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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

I Won't Grow Up!

What does it look and sound like when a very responsible 16-year old apparently decides that growing up isn't all it's cracked up to be and refuses to practice the independence you have tried to give her - for several weeks?

I think it looks like this:
  • I forgot my article for the school paper was due today;
  • I forgot to take the sheets of my bed so they could be washed;
  • I would rather not drive myself to work, will you please drive me;
  • I can't walk the dog, there is not enough time;
  • I was too busy to study for the test;
  • Could you change that medical appointment for me, I have to work that day;
  • I have not had time to complete that ...
but,
  • I need you to make an appointment for my haircut;
  • I would like to go see that new movie;
  • I would like my clothes clean for work tomorrow;
  • I need to be early for work;
  • I should be able to stay up until 10 PM now;
  • I would like to spend time with my friends; and
  • I would like to read that new book by Meyer.
Confused as any parent would be, let's take this problem apart. It would seem that the teen above is only able to find time to do the things she likes and is only "forgetting" the things she does not want to do, and given this is a bright, articulate young woman, without any health problems, selective amnesia is my only conclusion.

Now, given this teen asks for little direct nurturing and care taking these days, it might be easy to do these things for her, cut her some lack and forgive the amnesia, which I have done for several weeks, but her luck has run out. In this house, we believe that completing our responsibilities makes us feel loved and strong, so there must be a way to help her back into the groove.

What shall I do with this selectively forgetful teen who seems to want to be a young child if it means having things done for her, but an independent teen when it comes to the privileges that age has to give her. I thought about this dilemma all weekend and came to the following conclusion. Let me know what you think of this natural consequence, and I promise to let you know how it goes.

Next weekend being a long weekend, there will be plenty of time to complete all of the things she has been forgetting, and to help her do that, the "fun"parts of the weekend - seeing a new movie, a fondue party, and a trip to the beach - will not happen until she has taken care of everything that has been sliding in the last month.

To prepare her, I have created a list of what those things are, and last night we discussed the list, and she knows when the fun stuff is planned during the weekend. She now has the option of doing all the backed up projects during the week, or leaving them for the weekend potentially missing the family fun during the weekend. I admit a little surprise at her response to my proposal - she said "seems fair," and the evening went on ...

Photo credit: hoyasmeg
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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