I wanted to start my first article with some basic information I learned years ago as I struggled to find info about teens to add to my growing skills and knowledge. Most of the books about teens I came across early in my career were largely about behavior management, the politically correct term for behavior modification. For years I plowed through books with titles like Back in Control, Controlling Your Teen, Teen Shaping and so on. While most of the material within these books is applicable to many teens, most fail to touch on the big question: Why do we need such books? When the Columbine school tragedy hit, suddenly people were more deeply interested in what makes teens tick and books like Real Boys started hitting the better selling lists.
Since America leads the world in teen violence, teen crime, teen drug use, and therefore, teen incarceration, the issue does seem to be about controlling their behavior. However, as a problem-solver a heart I’m more interested in figuring out the Cause of teen problems rather than dealing constantly with their Symptoms: the behavior we all see. When I was trying to publish my own book on teen boys, countless agents and publishers lamented my material was not a “parenting book.” Why, I asked, do we need one more behavior control book when most apparently are not working? Would one more book on how to get your kid home by curfew or leveraging them into doing the dishes really matter?
I have 23 years of material, anecdotes and experience to share in upcoming articles. We’ll cover everything from gangs to sex, cliques to drugs, and more. My goal is to help you understand what changed and when, and how those changes affect your teens and us adults. Lately I’m more adolescent sociologist than counselor as I pursue the Cause of modern teen problems.
The most asked question I’ve had from parents in almost 23 years is this: “Why do they do it?” The answer is simple: Because they can! Most teens get away with negative behavior because they learn early that the parents’ bluff or threat is empty: “This is your last warning!” Well, what happened after the first warning? Or, “I won’t tell you again!” Same issue: what were the consequences for not following your directives the first time? Kids learn early that when mom or dad says No, for example, that means “Maybe” if you persist long enough. Often, our kids are better at nagging us than we are at nagging them to get what we want. Check out the attached cartoon to see what this looks like to kid.
So here we go, into the word of teens. Remember we’ve all been there, so even though we weren’t teens in the 2011 we still know what peer pressure is like, rejection and taunting by the cool kids, and so on. I’ve seen a lot of things that work with teens, even high-risk youth, my specialty, so I look forward to future articles and trying to help you navigate the turbulent waters of modern adolescence.