We've all heard the stories; nice homes, good kids and then the awful happens. The teenager gets caught with drugs in the school parking lot, he is sassing his parents in public, she's cutting herself or the child next door hangs himself. Where in the world did this come from? She was a great student until she hit puberty; he was happy, athletic, and sociable until he started playing computer games all day. It seems as though they've withdrawn from sanity.
Remember the terrible two's? Ever wonder what that was all about? Well, when we are born, we are dependent upon our parents for everything and we're so busy growing that we don't have time to develop our own personality. Sure, we're cute, cuddly, colicky, fussy, grouchy, but not really our own person. The terrible two's is a way to start fixing that, but the only word we have in our vocabulary is "NO!"
That's known in the world of social development as separating and individuating. We have begun to realize that we're not our parents, but aren't quite sure who we are just yet.
Then come the three's when we return to being more amicable, and continue our journey of growth. Parents have their lovely kid again, who reads, does well in sports, and makes us proud.
And then it happens. Wham! Puberty, or something, seems to possess our kids and they lose their minds! But have they really? What has really happened is that the terrible two's have returned with a vengeance, and with a much bigger vocabulary. Wow. Our happy home is upside down. We have an angry, combative kid on our hands who rejects us, our religion, and everything we stand for. After all, they understand everything, including our religion, through our teachings, don't they, and if they are rejecting us to form their own identity, then they have to reject what we believe in.
I cannot tell you how many teens I have worked with who have harmed themselves in some way B poor grades, hanging with seedy friends, cutting themselves, or experimenting with drugs B which is just separating from the parents again, just like when they are two. They now realize that we are flawed, and perhaps asking them to "do what I say, not what I do." And since we are in the group called adults, they often have to reject all adults.
There is good news, however, but forcing them to comply will never work. Remember when they were toddlers and you had to let them stumble and fall in order to learn how to walk? You never let them fall too far or too hard, did you? Your job has been to teach a child how to cope in the world, to understand what it means to grow up and to work hard for what she wants. Your job now is to let your child learn more about the world without hurting himself more than is necessary.