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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Is Your Teen Naughty or Nice? What are you?

In the swamp that is middle school, amidst the bullying, the gossip, the she’s a this and he’s a that, the she’s pregnant (yes it happened) and then she’s not, the my teacher is a B-word because she makes us work so hard . . . I am raising a nice girl.

She’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, she’s gossipy and moody and hormonal, but she’s basically a sweet, loving and kind kid.

In the swamp that is high school, with hazing, and lunch time ostracism and smart kids aren’t cool, and girls wheeling their babies around at back to school night, and drugs and alcohol and alcohol and drugs, and rival gangs, I’m also raising a nice boy.

Oh he isn’t perfect either. He’s sarcastic, crabby, occasionally nasty, quick to fly off the handle, takes his mom for granted, and sometimes says things that make me want to slap him across the face. But basically he too is a good kid.

And I’m not really sure how the heck I’m doing it.

Nature or Nurture - What Makes Kids Naughty or Nice?

It’s not their dad, who they barely see at this point, mostly because he doesn’t know how to fix the mess he made with them, and is too proud and narcissistic to admit he did anything wrong. So it must be me. And I’m not in the best of places emotionally, professionally, or personally right now. So why is it that our kids are turning out just fine?

I know that one reason is those early years, the unconditional love, the let’s talk about it, the positive reinforcement, the bedtime stories and nighttime rituals, the constant reinforcing that helping other people is a good thing, that it makes you and they feel better about themselves.

The saying no to everything they want, and making sure when they get something it is special and merited. The nights struggling over homework, and not yelling when they get so frustrated they just start screaming. The always listening and cleaning up boo boos.

And lots of therapy for mom.

Mean Comes from Those Who Raise You

Babies aren’t born awful people. Oh I know some of it is nature, but the vast majority of it is how they are raised.

I had a wonderful mother, even if only until I was 13. She made me feel safe, and warm and nurtured and loved. She said “Wait until you have children, you’ll understand,” an awful lot. She didn’t ignore me even after she got sick. And somewhere inside of me is a part of her that comes out as I’m raising my children. The other part isn’t so nice, but I know that and I’ve learned how to keep it in check.

Everything we do, everything we say, our children absorb. They are like sponges. When my ex-husband criticizes and berates, when he’s pejorative and snide, it’s not coming from the baby he started as. It’s learned behavior. When teens drink and take drugs and smoke cigarettes, it’s often because their parents do it too. They’ve seen their parents’ party since they were babies. And they either reject it completely, or they embrace it wholeheartedly. More likely the latter.

I can see the parents who are raising mean kids on the soccer field (they yell, and scream and their kids insult and yell and scream). I can see the parents who pick their kids apart, because they were picked apart. Parents who bully because they were bullied.

Parents who spoil their kids rotten because they suddenly can afford it or feel guilty because they’re really not there. Parents whose value systems are based on the values that make people only care about themselves. Parents who don’t realize by not saying no, they are raising a kid who thinks he's entitled to everything. Parents who hit because they were hit and parents who drag their kids through stores when they start to cry, because they were dragged.

And worst of all, those parents that don’t even recognize the behavior in themselves, and when their kids start to mimic it.

The worst I believe is parents who ignore their children, who don’t communicate with them because they’ve had a crappy day, who come home angry and take it out on them, who go to a party and don’t see their kids again unless they made another child bleed.

All your children want is the best of you – the material things really don’t matter. Remember that and your kids too won’t grow up to be mean.

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