So on Saturday, I posted a video on YouTube. It was about a well known pastor, Creflo Dollar, who was arrested on charges that he allegedly choked and punched his 15-year-old daughter. At least, this was his daughter's side of the story. He claims that he had to restrain his daughter after she hit him first. I was inspired to write this post not by the actual story I read, but by the commentaries.
A significant number of commentators took to Mr. Dollar's side in the incident, lamenting about how unfair it was that the authorities intervened in his disciplining of his child. Heck, even those who were critical of him, insinuated that he had spoiled his daughter with too much technology and money.
This is my take, it is sad that the conflict between the father and his 15-year-old daughter deteriorated to the point it did. Apparently it all started when she attempted to attend a party and the father refused. I can certainly understand why on any given day, a parent might say no to his or her teen attending a party. However, I am now going to pose the question I posed in my YouTube video. If in three years we expect this 15-year-old to be mature enough to go of to college or get a job and reside on her own, what sense does beating her make?
In a recent war mongering speech that led up to renewed fighting between the North and South Sudanese, Omar Al Bashir, the current president of Sudan, mocked the Southern Sudanese by reciting a part of an old pro-slavery poem. Following his claims that the government of South Sudan are insects, Bashir quoted the part of the poem where the author talks about taking a stick to teach an unruly slave his "place."
One has to wonder where us parents, particularly us of Black African decent learned that the only way to get through to our more stubborn children is through a thorough beat down. Think about it, beating is an alleged non lethal technique police officers use in an attempt subdue suspects and protesters. (Granted, these days they have tasers).
Is this how we want our children to become? Weak and docile in response to authority figures? As challenging as the standards of living are for us all, a young person who leaves home for the first time, without adequate experience in exercising the courage to question authority and exercise personal responsibility, is simply waiting to become some one's doormat.
Some parents reading this are probably experiencing feelings of frustration with what I have written. When I share my thoughts and feelings with parents as to why they shouldn't put hands on their teens, the typical question I get is:
"So what do you do when you have a teen who refuses to do what he/she is told?" Before responding to alternatives to corporal punishments and floggings, I usually will respond with a question of my own.
"You mean besides flogging? "
"So let me ask you this, would you attempt to flog a teen who was not only twice your size but stronger than you?" The response to this question to date has always been a quiet no, which then opens the parents' mind into a new paradigm of thinking when it comes disciplining teens.
So back to the question, what do you do with a teen who just refuses to listen to anything you say or instruct?
For starters, keeping in mind that you don't want to raise a pushover for a teen, you should first commit into not being forceful on the disagreement, but adhering to healthy boundaries. This means that rather than forcing your teen into doing your biding, you make a valid attempt to understand your teen, and if you are still in disagreement you set into motion, natural and logical consequences for your teenager's choices.
Take this scenario for example:
Dad: "Where are you going?"
Daughter: "A party."
Dad: "What type of a party is it?"
Daughter : "You are too old to understand, Dad"
Dad: "What's that supposed to mean?"
Daughter : "It means, Dad, you are invading my privacy and I am not a little girl anymore."
Dad: "I understand you feel that I am invading your privacy and that you are older now. But being older doesn't make you invincible."
Daughter: "What's that supposed to mean?"
Dad: "As your father, I need to make sure that you are not putting yourself in an unsafe environment.”
Daughter: "Bye Dad" (the teen says as she begins walking towards the door.)
Dad: "Where are you going?"
Daughter: "I already told you."
Dad: "If you insist on leaving this house without telling me where you are going then there are a few things you should know. You do not have permission to use any of our cars, or I will have you arrested for theft."
Daughter: "Fine, I will have my friend pick me up."
Dad: "l too shall wait for your friend, so I can follow you both to the party."
Daughter : "What?"
Dad: "Once I get to the party, if I notice any alcohol or drugs, I will introduce myself to every one there as your father and I will give the party goers the option of leaving the premises or explaining themselves to the police."
At this point your child should be more than willing to speak and reason with you. If as a parent you find yourself experiencing anger and frustration because your teen has decided to give you the silent treatment for being firm on your boundaries, please be advised that this is normal.
Given that the prefrontal cortex does not become fully developed until the mid twenties, it's natural for teenagers to be quite irrational in their thought process and decision making. So quite often, parents feel regarded as villains for setting firm and healthy boundaries with their teens.
Keep in mind that our parents went through the same maddening process, and so will every generation of parents until the end of mankind. It's tempting to change tactics and become authoritative, but don't lose sight of the bigger picture.
The bigger picture being how does your parenting today, shape the adult your teen will become? If your goal is for your teen to become assertive and confident, a hands off policy is most recommended.
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