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Sending Clear Messages To Teens

Nellie Shani

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I knew it was going to come sooner or later. My thirteen year old was going to test his parents, to see how far he could go.

Our three children have been very close to us since they were young. We spent a lot of time talking and correcting unacceptable behavior when they were quite young. They were punished less and less as they began to understand that they lived in a world that had rules and that if one avoided the unaccepted behavior, they could also avoid unnecessary punishment. They knew pretty much where the boundaries lay and we tried our best as parents to not change rules on them.

As all children do, they broke the rules time and again but the spanking stick always brought them back on line. The spanking stick that we chose and which we consistently used over a seven year period was flat and wide and would nor give life-threatening bruises. My husband and I agreed on a spanking areas (the kitchen store). They were to receive three spankings to the bottom. Before we spanked them we always asked them why we were spanking them and if they think that we were right in spanking them. Our kids who are in their early twenties now still laugh about that routine. I am sure that we failed from time to time but generally I would say that we were consistent in the principles that we taught them.

The day came when my relationship with my thirteen year old son was put to the severe test! For a while that week my son kept bringing up the topic of how this friend of his or that friend of his was very rude to their parents. I noticed that he was begining to be a bit cocky but that did not worry me. we had brought him up well and being rude was the last thing that my well-behaved boy would ever do! How wrong I was!

My son came late to the car when it came time to drop him off for his horse-riding lessons. I felt myself getting irritated but decided not to make it an issue. He came to the car and slammed the door a little harded than he was used to doing. The look on his face spelt “listen here mother, I am now an adult and can do what I want. I come to the car when I want, and I can put whatever look I want to my face!" I must admit the look intimidated me.

All of a sudden I felt like I was losing something that I had held for a long time. I had this urge to back down so that we could continue to be friends. Where was my sweet baby boy who hang on every word I said? Could this be the teenage years syndrome that was much talked about by parents? Should I accept this as normal and move on? We drove in silence, my son chewing and popping his gum noisily. I could tell he was testing me. Should I bite the bait and yell at him? Why was I feeling so much tension?

We got to the horse-riding school. The ten minute drive felt like twenty minutes. I told him that i would be back to pick him up in forty five minutes and because I needed to be somewhere on time after picking him, could he please not chat with his friends today and be at the pick-up area when I came. I could have been telling him to go clean the public toilets in the park after horse-riding. He gave me the dirtiest look, got out of the car and slammed it - hard! I could not believe it. Surely my son knew the consequenses of rude behavior in our home! He obviously did not care anymore.

As I was cooking dinner my son came to the kitchen “Hi mum what are you cooking?" He sounded very polite and good-natured. I knew it was his way of saying he was sorry. My heart melted and for a moment I grasped at the thought that it was all over and we could move on. That is not my husband and i had decided to do.

After dinner which we always ate around the family table, we called our son into our bedroom. he knew that something was very wrong. He walked in looking down and I felt sorry for him. My husband decided to handle the conversation.

My husband reminded our son of the rules that were to be upheld in his home. He told him that I had told him how rude he had been to me and he was standing by me. He was not going to accept anybody treating his wife in that way. He reminded him that there was a consequence for breaking rules. He was asked to apologise to me which he promptly did. He was not going to be punished this time but the next time that rule was broken, he was going to bear the consequences. We told him we loved him a wanted the best for him.

As I talked to my son who is twenty two years old now, he told me that after that tellng off in our bedroom he swore that he would never be called into our bedroom again. His siblings who were eavesdropping at the bedroom door wanted to know what had happened in there. He told them that he had stood up and told us that he could act the way he wanted! They were not fooled! However, that incident nipped that teenage rebellion in the bud. We sent a very clear message to our children. We loved them very much, but they were to abide by the rules of the house!

Nellie Shani lives in California with her husband and three children. She is a Counselor, Conference speaker and writer. She has been writing articles for the last fifteen years. Her first book, “Stand Your Ground, " is now available on and on her author's website: ,



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