Ask Abbie: Father asks for help in dealing with son’s rebellion

Published 11:45 am Saturday, May 18, 2013

Question: I am a 36 year-old single dad raising my son who is 12. Some of his friends are already having sex, and the language I hear him use in spite of repetitive correction is awful.

His rebellious attitude, and that of his friends, has started so much earlier than mine did. Why are kids rebelling and growing up so much faster? What are your suggestions for me as a parent to better handle my young son’s continuing rebellion?

Concerned father

Answer: “I Love Lucy,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Perry Mason” versus “Weeds,” “The Walking Dead” and “Dexter.” I use these two groups of TV shows to illustrate the obvious and accurately portrayed change in the definition of “normal” youth profanity, sexual activity, violence, and illegal drug use generally accepted by the youth of the 50s and by the youth of today. Did this change come because the youth themselves are changing or because of a variety of external factors, for example media and family dynamics, are at work around the youth to create that change? I will provide information to first help you understand why kids, including your son, are growing up so fast and then suggestions to help you determine the most effective and non-frustrating way to handle his rebellion.

There is a natural point during a child’s development in which he gains the capability to assess for himself his surroundings instead of only being able to accept what he is told about them.

This is the age when mom and dad start not dressing or acting right and rebellion begins. This change is the proven result of a cognitive shift driven by neural function not by one of random occurrence.

Many studies, including those reported by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have found the timing of this shift has not changed over time. These findings disprove the possibility that a child’s brain, which controls the functions of his body and allows him to cope with his environment, could be the cause of him rebelling at a younger age. Since the timing of this change is not coming from within his own body it must therefore be a result of outside influence.

Next, there is consensus among the scientific and mental health communities which confirms the substantial impact of outside influence upon a child’s actions. This agreement says children are so profoundly influenced by the violent images they observe that repeated exposure, for instance to media violence, can result in aggressive, anti-social behavior, and violent outbursts.

In addition, a recently published study by the Medical Journal of Pediatrics suggests that profanity in the media may have a similar effect.

Now combine the proof that outside influence causes the timing of a child’s display of rebellious actions with the proof of the great impact outside influence has upon a child.

When you connect this aggregate with the increasing number of today’s homes that mimic modern media’s convincing portrayal of normal rebellion or that fall victim to uninvolved parenting, it becomes clear why more and more children are filling our society whose actions reflect the negative environment in which they have lived since birth.

The previous facts will help you see the importance of safeguarding your home against outside influences you deem unacceptable and the following are tips to help you do so. Preview all media coming into your home and intercept any of which you don’t approve. Do not rely on the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating system or any other form of outside media ranking. These boards are often made up of small cross-section of parents whose opinions may differ from yours. In addition, watch who your son hangs with. If these kids are products of uninvolved parenting, or come from homes in which their own family’s definition of normal is different than yours, they will try to inflict peer pressure on your son to conform to their values and system of beliefs, not yours. Make sure you drive your son where he wants to go. You will be surprised what you learn when you do. Never expect other parents to behave as you think they should.

Throughout your efforts, promote open communication with your son by listening to him without interrupting, being non-judgmental, and remaining firm and assertive not calm or aggressive. Overload him with positive encouragement so for every negative force that tries to occupy a portion of his thoughts and spirit he has at least as much in place to work in opposition. If your son’s rebellion gets out of control please seek outside help immediately to check for any underlying emotional, mental, or physical cause.

Lucy and Desi; Miss Kitty and Matt; and Della Street and Mr. Mason would all applaud you for trying to be the best dad you can. “The End.”