I have a new puppy at home. For the most part, he’s the best puppy we’ve ever had. Extremely easy to deal with and super friendly. He doesn’t even destroy that much stuff. Thank God for Amazon boxes! That seems to keep him busy. Although an extreme mess, it’s pretty easy to clean up. I’ll take Amazon boxes over my new couch, shoes, golf clubs, and carpet any day.
The two commands he has trouble with are his name and “Come.” This dog, who, by all means, is well mannered, seems to be completely deaf when his name is used. And double that if I need him to come. When he gets too close to the street, “Bruce, Come!” When he starts chasing a cat, “Bruce, Come!” Sees a squirrel three houses down, “Bruce, come!”
Nothing. Not even an ear raised to signify that he’s heard the sounds.
That’s just the puppy. Puppies don’t talk back. We (you and I) get to deal with our kids. They do.
It starts at about two years old with “Why?” “Why?” for everything. Often just as a reflex, not even listening nor caring about an answer.
I’ve said it in multiple articles and podcasts. I’m OK with “why.”
I will explain “why,” even if it’s just a fundamental challenge to my authority. It helps them grow and is just another way to interact with the vastly expanding universe around them. They are experimenting safely with conversation and communication, even if they don’t “get it” yet.
But then the teenage years come around, and “Why” turns into, “Actually…,” or “Really dad…” Or “You’re wrong. You’re old. You don’t understand.”
I even see the parents’ memes on my Facebook groups stating, “Remember the days when kids would listen to you like you knew everything? When did that change into the days of you know nothing?”
There’s some science behind kids challenging your authority and how it may not be such a terrible thing that it feels like. I’ve heard it explained as a developmental stage. It is a safe way for young adolescents and adults to practice distancing themselves from the tribe. Much like “Why” with little kids, arguing everything may be more about experimenting with opinions and debating ideas in a “safe space.” They don’t hate you, nor do they necessarily even think you’re wrong. They are simply on auto-pilot, like little kids asking, “why?”
Even if you 100% don’t buy into this concept, it may help your sanity and stress levels. In the heat of the moment, and with the everyday stressors that are true with every stage of parenting, sometimes it’s tough not to let the emotions flow through. It’s tough not to think that everyday development issues aren’t more than they are. That they are attacking, grumpy, and just plain jerk-level kids. It gets old, much like my puppy not knowing his name. But maybe just be aware that it is your kids safely challenging the norms and let a couple of these slide because it’s probably not that your kid’s a jerk. It’s perhaps just the fact that they haven’t had the experience to develop the proper etiquette of how to deal with forming and discussing opinions with slightly different variations. It’s also amped up exponentially because their stage of life is in a HUGE emotional and hormonal swing.
You’re also going to get a return of the “Whys.”
“Why can’t I go to the dance? Why don’t you want me to date that guy? Why can’t I listen to this music with my six-year-old sister in the car?”
Don’t forget that your house and the ability to talk to you need to be a safe space. It’s easy to state this but challenging to implement on the fly. Try to have a rational explanation and give these young budding adults something to weigh in on their own time. Give these kids credit. Tell them Why.
They’re smarter than we give them credit for. So even if they are pissed at you, they will often reach the same conclusion eventually.
Adolescents just want to challenge what we are doing. Give them something to think about and help them to make their own decisions. Challenging isn’t always the pain in the neck it feels like at the moment.