You know how you’ll be going along, living your life, not thinking about any specific subject, and then a certain topic will be EVERYWHERE? Every place you turn, someone is talking about it?
Right now that topic is teen rebellion.
It came across my radar for the first time about a week or so ago on one of the email lists to which I subscribe. The headline was something like “Lack of rebellion in unschooling families” (I am heavily paraphrasing, as I no longer have the email.) I didn’t even read it, to be honest.
Then, a day or two ago someone said to me and Joshua, “Maya is 11? Well you’ve only got a couple of years with her, then, before she wants nothing more to do with you.”
This morning, another email list to which I subscribe had a link to a Newsweek article on homeschooling. Although the article was mostly positive, this quote leapt out at me,
“There’s concern that having parent’s at one’s side throughout childhood can do more harm than good. Psychologist Wendy Mogel…admires the way homeschoolers manage to ‘give their children a childhood’ in an ultracompetitive world [but] worries, too, about eventual teenage rebellion in families that are so enmeshed.”
That was the moment I decided on the blog topic for tonight, because….huh? Teenage rebellion, in my humble opinion (and although I don’t yet have teens, I was one once) is not a result of simply spending a lot of time with your family. Rather, it has to do with control. Parents who try to control their children are in for some rebellion – if not right now, then later. Like when they turn 18 and can’t move out of the house fast enough.
I was not a rebellious teen, nor was my brother who is six years older than me. Maybe we were just weird, but I don’t think so. Or rather, maybe we were weird, but that’s beside the point of whether or not we were rebellious. It’s my belief that we didn’t rebel because our parents respected us and treated us as people. I remember thinking how dumb it was when fellow classmates would want to sneak out on the weekends to drink. If I’d wanted a drink, my parents would have allowed me to have one in the comfort of our living room. My Mom’s side of the family, being good Germans, drank all the time. Not to the point of drunkenness, but as a social behavior. At family occasions we were all allowed a drink of wine, even as little kids (it was a small drink). There was always wine and beer in our house, and it seemed pretty silly to run around in secret when all I had to do was ask.
If I was going to be out later than I’d planned, I called my parents to let them know. Someone said to me once, “Don’t you HATE having to call your Mom?” Well, no, not really. I didn’t call because she demanded it, but because I didn’t want her to worry. There was mutual respect involved.
I went to public school, so I can’t lay the blame for rebellion solely at the feet of compulsory schooling, but I think it can be a factor in a household where the parents demand obedience at home and perfection in school. Neither of my parents went to college and my brother, who is one of the smartest people I know, didn’t either. Pressure to do well and get into a good college wasn’t part of my upbringing. (I was a good student, despite that or maybe because of it.)
So, yeah, teen rebellion? I don’t really know that much about it, except that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, tells me my kids will become monsters when they hit thirteen. They will hate me. They will lie. They will do anything not to spend time with me.
I choose to think they are wrong. I believe Ms. Mogel’s concerns are unfounded.
Many of the unschooling/homeschooling families we know have excellent parent/teen relationships in their family. Not all, but most. Which is a complete reversal, it seems, of the culture at large. A good reversal.
Teen rebellion is not a given, and I find it kind of sad that most people seem to think it is.
After I decided to write on this topic tonight I read this blog post by Idzie Desmarais, talking about teen rebellion from the point of view of someone who, until very recently, was a teenager. An unschooled one. I love what she says and how she says it, and can only hope to be as great a parent to my kids as Idzie’s parents have obviously been to her and her sister.