-her know that your love can never be compromised. You will love him or her no matter what comes. You love them unconditionally, that means you love no matter what they say or what they do. Nothing they could do could cause your love for them to falter.

Life is full of unforeseen situations, circumstances, and obstacles. None of us has a perfect record and has the ability to foresee the endless possibilities which lay before us in any given moment. All of us are just doing the best we can with what h=we have, that includes these young people about whom we care so much about.

We all make mistakes, and we all must deal with the consequences of our actions or decisions.

As we make our way through life, we become aware that there are metes and bounds which help us to navigate our journeys throughout this life, and there is no problem with your setting boundaries for those who you share your life with. Even more so, for those you care the most about.

Talk it out to see if there is an understanding of any boundaries that may have been crossed. Understanding is the key, not brow-beating or accusation. Open communication without condemnation is the best approach while finding ways to support your love for them through this process.

Since none of us is perfect, this is a good time for you to relate a time when you could have made better choices in your life, not to preach, but to show compassion, empathy, and that you have a frame of reference and are not usurping your superiority. We’ve all been there, maybe not in this exact way, but close enough to know what it feels like to fall short of the mark. Include, if you can, having to accept responsibility for your actions.

Your hope should be that this will be a good learning experience. While young people are feeling invulnerable and confident in the knowledge that they know everything (you might even catch them giving you their sage advice periodically), they invariably find themselves up against the realization that things may not actually turn out the way they thought they might. It’s your job to love them through this challenge.

It is perfectly fine to establish your own boundaries and consequences.

There’s nothing wrong with limiting some freedoms for a period of time while healing your relationship takes place. This is a delicate time when your young person can exemplify his or her intention to reestablish wellness and trust between you. The more gracefully he or she participates in the process of repairing the relationship, the more quickly inner wounds heal, and the relationship is strengthened.

Give them ample opportunity to offer to make amends in any way that might occur to them. Not just to you, but to anyone else who might have been affected by the situation at hand. Be encouraging, but do not demand they go through this process by rote, else it will have no meaning. Let them hear the still small voice from within their heart from which to reach out in humility and grace.

Do not harbor ill will or bad feelings about those you love who are making bad decisions. This serves neither you or them. It only makes things worse.

Love them. Bless them. Pray for them, but do not judge them. Remember, they are just doing the best hey can and forgive them as they are finding their own way through this life.

Should You Be in Prison?

Should you be in prison? Statistics provide predictive clues about children who when subject to certain sets of variables will end up suffering a premature death, commit suicide, or end up living a life behind bars, possibly even death row.

Keeping in mind that people are not statistics, and there are always objections to the rules, there are certain situations of lifestyles which when you see a child having to succumb to these circumstances can turn nearly anyone into an armchair prognosticator.

With hindsight being 20/20, we can review the lives and lifestyles of adults who have been incarcerated, unexpectedly arrived in emergency rooms, or prematurely registered to mortuaries.

What you find, as you might have expected, is that many of these adults lived underprivileged lives in their youth. If a child’s life is impoverished, and lacking in many areas of life, such as strong parenting figures, positive support systems, and self-esteem, this increases the chances of having trouble later in life.

This is the stereotypical observation.

The data which you might find shocking is that many adults whose lives end prematurely, live lives either revolving through the legal system or spend life behind bars, were raised in families that were thought to be privileged.

Their families lived in nice homes, lived in better areas of town. Their homes had well-manicured lawns, with nice cars in the driveway. These kids wore designer clothes, went to the best schools, got good grades, and participated in sanctioned extracurricular school activities, were members of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, and reached high levels of achievement in and outside the classrooms.

While there are hundreds of variables, some of the most common ones include

Lack of Positive Connection

Positive connection includes spending time commiserating with family and positive role models, not excluding positive human touch. A contemporary term respecting the aspects of positive connection is, “nurturing.”

Children who are denied being able to develop a positive connection with a parent or alternatively other supportive family members may find themselves short-changed as they grow into adulthood.

Connecting with your child takes time, which many successful parents have very little of when running the rat race and trying to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. With many families depending on two incomes, there’s a good chance that there may be no one home when latchkey kids come home from school and learn to fend for themselves.

Touching is a key component in connection, without it babies die. Humans are designed to connect via positive skin-to-skin exchange. So, it’s not enough to be there, you need to be touching.

In contemporary society, the idea of touching a child probably sounded a warning alarm inside your head, because touching a child is bad. And this has set the alarms of many parents initiating a perceived panic and struggle with the idea of maintaining positive physical contact with their offspring (especially those of the opposite gender) to avoid possible misinterpretation or legal ramifications.

Many parents have found themselves trying to explain themselves in front of a judge or have even been incarcerated because someone accused them of inappropriateness in positive physical nurturing of a child.

That would strike fear into the heart of any law-abiding loving parent.

The child is left to pay the price for this lack of nurturing as they approach adulthood and continue to have to find ways to cope in a world that is out of control.

Even so, there are children who have faced the worst of circumstances in their early years, who come from the most modest, even severely abusive childhoods who become powerful members of society.

These are the unsung heroes.

If you knew the details of their childhoods, you might ask them, “Should you be in prison?”

Statistically, maybe so, but these people found the wherewithal to go against the odds, take charge of their own lives, and decided not to become a statistic.

If that’s you, I thank God for you and admire you for taking the high road to live a better life, your best life, and make the world a better place.

May God bless you and yours.

Parental Regret

Life is full of regrets, and in general mother and father, the parents in our modern society, espouse the most regrets of all having sacrificed all for the family. This is parental regret.

It’s that point in life when the father looks back at his life and the way he’s defined it, “I loved my family so much that I put them first. I worked so hard to give them what they wanted I was rarely home and when I was, I was exhausted.

I was in an almost constant state of panic, scurrying around trying to make the best life possible for my children. They meant that much to me that I sacrificed my all for them, my precious children, the light(s) of my life, whom I would sacrifice anything for, I love them so much.”

Working hard, spending countless hours commuting, working, educating yourself and volunteering so that you might be able to get a better job or move up the corporate ladder to better provide for your family which presents you with increasing financial challenges every year.

Then there is that moment when the children have left the nest and the mother lays back on the sofa in the empty home and thinks, “I loved my family so much that I put them first. I worked so hard to give them what they wanted, I never had any time for myself. Even if I could have, I wouldn’t have had the energy. I was exhausted.”

I was almost in a constant state of panic as I scurried around looking after everyone else without any thought of myself. They meant so much to me I sacrificed my all for them. Now that I have time to be myself, I don’t even know who I am without them.”

Mother and father express similar regrets with one marked difference.

In general, the stay-at-home parent/mother wins the adoration of the children because she “was there,” for them, when on the other hand, the father (or working mother) “was never there,” for them and they resent the father’s not “being there” for them.

In terms of the overall effect of parenting, the mother wins the love of the children while the offspring resent the father for his (or in the case of the working mother, “her”) lack of attention and constant absenteeism.

And if that wasn’t enough…

When the children grow up, no matter how hard you did the best that you could to give them the best life possible, they spend the rest of their lives in therapy because of you.

(In the best-case scenarios, the parents are left in the dark about the thousands of hours and dollars spent on their offspring’s therapy due to their genuinely inspired attempts at child rearing.)

… more parental regret.

So, what’s the answer?

As much as you might desire a do-over, the only hope we have is to look at the past and from this moment forward navigate toward a better future.

Fathers and mothers who are working hard away from the home to support the children better make it a priority to find and/or make time to spend with those precious children if you want them to value you and your sacrifice.

Also, if you’re a parent, it is important to take some time out to do a little something-something for yourself occasionally. You need this to re-charge your batteries and to better serve your family without resentment or regret.

Parents should also make time for private time spent celebrating each other. Without this, you will drift apart and lose that precious love-connection.

For the parents whose children have already left home to live their lives and consider the possibilities of starting their own families and careers:

Embrace the regret and reject the guilt of your past parenting shortfalls.

Regret allows inspiration to do better from this point forward, while guilt relentlessly punishes you repeatedly for something that cannot be changed.

The fact remains, you did the best you could with what you had.

If you recognize you could have done better, accept the fact that what is done is done, and from this point forward you can make a better life for you and your children, no matter how old they might be, by celebrating their lives with them in the now.

Even if you weren’t “there for them” in the past, you can be there for them now.

Starting now.