You Can Say No!
The mums were sweating over a decision they had to make.
No. They weren't just sweating. They were fretting over a decision.
Their daughters, both just turned 13, had asked for permission to go on a Saturday night party bus with over forty 16 and 17 year olds.
A party bus is a nightclub-on-wheels for young people. There is supervision and it is promoted as alcohol-free but they can be dodgy. The mums knew little about it.
The two girls put huge pressure on their mothers to let them go - pester power was alive and well in their homes in the preceding days.
Both mums admitted that the alarm bells were ringing and they didn't feel good about letting their daughters girls go on the party bus!
It was the first time they had been put on the spot in such a way so they sought my advice.
My response was simple and straight-forward - "You can say NO!"
The age gap between the girls and the rest of the party, their experience gap and the mothers' lack of knowledge about who was attending and the exact nature of supervision were the main issues.
Both girls are in the early stages of adolescence where they think they are three years older than they are. It is an age where they tread a fine line between child and emergent teen.
The emergent teen desperately wants to act ‘older' and be older than they are. The child wants to be protected and have their parents decide for them.
Kids in the early stages of adolescence draw strength from each other and rarely make parental challenges individually, or at least not without some back-up. "Everyone else is going...." "Bonnie's mum is letting her go..." are the catchcries for this age group as they battle to get into the headspace of their parents. That's why they gang up on parents. Not only is it more effective but working together gives them false bravado.
Many young teens think they have invented adolescence however young teens don't know what they don't know. They often can't see potential risks involved. Parents need to be the ‘bad guy' for this age group making decisions for them in their best interests.
Early and middle teens together is a bad Saturday night mix. Middle to late teens are more likely to be sexually active and more likely to drink alcohol than early teens. The two to three year age gap can seem like a decade during at these stages. They don't play sport against each other for good reason and they shouldn't party with each other either!
So what did the mums decide?
Despite their gut instincts both mums let their kids join the Saturday night party bus.
FORTUNATELY, their kids showed some common sense!
The young teens didn't like what they saw when their parents dropped them off to start the evening. They didn't feel safe so they returned home with their parents. After all their fuss they don't go after all!!!
There are three salient lessons from this scenario.
First, it was evident that these mothers didn't feel confident enough to assert their authority over their daughters. They were confused about how they should respond yet their gut instinct was giving them a strong message. Next time they should have more faith in their instincts.............
Second, like many parents they were working in isolation. Despite the fact that they were good friends it wasn't until the morning of the party that they spoke to each other. By this time their daughters' pestering had worked a treat. Next time they should call for second, third and fourth opinions..........
Third, as both these girls were the eldest in their families it was the first real experience for both parents with the adolescent push for independence. They were unaware of the developmental stages of adolescence and the approach that is needed in each stage. They were flying blind and this is not a good way to raise teens.........
Lack of basic knowledge about teen development, confusion about the best approach to take with kids at this age and solitary decision-making were the real issues here for the parents.
Next time I am sure the parents would react quite differently. Thankfully they learned a good lesson with no damage done.
So would you fret over this decision? Would it make you sweat?
HOW PREPARED ARE YOU to face a similar dilemma? As a parent I know that situations like this happen out of the blue.
Confidence in your approach is probably the best ally that you can have. It helps you withstand the pressure that can be placed on you.
Confidence in your authority gives you the backbone to walk away from arguments and resist the pressure of pestering.
The confidence gained by understanding what each stage of adolescence needs helps you make clear decisions in your child's best interest - at an age when they most need good parenting.
The key to raising teens is to be prepared. Most parents are woefully unprepared for the challenges that they will face.
There is nothing like experience but it helps to have an understanding about teen development, a knowledge about the best approach to raising teens and a number of allies and friends whom you can swap ideas with, and more importantly, draw strength from when your resolve and patience are put to the test.
And of course, you can just say NO!
Related Tags: children, kids, parenting, assertive, authority, saying no, adolescence, pester, pestering, teen development
Michael Grose is Australia's NO. 1 parenting expert. He is the director of www.parentingideas.com.au, the author of seven books for parents and a popular presenter who speaks to audiences in Australia, Singapore and the USA. Get your FREE Chores and Responsibilities for Kids Guide when you visit http://www.parentingideas.com.au
Get a hold of Michael's sensational new book Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It at www.michaelgrose.com. You'll be astounded when you learn about your birth order personality and how the postion in your familoy impacts on your life!
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