Forbidden fruit and not sweating the small stuff

rrahJanuary 6, 2007

Our DD is recently 16. She's an awesome young woman and we have no real problems. My DH and I kind of follow the philosophy of not pushing on the small stuff, ie clothes, foul language (although neither is a real issue). We always try to keep things in perspective. So far it's worked for us with her and her 13 yo brother. She knows we have pretty high expectations, but at the same time we really keep the lines of communication open. So far she's pretty comfortable discussing things with us concerning boys, sex, drugs, all the "biggies." (If some of the other parents knew the things I know about their children....)

Recently a couple of her friends have been grounded because of some relatively minor, to us, things. (talking on the phone at 3:30 am and pulling a silly prank) These things would certainly be discussed in our house, but we probably wouldn't have grounded our daughter for this. In both instances I think the parents grounded the girls because they thought they were spending too much time with a boyfriend and this was a way to separate them for awhile. (It was pretty obvious to both girls what the real agenda was.) From what our DD tells us, both girls are finding ways to see the boyfriends anyway, in other words, the "forbidden fruit" is sweeter and more appealing now.

So my question is this--for those of you that have successfully raised teens, how did you handle the small stuff? When it came to the opposite sex did forbidding your daughter or son contact with a special friend make that friend even more desirable? What worked for you and what didn't? So far we've been incredibly lucky, but we just keep waiting for the "teen" shoe to drop. Any words of wisdom?

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We didn't sweat the small stuff. My son had a friend who was constantly grounded for what I considered small stuff...Like I didn't get my home work done so I'm grounded....etc. He turned out bad news....violent temper....did jail time for beating his wife who subsequently dumped him. Wasn't into stealing cars etc....but violent...I think the punishment for small stuff did no good and contributed to the problem, building anger.
Our son was in a band in Middle Shcool and highschool. He had long hair....and some of our friends and a few relatives said they sure wouldn't allow their son to have that long hair!...I said...It's can be cut in a moment!...No biggie!
Both kids had friends we considered "not up to their standards"...butw ew elcomed them with open arms....and they married other people. kids turned out alright!
Linda C

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 6:16PM
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Sounds like you are on the right track and probably don't need a lot of advice. Don't sweat the small stuff is definitely good guide. Choose your battles.

My sons never gave us much trouble. I think it is so important to be a good listener and to keep in mind that often kids just want to talk, don't really want your opinion or advice, just need a sympathetic ear.

It's important to encourage them to belong to extra-curricular activities, and when there are events to attend, be there. BE in their lives as much as they will allow.

I also believe in being respectful to teens. Thank them when they help. If they are good kids, trust them until they give you reason not to.

I don't know about the "forbidden fruit" aspect of your post. I bet that problem doesn't come up for you.

Just a few thoughts.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 9:26PM
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I am in the same position as OP. We are raising a 16 year old in a society that is much different that the one we grew up in.

Our tact has been don't sweat the small stuff. Her room looks like a bomb went off. She is a straight A student and has never gotten a B on a report card ever. I never have to ask about homework. It is done and she is very responsible. She does things that bug me, but I can say that there hasn't been anything so far worth getting "grounded" for.

I think as a parent of a 16 year old girl, I am going to trust what we have taught her, is going to be lurking somewhere in the back of her mind. Be a good person is and has always been the mantra of our house. If you are a good person and always do your best, you really can't go wrong.

I volunteer to carpool immediately and all the time. The things you can learn from a car full of kids talking. They forget you're driving. Some of the things, I can say I'd rather not hear, but they do give me little things that I can chat with her about in the "for instance" setting. I am just doing the best I can, that's all we can be expected to do.

My daughter has long thick blonde hair. BTW, so did her dad at her age. LOL - It drove MIL crazy and she did sweat the small stuff, drove her kids crazy and away from her. I definitely don't want that!

Just my thoughts.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2007 at 4:55PM
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I agree with all the comments in the posts.

I look at it this way....I TRUST my children to make good judgements about people and places. I believe strongly in consequences of behaviour. So I try to remember that when arguments are going on.

For instance, my DS has dreadlocks in his hair, this has gone on for a year. In my mind they look messy and I have noticed that people do judge him by the way he looks and treat him accordingly. He also happens to go to a school where they have a hair policy and for the life of me I cannot understand why they have let him go through the whole year, without saying something about his hair !! I thought this would solve my dilemma of wanting him to have a neat haircut. Although I do not like his hair, I fully support his right to have his hair the way he wants it, his right to be an individual, he loves the way his hair is, and if he is happy then I am happy.

We have had a lot of discusions about CONSEQUENCES of the school asking him to cut his hair. I asked him many questions about what he would do, and he understands (rather crankily) that he must conform, if they ask him to. I think this has been an important lesson for me and him.

This led to many more discussions on conformity and when this is acceptable, and where.

With my DD (19), I have had dramas over messy bedroom, but now I don't care, its not important. Its important to remember they are lovely people and that we can trust them to do the right thing.

Encouragement is beter than critisism, in my mind.

Make "I" statements is a good policy to work on. "I was concerned when you didnt phone me like you said you would ", not "You are so naughty for not phoning me, you are grounded for a week, and you can think about it "

I also read any statement starting with "Don't" is negative and will lead to negative feelings, and probably moving into an agrument.

A few pearls of wisdome from Me.


    Bookmark   January 8, 2007 at 6:18PM
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Yes, Popi, you reminded me of something I always told my kids. That if they are not home on time, just please please call me. I said I was not attempting to control them or snooping about where they are, but worrying just makes me sick, so please "don't make me worry!!"

Even tho' we might have children we feel we can trust, we must be ever vigilant as they are very young and can certainly make mistakes. I did not wait up for my kids, but usually staggered out on the pretense of a glass of water or whatever just to touch base with them and see that all was well.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2007 at 9:37PM
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Yes, I agree with you Socks, be forever vigilant.

But I think it is easy to be vigilant when you talk, talk, talk, in the car, on a walk, at the dinner table, after school. Spending time with them is SO important.

But just between you and me, in Australia its summer school holidays, and my son has gone out with my DH...and I am quite enjoying the lack of talking ! He has been yacking all day !

Whoops did I say that !

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 2:48AM
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My oldest is just 13. I absolutely love to see these posts! I want to know from parents farther along in the teen years what works and what doesn't. Just those pearls of wisdom a parent like me needs to hear, that this does not have to be a terrible experience. That the effort does pay off. That there is a good middle ground between being a friend to your child and being their prison guard. (Mentor might be a good word.)

DS has been letting his hair grow. It bothers DH, who wants it cut very badly and is looking for an excuse to cut it. But he has conceded to me when I stand firm with "Let it go." This is not a good battle to choose, save it for something that actually matters.

He has a "girlfriend" at school, and has had the same one for a year. Even though my opinion is he's too young to date, I don't think I can tell him he's too young to have a girlfriend of this nature b/c I cannot control it anyway. If I did, it would just be me being "freaked out" by my "baby" growing up. So they don't really date, they do the jr. high thing, pass notes, talk on the phone couple times a week and meet at the school when there is a dance. (I chaperone to make myself feel better.) But when he wanted to buy her jewelry (even though it was inexpensive) as a gift I said no. I think candy is more appropriate gift between 13 y/o kids. I felt like jewelry was skipping steps in the ladder of teen relationships. And I don't want any step skipping! LOL! I was also thinking how I'd feel if I were the girl's parents.

So I'm trying to recognize what to sweat and what to let go. I want him to know the difference between when his decisions only effect himself, and when they effect other people.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 1:08PM
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Thanks for sharing..some days you just question yourself---are we doing it right? Is this "bad" thing going to happen to us too?

There are so many things to worry about as a parent...

Thanks especially for the reminder that sometimes advice is not needed, just an ear. I still need to work on that one sometimes. (usually my DD reminds me about this :)

BTW labmomma it sounds as if our DD's could be long lost twins. I laughed at your description of her room!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2007 at 12:41PM
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I completely agree that you have to keep a light hand on the reins with teenagers. You do have to pay close attention and be vigilent - but you also have to choose your battles - otherwise you'll have all out war.

The hair son, who has turned out remarkably well, went through an amazing series of colors and effects. I even helped him with the cheetah spots when he couldn't reach the back. I was simply delighted to see him expending so much rebellious energy on something as temporary (and ultimately meaningless) as hair! Besides, he learned a good lesson when the burgundy wouldn't wash out beyond a lovely dusty rose shade. He had to wear that for months!

I do feel a bit differently about the trust issue: so many people say "trust them until they give you a reason not to"...I don't agree. I say, "let them earn your trust". My children grew up with the rule that love is unconditional but trust is earned. I started them out staying in the yard, within sight and only when they could do that dependably could they ask permission and go to a friend's house or to the neighbor's back yard. (Baby steps) And I made them aware that it was about earning my trust. If they blew it - let's say, they were not where they said they'd be - it was back a step til they showed me they could do that right. Then we'd try the next bit again.

My point is that you may have no reason NOT to trust them if they have done nothing. But you also have no reason TO trust. And you can't start right out with total trust because that gives them nothing to strive for.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2007 at 9:02PM
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I agree trust is earned.Remember to positively re-enforce it I Know I can trust you to be in at the discussed time ect.On that subject choose a time 1/2 an hour under the time you want "You need to be home at 10pm" They'll say "Oh come on 10.30", "you'll say 10.15"Deal it's a win/win and it teaches them you are willing to be flexible of course you don't need to say you were willing to go 10.30.
Also on one occasion I was proud of myself for being one step ahead.My then 13 yr old wanted to meet friends at the park, I didn't yet know these friends and knew given previuos behaviour if I didn't find a solution she would sneak out.So I took her,gave her a curfew and instead of leaving parked under a street light and pulled out a book.She came over to the car and said what are you doing?I said I was reading. She went off to talk to these boys(who were older and not good company).Next thing she's back sitting in the car" Well if you are going to sit here and embarrass me we might as well go"
I just told her I agreed to bring her to the park which I had but that as the situation seemed dangerous I was being a good parent and looking out for her safety.It worked that time.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 10:49PM
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I agree 100% with "don't sweat the small stuff". I believe that if you teach your children what's right/expected when it comes to the big stuff, then overlook the small stuff, they'll realize that you want what's best for them in the long run. Everytime a parent fights with their kid on small stuff, they dilute the importance of the big stuff.

Kids are able to understand arbitrary rules vs necessary rules from a very young age. You simply can't put the same emphasis on "don't touch the outlet" as you do on "put this toy in this exact spot every day" for example. Doesn't work! After a while, the kid figures ALL your requirements are arbitrary and trust is lost.

As far as forbidden fruit, the best thing for these parents to do IMHO is to invite the boyfriend over - regularly. Get to know him and have him get to know them. That accomplishes two things: 1. it eliminates the forbidden fruit aspect 2. it gives the parents a chance to supervise at least some of the time they are spending together.

Simply saying "you're spending too much time with bf" is arbitrary. How much time is too much? How much is the right amount? If the parents have real, concrete concerns based on specific behaviors, then that is something to be seriously discussed. But grounding them, again, an arbitrary punishment, is not the solution.

By the way, I've never grounded my kids. At this point in their lives (16 & 19), my disappointment in their behavior is much more effective than making them stay home instead of seeing friends. And that's the way I was raised too. I have a friend who grounded her daughters, put very close tabs on them, etc. and was always sure they were perfectly behaved. According to my son, the older daughter is NOT perfectly behaved, she does everything she wants to as soon as she's out of the parent's line of vision.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2007 at 1:38PM
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