Thursday, April 4, 2013

Teens And The Stories They Tell

Does the concept defense mechanisms ring a bell for you? Thank you Dr. Freud for creating these terms that describe the "I don't really want to take responsibility for my actions" kind of techniques that teens (and adults by the way) use to lure us into their lair of "it wasn't my fault."

One way to play that game with them, is to remember all the excuses they come up with. Write them down, put them in a journal, keep them handy and read them back to your teen in moments when their usefulness might come into play. So for example, your teen is late for curfew or said they would be back from the mall, their friends or wherever at a particular time, and don't show. Their excuse, like Jeremy's is circuitous and circumspect and just plain silly. Write down their "short story" so that the next time they ask for permission, or let you know that they are going somewhere and will be back at such and such a time, you can remind them of your previous experience. Get out your little journal and literally read back to them what they "said" had happened. 

 At least now you can plan for their present excursion. As in Jeremy's tale of woe, address the problems one by one. First excuse: dead cell battery. Have them show you their phone and check their charge status. An uncharged phone means they can't leave the house until the phone is charged. Problem #1, anticipated and solved. Problem #2 Lost phone. Smartphones have a phone finder app you can download for lost phones. This app should be downloaded on all teens phones. How many phones has your teen lost? Problem #2 anticipated and solved. Problem #3 no reception. That one is just stupid!! Drive until you get to a place where there is service. Problem #3 solved.

I know this may sound silly, and it is meant to be a little silly, even though I really think its a good idea. Your teen counts on you forgetting previous excuses, and tries to recycle. Be smarter than they are. Keep track!! Teaching teens accountability is really hard. They get caught up in whatever moment they are in, get distracted, lose track of time, and .forget whatever it is they promised to do. Help them to make a plan, a plan they make and can take responsibility for.And make sure there are consequences built into this plan. Knowing that not calling and checking in or not being where they are supposed to be, or coming in late without permission carries consequences.  A little work before hand can make a big difference.

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