One thing that you can almost guarantee is that your teen will mostly likely lie to you at some stage and will almost certainly do something (or a series of somethings) that you would not approve of. I am stunned at how many parents have this disillusion that their teen would not dare to lie to them! I am a realist and I understand, and begrudgingly accept, that it is normal for teens to do dumb things. It really is a right of passage if you think about it.
I have no disillusion that mine have been angels. I know there have been ‘sneak outs’, and ‘smuggles in’, I know there was alcohol consumed before they were legally allowed. I know that I was not always getting the full story when I enquired about certain activities. But at no stage was I going to lose my shit at them each and every time they did something wrong. That is not to say I did not allude to the knowledge that they were trying to pull the wool over my eyes. I have always been able to read them like a book. I printed a sign once and stuck it on the fridge: it read
“Don’t bother lying to mum; she probably already knows”
It is not to say that there are some who have serious authority issues and maliciously break the rules. I am not really referring to them: that is for a more serious discussion. I am talking about the run of the mill stupid things teens do - because they are teens. One such example happened to Mr Middle a few years back. Now most people know that I have a ZERO tolerance for drugs, but I am not naive enough to think that my boys would not be exposed to drugs. I just hoped that I had been successful enough to engage that part of their brains if/when the situation arose to try drugs.
As I mentioned before, although they may think they are criminal masterminds, many teens can be tripped up by the simplest of things. Things such as, when you plug your iPhone into the desk top computer (the family communal computer), to play the current online game out here in the lounge room as per the current gaming rules, that the I-Mac computer will automatically download your photos from your phone. And there they will sit, in the photos folder until you manually delete them…
So, you can imagine my surprise when I noticed a heap of new photos in the folder. Mainly pictures of deranged faces and general silly pictures. Then I found an image of what could only be a bong.
Hang on - what?
Yep, there was a picture of what was clearly a homemade bong and then a picture of my sweet innocent (hey, I have never called him that - EVER!), middle child holding a small tin. Another picture a little further down the list was him at a friends house and they had a bottle of vodka. Rightio. It seems that he was doing the typical teen thing after-all. Was I angry? To be honest no not really. As I said, I am a realist. But was I going to let this go? Not on your life!
I saved a folder on the desk top called MIDDLE’S PLEASE EXPLAIN. I popped all the incriminating photos in there and left it for him to find.
A few days later, he jumped on the computer and moments later he sheepishly wandered into the kitchen. Realising that he must have seen the folder, I stopped what I was doing and gave him my full, CALM, attention. He explained, or at least tried to explain, and in the end I summarised that he had broken the rules, lied to me, and been sprung. There was no yelling, no fighting, no over the top emotion. He accepted that he had been sprung and asked what he would have to do to make up for it.
For the next few weeks he was required to do chores to rebuild the trust in our relationship. If, and when, he complained I reminded him that I was still pretty angry at him and he had to work hard to fix this. I always told them that they would have my trust first and foremost - but you break that trust and it requires a great deal of time to repair it.
The best thing about this whole experience is that at no point did I feel the need to lose my temper. At no point did we fight. At no point did this experience damage our relationship. If, and WHEN your teen does something stupid, allow yourself the luxury of dealing with in with a level head. A level head that acknowledges that teens do dumb things. That teens will get caught because they are not as smart as they think they are, and when they do, deal with it in a way that has the consequences but not the drama. Try having hypothetical type conversations with your partner or you circle of parent pals - what would you do? Come up with a plan of action - other than “I will bloody strangle them!” because we all know we can not really do that! Empower yourself to be in control of the situation, and keep at the forefront of your mind that teens do dumb things! This really should not be a surprise. It may even be kinda funny upon reflection.