Q: My 13-year-old son is a straight A student and well-liked at school, but lately, his reasoning has become more irrational. He’ll say he’s cleaning his room, but I’ll find him organizing his DVDs while wet towels and dirty clothes are on the floor. He’ll also lie about brushing his teeth and has started to take really long showers. I know I’m probably controlling more than I should but how do I give freedom when I don’t trust his judgment?
A: I’m a bit amazed that it’s taken you 13 years to figure out that children are illogical beings. The way their brain works is unlike our adult ones, and therefore they do weird stuff for strange reasons. A budding teen is no different in that regard, and you shouldn’t expect him to suddenly develop a logical thought process.
But you’re right in that you need to start taking steps away from micromanaging to a more mentor-type relationship. You start by stop checking up on his teeth brushing—isn’t he old enough to know he needs to brush his teeth? He’ll suffer the consequences of bad breath and dingy teeth, which will probably mean he’ll start brushing with a vengeance to be more attractive to his peers.
You also outline clearly, if you haven’t already, what you mean by a clean room and other chores. Put a time limit on when chores need to be completed to your satisfaction, such as the lawn has to be mowed each Saturday by . That eliminates the need for you to ride herd on him as he does the task—either it’s finished as expected or it’s not. If he wants to spend six hours organizing his DVDs, let him—as long as the rest of the room is neat and clean when you expect it.
For more on making this vital transition during the teen years, I highly recommend John Rosemond’s Teen Proofing, which provides a very good outline of how to stop micromanaging and start shifting to a mentor stage with your teen.
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