Parents have the right to be in charge and expect obedience from their children, right? Yes that's right, only it just isn't that simple anymore.
A proverb I recently read says "the ruin of a nation begins in it's living rooms." Well that's true, the problem is, who is going to stay in their living room long enough to do something about it?
I've spent some time over the last two weeks doing some unscientific research on the subject, and the conclusions I reached are, parents are under-resourced, and the kids are over-marketed to, and running amok.
I'm relieved that my youngest is now twenty-two and past most of the negative influences that abound in adolescent society. I say society, because now, more than ever, teens are a different tribe than are we grown-ups. More different than "don't trust anyone under thirty" or "Steal This Book " (by Abbie Hoffman) or "I hope I die before I get old." Yes, with the aid of technologies unheard of in 1971, the fifteen year-old of today is practically from another planet. Another result of this technology is dependence. A fifteen year-old from today would be as lost in 1966 as he or she would be in 1066.
This, along with the obligation of school systems to instruct young people that parents may only go so far with discipline (all while glossing over the fact that society still expects parents to raise disciplined responsible citizens); presents parents with a real quandary - i.e. how to do an effective job of parenting with the same or fewer resources that our parents had.
My late Father decried "the two income family" as the precursor of social Armageddon. He was only partly right in that both parents needing to work is a necessity, not an expression of greed, or a desire to have a lavish lifestyle. That both parents need to work in order to live in a tract house, drive economy cars, and send their kids to public school should tell you something. The re-distribution of wealth; to the wealthy, has put parents in a position of working harder and longer than ever to simply make ends meet. And with the current economy, both parents working, isn't working either.
What to do? Well, first, parents need to have a united front when dealing with children "ask your Mother" or "talk to Dad" never cut it in the first place. Now with children being more technically sophisticated than parents, is it really surprising that they are more socially aware of both positive and negative influences; all while remembering that they are not as socially sophisticated as they would like to believe. Children need two things, someone to be firm (not physical) with them and someone to believe in them. Parents could accomplish so much just by writing out the rules of the house and the consequences for breaking them. A united set of parents though is vital, children are masters of divide and get their way. Save the parenting disagreements for private discussion.
Second, consistency. If consequences are enforced, children usually get the message and get with the program.
Third and most difficult, discretion. Not the better part of valor variety, but showing when to say ok, that was an honest mistake. This is a critical thing because you'll make mistakes too, and where do children learn to be adults; at your feet.
Parents of adolescents today have the hardest of tasks, with fewer resources and more pressure than ever. Parents, partners, adult relatives, and friends unite, be clear, and firm, acknowledge your mistakes, and maintain your belief in your children and yourselves.