Why does everything have to be so hard? This is a question you probably ask yourself almost every day when you have put in a request to your teen to do something(put your laundry away), or to stop doing something (get off facebook and get your homework done), and it all falls on deaf ears. Yesterday I read a news story about a New Hampshire High School where the administration had decided to cancel the spirit and homecoming dances that were scheduled for October. Why? Because the dancing at these events had become increasingly more sexual as kids "grinded away" to the music despite repeated requests from chaperones to tone it down. Frustrated with the students blatant disregard with the "rules" and requests, the principal just threw in the towel and canceled the dance. Grinding for those of you new to the teen parenting years is basically humping standing up. Humping, (haven't used that word since I was 16) is simulated sex with your clothes on. Fun to participate in, but not fun to watch if you are a spectator. Feels almost like being a peeper at a sex show.
Back in my day, slow dancing meant doing a very chaste bear hug. Of course there were degrees of the bear hug. The two arms around the boys neck, standing several feet apart was one version, and then there was the closer, head on the shoulder, with chests touching, but "private parts" a definite no no. In fact, when a boy/girl came in for the grind, that was considered "gross" for the boy, or slutty if the girl was the initiator. This was not a style of dancing met with approval by anyone. Ah, how times have changed.
Here is what feels so hard about this story. First, the chaperones didn't tell the kids to stop dancing, just to cool it a little with the thrusting. Of course, teens being teens didn't like being told what to do, so as soon as the adult turned around..... I get it. It stopped being about sexy dancing, and more about, "you can't tell ME how to dance, you aren't the boss of me!" So the only recourse this principal felt he had was to cancel the dance, knowing that kids being kids, wouldn't give up the good fight.
Lets deal with the overt sexuality of this generation of teens. This is a cohort of teens where sexuality is about performance, not privacy. Whether it's sexting provocative language or posting provocative pictures, group blow job parties, or simulated sex on the dance floor, its all show and tell. The boundaries of what is public versus what should be done in the privacy of a car parked in the woods has changed dramatically. The conversation with your teens about this stuff should be less about judgement, (this is inappropriate) but instead about respect for the setting(a school) and empathy for the adults in the room, and the non-dancing students who feel completely uncomfortable. Not to mention, I believe that not all kids want to be so sexual with dancing,or want to send a provocative text or picture but feel that as everyone is watching them, that's what is expected of them. You might start a converstion by relating the story about the dance ttp://www.boston.com/news/local/new_hampshire/articles/2011/09/19/nh_school_cancels_dances_over_dirty_dancing/?s_campaign=8315 and after they say, " that principal is an a**hole," perhaps you might say: "I get that this seems unfair, but besides the issue of canceling the dance, I am just wondering about the dancing part. I think I know how these kids were dancing, and I know if I were at this dance, it would feel really uncomfortable watching these kids basically having sex standing up and clothed. What do you think about that?" Try to get them to focus less on the issue of the dance and more on the whole idea of "performance sex" and the pressure kids feel do be so outrageous whether on the dance floor, on facebook, or on their phones, and how hard that must be sometimes, when maybe that isn't what you want to do. Use this story as a conversation opener not a lecture. Teens need a safe place to work out their own ambivalence on this stuff, where they won't be criticized for questioning the party line. Be that place for them.