Mean Girls isn’t the half of it. Adolescents can be ruthless and cruel in ways parents can hardly fathom. Or, more accurately, have totally forgotten. What was perhaps experimentation with less than nice behaviors in childhood turns to intentional acts in the jockeying for social position at the core of teen social life. Now, more than ever, it’s time to reiterate the core values you started teaching when your child was tiny. Starting with that old favorite: The Golden Rule.
Back to Basics
It’s simple really, at least in concept: Treating others as you want to be treated. But it can feel hard to put into action in the complex social landscape of adolescence. Plus media influence. Plus hormones. Amid the complexity of teen life, you can bring the values back to basics. The things you taught kids at 4 do apply at 14, and it’s just the right time to bring it all back around.
A teen’s life is full of choices. Some easy, and some hard. And some that to us might seem no-brainers, but in the context of a teen’s social dynamic are really tough.
When social pressure is high, the choice to be kind, to do the right thing, can be a hard choice. This is when your reiteration of the Golden Rule can make the difference.
Real life and cyber life
It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about real-life or cyber life, the basic rule applies to both. Treat others as you want to be treated. This means don’t talk trash about classmates even when your buddies are — and not making “ha ha” comments on Facebook when a neighbor’s embarrassing misstep is posted for the world to see. There are examples you can use every day when talking to your child about basic kindness and treating others well.
Without expecting reciprocity
The part that can be hard about reiterating this basic value is that it is and must be completely one-sided. It must be used an applied without expectation of reciprocity — and as your adolescent child sees the actions of others who are very much not applying the same values, well… it can be a bitter pill to swallow. Your child needs your support, encouragement and praise to continue using this basic guideline in his or her life. He or she needs reassurance that it is the right thing to do — and that “everyone else is doing it” is not a valid excuse.
When life gets complex, as it most certainly does in adolescence, it can be easy to think the issues and what you need to teach are complex, too. But they aren’t. Take values back to basics and help your child — even your large, hormonal child — understand that treating others well is a timeless basic.