John Rosemond December 2018 Columns
Copyright 2018, John K. Rosemond
Simple Solutions for Teens, Tantrums and Smartphones
Q: Our 15-year-old daughter is very demanding and, to be honest, self-centered. One of the things she does is ask one of us for something and demand an instant decision, as in, “Can I go to the mall with my friends?” If she doesn’t get the right answer, she begins to yell and become disrespectful and/or she goes to the other parent (in person, phone, text), but cleverly fails to tell him/her of the first parent’s decision. That, of course, causes tension and sometimes conflict between the two of us. We feel caught between a rock and a hard place. If we tell her that she must wait on a decision until the two of us can collaborate, she begins to throw a temper tantrum. On the other hand, if one of us makes a unilateral decision, we often regret it. Any suggestions to help us resolve this?
A: Yep. First, make a list of “permissions” that the two of you agree upon, that don’t require collaboration. Henceforth, either of you can make any one of those decisions unilaterally. When the list is complete, share it with your daughter, making perfectly clear (or as perfectly clear as is possible with a teenager who is demanding and disrespectful) that any item not on the pre-approved list requires collaboration. Tell her that if she can’t wait until collaboration is possible, the default answer is “no.” Inform her, furthermore, that yelling or any other form of disrespect means that “no” is the automatic answer to any and all requests for a week. That ought to do it.
Q: We have discovered that our 14-year-old son is bragging to the world over social media of exploits – even of a sexual nature – that he’s never experienced. We took away his phone privileges for a week, but that hasn’t stopped it. Help!
A: Given the well-known fact that smart phones enable irresponsible behavior in many if not most teens, I fail to comprehend the rationale behind otherwise intelligent adults giving them smart phones. There is, in fact, no rationale; there is only nonsense like “Well, that’s how they communicate” and “Let’s face it, their social lives depend on smart phones” and “I want us to be able to get in touch should an emergency arise.”
I know of plenty of teens who do not have smart phones. Instead, they have “Model A” phones that do not connect to the internet; phones that will call and text (laboriously) only. Without exception, said teens are not suffering socially. They may be at times inconvenienced, but they are not suffering. They are somewhat behind the information curve in their peer group, but they are not socially isolated. Albeit not happy with that one aspect of their lives, they are not clinically depressed. Can someone please explain to me why it is bad for a parent to say to a child, “So, if I understand you correctly, you’re telling me your life’s not just as you would have it; in which case, all I have to say is ‘welcome to the real world, kiddo.’”
Let’s face it, folks. Smart phones create problems for parents. At the least, and even in the case of children who only use them responsibly, they make extra work for parents. Can someone please explain to me why, when an alternative exists, otherwise clear-thinking parents would choose to make extra work for themselves?
C’mon. Stop fooling around with this. In your son’s hand, a smart phone becomes instantly toxic. Take his phone away…for good. Give him a “Model A.” Tell him he can have a smart phone when he’s living on his own and can pay for it and the monthly bill. That will certainly motivate him to emancipate as early as possible, which is certainly a win-win.
One Reason Why Marriages Go Bad: Postnatal Marital Amnesia
Just about every marriage has its share of bad times; then again, some marriages simply go bad. The reasons for the latter include abuse, adultery, alcoholism (and other forms of chemical self-indulgence, aka addiction), and emotional and/or physical abandonment. Not to say that any one of those can’t be overcome, but they are four of the top five reasons why some marriages arrive at a point where there’s no going back.
I can’t think of (or find) an A-word for the fifth reason; therefore, I’ve invented a new disorder (it’s what psychologists do, after all): post-natal marital amnesia, or PNMA. A recent column of mine on the need for the marriage to “rule,” in every sense, prompted a flood of emails, letters, and even a few phone calls testifying to the contemporary ubiquity of PNMA.
Take, for example, the fellow who was essentially abandoned by his wife when their live-in young adult daughter gave birth out of wedlock. Wife flipped into full grandmother mode and that was that. Or the stepmom who, when her husband’s teenage daughter visits for a weekend, takes her pre-teen daughter (likewise, from a first marriage) and herself to a hotel so as not to experience her stepdaughter’s disrespect and depraved behavior (said child enjoys telling her younger stepsister about her sexual exploits) that dad, by his own admission, pretty much ignores for fear of upsetting her.
On and on went these tales of woe. One failed or failing marriage after another brought about by misplaced priorities; to wit, otherwise clear-thinking adults who’d rather have a wonderful relationship with a child than with their spouses.
Some of these otherwise clear-thinking adults might say their marriages were on the rocks, slowly coming undone, before the child-idol in question arrived on the scene. Sorry, but that’s no excuse. Take it from someone who’s been married for fifty years (to the same woman as opposed to some cumulative figure), when bad stuff happens in a marriage, the responsible thing to do is focus on fixing it. Avoiding marital problems by taking refuge in relationship with a child or children is cowardly, dishonest, and immature.
People my age often talk with one another about the problems we see today’s young parents creating for themselves. We talk amongst ourselves because most of us have learned, the hard way, that relatively rare is the young parent who will listen to us much less take our advice concerning child-rearing matters. One thing most of us observe is parents making idols of children. This idol-making takes numerous forms, one of which is posting daily photos of a child on some social media platform, accompanied by the day’s report of the child’s latest accomplishments (“Tiffany went down the slide at the park for the first time today!”), which no one should be deprived of knowing (and which all point to nascent genius of one sort or another).
Two such idol-makers can make a go of it (until their last idol leaves home at which point all bets are off), but when one parent has made an idol of a child and the other understands and practices the difference between love and idolatry, well, uh-oh. I call it the child-centered divorce. In a way, the divorce simply makes official what has been the case for some time: to wit, PNMA.
As children, people my age or thereabouts were not fussed over, bragged about, or made idols of. It was obvious, furthermore, that our parents had much, much more of a relationship with one another than they had with us. We understand, therefore, that the benefit to a child of being merely loved and disciplined well, as opposed to idolized, is inestimable.
I certainly didn’t know it when I was a young parent, but I know it now: The past is the greatest of all teachers, and the greatest teachers, furthermore, always possess great respect for the past.