What if parenting a teenager were a job like any other, advertised in the want ads? Imagine picking up the classifieds and finding this:
We have an exciting, demanding position open in our department of growth and development. You will be in charge of grooming a small but dynamic team of up-and-coming young adults. Be prepared to put in endless hours and expect your authority to be challenged frequently. Fluency in two languages required: yours and theirs. Other prerequisites include infinite patience and a working knowledge of psychology, sociology, popular culture and all secondary-school and college curriculum. Must have car! Zero room for advancement; compulsory demotion in several years. Don’t bother sending salary requirements; there are none.
If you didn’t already have this job, you’d probably keep moving right on down the page.
Adolescence can be a challenge for parents. Your youngster may at times be a source of frustration and exasperation, not to mention financial stress. But these years also bring many, many moments of joy, pride, laughter and closeness. Too often, though, our culture seems to overemphasize the pervasive stereotypes of adolescence, many of them negative. Countless books, movies and news accounts create sensationalized portraits of disaffected youth flouting authority at every turn and often getting into serious trouble. As a result, the accomplishments of the good youngsters who make up the majority of America’s approximately sixty million adolescents tend to be overshadowed.
Denver pediatrician Marianne Neifert objects to the barrage of disparaging messages parents receive about adolescence. As the mother of five children now grown to adulthood, she observes a parallel between the so-called “turbulent teens” and what is known as the “terrible twos.” Just as not all toddlers go through the terrible twos in the same way, not every kid transforms into a defiant, capricious creature upon turning twelve. To assume that the teen years will be fraught with conflict can distort our perception of our children’s behavior and result in a self-fulfilling prophecy, says Dr. Neifert, “because kids tend to rise or fall to our expectations of them.”
Recent studies dispute the long-held belief that adolescence is inherently a time of turmoil. Four in five youngsters negotiate adolescence without any major problems, while in a 1998 nationwide poll of more than one thousand thirteen-to-seventeen-year-olds, 97 percent claimed to get along with their parents “very well” or “fairly well.”