Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why don't you ever learn? Lessons on keeping your teen safe

Another morning, another news story of  hazing  involving high school sports. (towel whipping this time) And a story from another town about football players showing up drunk at a school homecoming dance, and the subsequent cancellation of its annual thanksgiving football game. With five players suspended for drinking, there were too few players to play.

You would think that somehow, somewhere these kids would get the message. But honestly, to me it  is no surprise. I'm guessing that generally speaking most kids get the lecture, no hazing, no drinking, no drugs, no sex, no whatever, done! Unfortunately teens, like most middle aged people including me, have short-term memory loss. You can't tell them just once and expect it to have an impact. Most people learn through repetition, repetition, repetition. Remember how you learned your math facts!  Kids need to be reminded continuously about the important things you want them to remember, like rules for example. If I had been the coaches and parents of this team with the latest hazing incident, I would have reminded them about it every day at practice. Yes its annoying, but that's life. Reminders like: hey honey, I know this is hazing season, remember what happened to those kids in that other town, literally every time they go to practice. Or for the football players who drank before the dance, "hey guys, no drinking, you get caught and you're off the team, and you know you'll get caught." Literally kids need to hear the message over and over till your voice is living inside their head.

When my daughter was in High School ten years ago, the drug ecstasy was popular. There was a news story about the dangers of this drug in the paper everyday, kids going into comas, the kinds of stories that keep parents up at night. I knew that the drug was probably out there in her school community, and available to her should she be curious about it. I was relentless, reading her every article that appeared in the newspaper, and there were many, about kids who had almost died. I pleaded with her every weekend before she went out not to try this drug if someone had it. I used every ounce of Jewish mother's guilt I could muster. And guess what? It worked! When I turned 50, my daughter's contribution to my birthday roast was a reenactment of these weekend fueled guilt trips. But as she shared with me well after she had graduated, I had scared the crap out of her!

So you get the message. If there are things that you really, really, really don't want your kids to do for fear of their safety, or consequences (like missing the last football/soccer game of their high school career), give them the love. "I love you so much, I couldn't bear it if something happened to you, or if you ended up losing something I know is so important to you." If you give them the anger, " If I find out that you.... you're grounded, no car, no phone, no computer, no life", you have now challenged your teen to the game of  "if I find out". There is a term, the personal fable, coined by the psychologist, David Elkind. It refers to the unique way that teens think, and that ultimately drives their behavior.  " I am such a unique and special person, that I am invincible." This translates to " I CAN get away with anything and not get caught, or get hurt. This also is a result of teens NOT thinking of consequences. Remember teens live in the moment, not in the future. They need your help in this department, on a regular and frequent basis. So let love lead the way!

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