The Separation-Individuation Stage in a teen's development is very important. It is at this stage that they develop adult judgment and learn to be their own people. If you successfully stunt them at this stage, the child grows up into an adult always dependent on an authority figure. This said, this adolescent urge to separate-individuate is very strong. It is hard to stunt. Instead, teens will fight to the death to separate-individuate. If you try to stunt this stage, your teen may run away from home.
I first wrote about the Separation-Individuation Stage of teen hood HERE. I think the hardest part of the Separation-Individuation stage for me is the incessant Questioning and Challenging. With Smelly Boy, this takes the form of Judgment and Criticism.
Here is a sampling of what Smelly Boy says to me nowadays...
- Why do you like Pasarbella? It is too expensive.
- Why can't you behave your age?
- Why do you need to go out and have fun? Let's stay home and have fun.
- Why do you always want to watch movies? Let's just talk.
- Why are you glued to your phone? It is bad for you. Someone should confiscate your phone.
- Why do you need to be woken up? You're 50. You should be able to wake yourself up in the mornings!
- You are wearing that?!
- What is so nice about eating out? Homecooked food is best.
I know it sounds a bit odd but these really are what Smelly Boy says to ME! Then, he went one step further! He dictated what I should eat! We were at ToastBox, mulling over the menu. I was staring interestedly at a new dish (steamed chicken set) when Smelly Boy said, "Just order 2 laksas." I turned around and eyeballed him, "What makes you think I want to eat laksa? Are you deciding what I should eat now?"
Smelly Boy: **grinning** We always order laksas.
Me: Always doesn't mean forever. People change you know.
Smelly Boy: Why must you be so unpredictable?
Me: Why must you be so boring? Besides, why do you always tell me what to do?
Smelly Boy: I don't tell you what to do. I suggest wise courses of action. You can don't take my suggestion.
Me: Grandma tells you what to do all the time. Are those suggestions?
Smelly Boy: Yes. Because I don't do what she says if I don't feel like it.
Me: Well then suggested courses of action EQUALS telling me what to do.
Smelly Boy: **Grin**
The thing about the teens is this. If the parent is responsible, conscientious, studious, predictable... the teen wants to psychologically explore the opposite. So, Petunia is smart! Inasmuch as I had been the paragon of virtue (frugal, responsible, thorough, dependable), I have gone completely dissolute in some areas these days. Smelly Boy needs to wake me if he wants to be driven to school. I drag him off to places like Pasarbella and turn him pale with my "excesses". I walk around in blue jean rompers, which he believes Moms should not wear. I try new stuff like pig's ear salad and try to stuff some pig's ears into his mouth.
Provided that below the age of 12, I had modelled all the virtues I wished him to imbibe, at teenhood, I can judiciously (that means selectively) try to be some things I don't want my son to be. It has to be judiciously done because I am not about to myself become a drug addict just so my son will not be one.
In the throes of his Separation-Individuation stage, he will differentiate himself from some of my little misbehaviours. Now, why didn't I do that with The Daughter? It would have saved me quite a few fights. Besides, it is great fun to be irresponsible, spendthrift and unpredictable, and get scolded by the Holier Than Thou Smelly Boy. Very enjoyable! I get a kick out of annoying my Smelly Boy.
So you see, don't misunderstand your teen.
(1) He ain't being disrespectful. He is just making up his mind on what kind of person he should be.
(2) He isn't challenging your values. He is just deciding for himself what values he wants for himself.
Remember how as young parents we wondered why the toddlers slept so little? They woke up early and wished to play. If allowed to, they tore around the house deep into the night. Patting them into afternoon naps was a nightmare.
Teens sleep all the time. Smelly Boy falls asleep 5 minutes into the car ride. The Daughter did the same. Smelly Boy can sleep till noon on days when he has no school and no work to catch up on. He really sleeps a lot. Some parents think their teens are lazy.
Inasmuch as the little ones are hyper and always on the move, the teens can be phlegmatic. They slouch all over the place and look bored. They aren't really bored. Their energy is spent GROWING. A lot needs to happen in a teen's body.
So, when I see Smelly Boy sleep the sleep of the blissful, I let him sleep. I tiptoe around. I shush everyone up. It is already bad enough that he has a full schedule during the school year that he adheres to with a will of steel. During the holidays, I leave him to his Sleep Fest. It is not laziness. Teens need to sleep more to grow properly in physical ways.