My Son Is Now a Teen - How Parenting Changes
anonymous Asks ...
I found out my son has been writing badly about us on facebook. For quite a while too. He uses bad language and says really terrible things about the way we treat him, which is not at all true. I feel really angry right now about the way he is treating us in such a public way. Obviously he is grounded from the computer. But when I take a step back and look at what he is saying I don’t even understand what is going on at all. How can he hate us this much? What am I supposed to do when my 13 year old son apparently hates me and I didn’t even know it? How are we supposed to be good parents to him now knowing how he sees us?
Rev. Christopher Smith Says ...
For a moment let's take you out of the middle of what is going on. Parenting is dynamic. Certainly things are different from the time your child is born (and they are dependent on you for everything) to when they are an adult (and if things are healthy they are independent). Through it all you remain their parent, although this changes a lot in a couple of short decades.
Your son is now a teenager. What are the important developmental tasks for him to engage in at this age? It is a time when he begins to be more independent. Teenagers test limits and learn ways of being in the world without all the protections they had as a younger child. It is while doing this that a person has to "rebel" and discover their own ways of interacting in the world. The good news is that as this is done the values you have provided up to age 11 will remain influential in their life.
Another change that happens is that his primary social circle is changing. As a teenager, his friends are an important role in his life. Whereas before he would have come to you first with a problem, it is now normal that he turns first to his friends. In this sense, it is not a reflection on you that he is talking to friends and not you about struggled he is having.
Now, back to your concern. Does he hate you? What is his real concern? Is it you or things that he is pushing against? As a parent it can be hard to distinguish between these. To really do this, a parent has to set aside their own ego and enter into dialog without being concerned about what you might here. Open dialog, to the extent you can, is the key.
While you didn't ask about it, family rules around technology, including social media, is important. Setting clear expectations is the start. Monitoring computer use can start with computers being in public spaces and extend to spot reviews. It is also important that you model responsible computer use. This might be a good time to work with your son to develop guidelines and practices. Make this a positive outcome for everyone.
Finally, know you are not in this alone. A good parent does not have to be the center of their child's life. A good parent has to know that their child is safe and is developing into a healthy responsible adult.
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