"The point of no return." That sounds a little ominous, but actually it's quite appropriate when we speak about the beginning of adolescence. It's not so much that we are moving into difficult territory, but more that the initiation of adolescence marks the beginning stages of the child's journey into adulthood, which once started, cannot really be halted or reversed. Once a child is beset with the physical changes of puberty, childhood as he or she knew it, and as you knew it, is gone.
A common myth about adolescence is that it is necessarily a very stormy period in one's development. Research has not verified this view for the majority of teens, but rather calls it a period of exploration and experimentation as one moves toward adulthood. Another myth to be dispelled is the belief that adolescents need to be detached from their parents in order to develop their own identities. This particular viewpoint leads parents to the conclusion that teenagers need to be left alone for the most part, and that peers should be the primary group to which they relate.
The following is our top ten list of guidelines for managing your child's behavior. While we consider each of them to be equally important, we purposely listed the first three ahead of the others as we consider these to provide the base upon which parents can successfully manage children's behavior.
I was sitting in a local food court the other day having lunch when I spied a young toddler with his mother, sitting in his stroller while they were eating lunch. I caught his eye, and proceeded to cover my face with my hands for a moment and then suddenly open them up while delivering a big, smiley "peek-a-boo". He squealed with delight, waiting for me to do it again . . . and again . . . and again. Each time, the laughter was bigger, and the fascination greater as he watched my face disappear and then appear again.
It is sometimes very difficult to decide how much independence and/or freedom you should allow your teen at any given time. We know that one of the primary developmental tasks of adolescence is to learn how to make good decisions independently of parental guidance, but it is not always easy to assess how well this task has been negotiated. "Behavioral autonomy", as this developmental task is referred to, is a necessary skill for functioning in the adult world.