By John Rosemond
Copyright 2017, John K. Rosemond
There must be some relationship between aging and the “You’ve got to be kidding me!” response, if I am any indication, that is. What was once occasional has become almost daily.
My latest “YGTBKM!” was in response to a Wall Street Journal article (“New Instructions at High Schools: Take a Nap,” February 9, 2017) on high school nap clubs. Yep, high schools are now providing safe spaces where sleep-deprived teens whose milquetoast parents will not insist that they turn off their connections, turn out their lights, and turn in to bed at a decent hour can take a 20- to 30- minute nap during school hours.
The high school nap club, proponents say, helps teens deal with the pressures of getting into college. Allow me to put this into proper perspective. First, the “right” college, whatever that is, does not guarantee success, however that is measured. Not for the student, that is. Parents and high school administrators want students to get into the “right” colleges so that they can brag. A kid who gets into a “right” college is a trophy for both groups.
I was admitted to both Yale and Western Illinois University. I decided to attend the latter because a good number of my friends were going to Western and none were going to Yale. My parents, both PhDs, had not helped me fill out college admission forms and only shook their heads in dismay when I informed them of my decision. Western was not the “right” college then, nor is it now (U.S. News and World Report Rank of 49 among Regional Universities in the Midwest). Nonetheless, it was good enough and I managed to parlay my WIU education into a reasonably good standard of living.
My daughter attended a “right” college. She later reported that to make good grades in her major subject all she had to do was participate in professor-led class exercises in bashing politically-incorrect things that her parents stand for. The quality of her work counted less than the correctness of her positions on a diversity of social issues. So much for the “right” college. I received a far better education.
Second, success is a matter of character, not grades, scholarships, IQ, or the “right” college. It is a matter of perseverance, a proper work ethic, personal responsibility, and respect for others—all of which are in short supply among today’s youth. It’s not their fault, by the way. It’s the fault of parents who abdicate their authority because they are afraid that if they draw lines their kids don’t like, said kids won’t like them (can’t have that). And it’s the fault of school administrators who think the solution to teen sleep deprivation is a nap club featuring $13,000 napping pods purchased with monies contributed by hard-working taxpayers.
Not all teens are sleep-deprived, by the way. I occasionally run into parents who report that their teens do not have smart phones, tablets, video games, or computers in their rooms. The parents in question tell of respectful, responsible teens who voluntarily turn their lights out and go to sleep by ten o’clock. Or, if need be, said parents tell their kids to turn out their lights and go to sleep no later than ten o’clock and their kids obey. These parents love their children but do not give a hoot whether their children like them on any given day or not. Such is the stuff of parental leadership, also in short supply these days.
Some of these kids will get into “right” college, others won’t. Some may not even go to college (Have you heard? It’s not an essential prerequisite to success either!). In any case, they will have learned, as children, the value of a good night’s sleep.
Q: Our 15-year-old daughter has become, over the past year or so, quite a disruptive influence in our normally peaceful home. She was a gem until she entered high school when she almost overnight become disrespectful and combatively argumentative. If she disagrees with a decision we make, she will begin screaming at us, calling us names, and the like. Despite the fact that her face is in her smart phone almost constantly, her grades at the secular private school she attends are still good to excellent and she’s not, to our knowledge, hanging with a bad peer group. We’re at somewhat of a loss to figure this out. Do you ever recommend boarding school in situations of this sort?
A: Sometimes, the sudden emergence of pronounced problems with a previously well-behaved teen are indicators of drug or alcohol use, the influence of undesirable peers, problems at school of one sort or another, or problems in the home. And sometimes, none of those factors are in play. Sometimes, there’s no explaining a flip-flop of this nature—it just is what it is.
Today’s teens, and especially the female of the species, seem drawn to the opportunity to create drama out of their lives. These dramas run the gamut, but usually whirl around conflicts with peers. If no other drama presents itself—if everything is hunky-dory in the child’s life socially and otherwise—then the default theme is “my parents are, like, idiots and, like, don’t understand me or my needs and I am, like, pitiful.” I must stress that these dramas do not necessarily reflect any reality outside of some idiosyncratic “reality” that exists solely in the teen’s smart-phone-addled brain.
Which is, in fact, a possible solution: to wit, take away the smart phone and get her a flip phone from a box store; one that requires three minutes of concentration to send a five-word text, doesn’t access the internet, and doesn’t take photos. And no, I’m not suggesting you do this as punishment for her disrespect; I’m suggesting that this be your new and very enlightened policy.
I have spoken of late to more than a few parents who have done exactly that. Without exception, they report that their children become more relaxed, respectful, and sensitive to the needs of other family members, including siblings. “She’s fun to be around again,” said one such parent. Some have even told me that their kids have testified to feeling generally better, less stressed, less “prickly,” and the like. And speaking of that word, one parent told me that after the loss of her smart phone, her teen daughter stopped using “like” every fourth word. Hallelujah!
On the matter of boarding school, I’d try cleaning out the smart phone addiction first. (Beware! The first week of withdrawal is akin to living with Satan-on-methamphetamine.) If you see no change in a few weeks, if she continues to be a constant disruption, then boarding school is certainly an option. My general feeling is that at some point, it is best to find other living arrangements for a disruptive child than for the entire family to continue feeling daily emotional torment as the result of his or her presence.
You might also consider helping her get a job as a summer camp counselor.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.