After the last Blog Entry on Sassy Mutant Ninja Teens, I received some thoughtful comments from Ninja Moms about disrespectful teenager - One Ninja Mom told me that her daughter said she was dressed like a hooker when she went out the other night. Another Ninja Mom shared that her daughter had a habit of dictating what she would wear whenever she went out in public! A third, whose child has not blossomed into a Mutant Ninja Teen quite yet, told me I am too nice when my MN Teens speak to me disrespectfully. Of which, I quickly agreed – ‘I am too nice!’
Across the board, I had to admit there was an acceptable level of disrespect running rampant here…. I stewed over ‘What had my generation of parents done to create this level of disrespect?’
My first choice of blame was the internet – the easiest and most obvious demon in our society. Everything runs rampant on the internet, so it has to be partially responsible. It is the teenagers’ 21st Century’s ‘The Skies the Limit!” – borderless and all powerful.
Then I had to get honest with myself. We parents are to blame for this ‘Free Mouth Syndrome’ – as parents, we encourage our children to express themselves (parents today are big on promoting self-expression!) and we encourage them to be independent thinkers. Both novel concepts in small children and even kind of cute. But with teenagers, this self-expression can boomerang to be disrespectful and down right mean; this freedom to say what one is thinking can be an attack and not constructive; and this promotion to speak ones’ mind can be filterless and endless.
I have 4.5 children and exponentially this is a lot of verbal freedom and self expression aka ‘Free Mouth Syndrome’ directed at me!
Teenagers embarrassment of their parents is one of the oldest stories there is! Some parents see it creeping in with their 10 and 11-year-old children and most agree by the age of 13, children think their parents are dinosaurs that somehow managed to avoid extinction.
The cute children we have encouraged to express themselves are now pimply, awkward and uncomfortable Mutant Ninja Teens and they have become very adept at ‘Free Mouth Syndrome’.
We parents have certain lines of response -
1. Confrontation – this is loud and frustrating and usually useless.
2. Consequences – this is more successful when parents starts implementing appropriate consequences when their children are young – it’s kind of hard to initiate this with seasoned teenagers! The consequences also need to be appropriate and and parents cannot break down half way through which completely delegitimizes any lesson to be learned.
3. Pick Your Battles – not everything is worth ‘being right’ and ‘knowing better’. (This is something parents can know inside, but do not need to share with their reactive teenager!) When something is really important – parents know that this is the opportunity to respond constructively and make their point!
4. Take a deep breath, do not respond negatively and find humor – this is basically what I find to be the healthiest response to the toxic combination of teenage hormones and ’Free Mouth Syndrome’. When a teenager says something terrible about how his or her parent is dressing or the accessories that is being worn, the parent’s best response is to say that they like what they are wearing and to NOT REMOVE THE ARTICLE IN QUESTION. Teenagers get the message very clearly. If a parent changes and follows what the teenager dictates, this is when parents are creating a big problem. After quite a few years of being the mother of MN Teens, I try and explore the humor – hence the Angelina Jolie piece.
All of my MN Teenagers would never venture into this disrespectful behavior and abuse ‘Free Mouth Syndrome’ with other adults outside of our home. Even with the worst domestic culprits, I receive accolades on their thoughtfulness and warmth from their teachers, their peers’ parents and family friends. I smile at the irony here, but am pleased to know that I am so worthy of their time, attention and am the partner they chose to engage and challenge on their bump growing up journey.