Mothers of infants, God bless you. Mothers of toddlers, I feel your pain. Mothers of elementary school kids, oh my gosh! But mothers of teenagers? There is a special place in heaven just for you! Our not-quite-adults, those special units that think they know everything, have not yet gained the common sense or memory retention you’d think would have been established after over a decade of living with you.
They are starting high school, possibly dating, and are soon to obtain a job to pay for said dates. There should be a measure of common sense involved with these activities. However, experts say that one’s brain is not fully developed until age twenty-one. This means that common sense and memory retention are only operating at half strength. The kid thinks he knows everything yet he can’t even remember to do the same chore that has been assigned to him every day for the past six years. When you gently remind him (he calls it nagging) he says “I know!” “So then, you’re simply not doing it even though you know you’re supposed to?” “I just haven’t had time.” “I can see that you are extremely busy… NOT doing anything at all!” “Maybe I’m not going to do it today.” “Maybe you’ll have to sleep on the hood of the minivan tonight.” “I could sleep inside it…” “Not unless you can magically unlock it.” “I could break a window…” “I could break your PSP…”
This is the kind of person who will soon be allowed behind the wheel of a vehicle capable of going 120 miles per hour. Of course, we will highly suggest that he doesn’t do 120 miles per hour and, because he listens soooo well, we are absolutely assured that he will be a safe driver. Did you hear the sarcasm? One of the tasks that parents of a new teenager must do is somehow put together an academic life-plan with the aforementioned knucklehead.
My husband and I are probably one of the lucky ones. Our soon-to-be high-schooler has known what he wants to do for a long time. It goes hand in hand with the whole “I Know” syndrome. This is one of the positive sides of the “I Know” syndrome, but it doesn’t make the task any easier. The core classes, he says, will be boring, except for the ones he likes. The ones he likes will probably be too easy because, like I said, he knows everything already.
The first thing you have to know is the requirements of the college he will attend four and a half years from now. How will we know which college he will attend when the teenager in question changes his mind with every breath he takes? Yesterday, he “hated” mashed potatoes. Today they’re “not so bad.” Next week it’s “What are you talking about? I’ve always liked mashed potatoes.”
Next, you have to decide how difficult the courses should be. If you let your teenager slide through high school with low-level courses, it won’t matter what college he wants to go to. They won’t have him. If you suggest courses that are more difficult, he may fail the class on purpose just to prove it was too difficult. That is the extended “I Know… and You Don’t Know” Syndrome. It is the same syndrome as the “I Know” but the last part is unsaid, but understood by all.
The trick here is to get your little know-it-all to choose courses you’ve already decided, through much planning and research, are the ones that will better his chances of getting into whatever college is on his radar four and a half years from now.
It must be his choice. You must gently, without detection, lead, guide, coerce, urge, bargain with, bribe, or pay him off. You just can’t force him, because teenagers are a different breed. And parents… you still gotta love ‘em.