Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Parenting Teenagers

I was making one of my increasingly infrequent forays to the World of Warcraft forums, when I happened upon a thread about allowing 15-16-yr-old players into a raiding guild.

In Tempest, it is rare indeed for us to accept a raider who hasn't finished high school.  We have our reasons.  We've had some bad experiences with kids who were very immature, kids who didn't have the commitment level we wanted, or kids who couldn't control their schedules.  Are there adults who fit these descriptions, as well?  Sure.  But the percentage of kids who have these issues is much higher than the percentage of adults who do.  It's a matter of the level of risk we're willing to take when recruiting someone.

I skimmed the thread with little real interest, because I've already read the reasons and rationale, until I hit this post
Also, I wouldn't count a 15-16 year old as a kid. Lastly, normally, i your 15 or 16, your parents should(keyword here) trust you enough to control your own schedules. This is just my two cents, so feel free to disagree with me. I welcome it.
Not going to comment on the spelling or grammatical errors.

I felt the blood rise to my face.  My first impression was that the writer was probably not far from 15-16, himself, or at least, had no teenagers of his own.  In other words, this person had no clue, no perspective at all, what it took to parent a teenager and how utterly immature and downright irresponsible and flighty teenagers could be.  Trust them to control their own schedules?  It's against everything parents are taught about how to keep their teens out of serious trouble with drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, on-line pornography, etc.  A caring parent pays close attention to their teen's whereabouts, asking what they will be doing, whom they will be with, when they will be back, and pulling the plug on any activity they deem too potentially dangerous or hazardous to the teen's health and well-being.

My just-turned-15-yr-old and almost-17-yr-old are both not ready for me to trust them completely with their schedules.  I've observed them.  I'd trust my 13-yr-old with her schedule before I'd trust these two, because she has, in the past, acted more responsibly.  (Even so, she still needs to be reminded to charge her cell phone.)

I felt as if this individual was judging me as a parent when he knows nothing about my children.  How dare he?

I thought about writing something to this person (not the above statements, obviously,) and decided it wasn't really relevant to the thread.  The comment was a sideline issue and had nothing to do with whether or not a guild should accept 15-16-yr-olds into its raid.

Now, that said, there may be 15-16-yr-olds who are mature and responsible enough to allow their caring, responsible parents to trust them with their schedules.  But since I've been a parent, I haven't met any.  My husband, who went so far as to graduate from high school when he was 15--a mark of precociousness and maturity by most standards--would be the first to tell you he was extremely immature and should have been sent to a military junior college, so he could finish growing up in a very strict environment.  (After getting himself into what could have been serious trouble, he did join the military at age 17, which he said was the best thing for him at that time and turned his life around.)

Researchers have found that it isn't just parents' imagination that teenagers are missing something in the area of good judgement.  On the website for the Children's Hospital Boston, there is an article entitled "The Teenage Brain" which touches on this subject.
Although teens' brains are superior in some ways, they're distinctly immature in one key area. The last part of the brain to fully connect up—well past the teenage years—is the frontal lobe, which houses judgment, insight, dampening of emotions and impulse control. Since it isn't fully developed, there's a cognitive chasm between coming up with an idea and being able to decide if it's actually a good one. "This begins to explain why these smart little whippersnappers are so incredibly risk-taking and irrational," says Jensen. "These are people with very sharp brains, but they're not quite sure what to do with them."
In other words, perhaps parents are right NOT to trust their 15-16-yr-olds to control their own schedules.  (Boy, it sure would be easier on us if we could . . .)

Long ago, I read this saying: "How strict should parents be?  Like the supporting ropes on a young tree.  Every once in a while you loosen up on the rope, and one day you find out it can stand up by itself."  When I encountered it, I was 13 and reading a chapter about understanding one's parents, but the thought stuck with me.  My parents weren't strict because they didn't like me.  They were strict because they were trying to help me grow in the right direction.

Parents need to understand their individual children enough to know how much control they can give to the child and how much they need to retain. As the children demonstrate increased responsibility, the parents can allow them more freedom.  Sweeping generalizations about whether or not 15-16-yr-olds are mature enough to control their own schedules make no sense.

And since I know this, I will not permit such a sweeping generalization to feel like an accusation against myself and raise my blood pressure.  After all, I know better.

Now, if Tempest receives an application from an exceptionally mature 15-16-yr-old in a time zone such that the raids will not end up being so late it will cause consternation to the parents, it is possible he may be accepted into the raid.  But I'd feel better about it if we had a chat with the parents as part of the recruitment process.

1 comment:

  1. I only have a moment but I wanted to comment before I have to run out the door.

    This is sooo true. Our guild doesn't take anyone under 18 because of issues we've had in the past. I remember being 15-17 and while I was extremely busy with work (my mom made me get a job on my 15th birthday), school and music (I was in marching band, jazz band and wind ensemble) I was still young and not entirely mature. In fact, as I got older, the less mature I got. (I started skipping school my senior year to hang out with my boyfriend, who was also a senior at my high school. I spent more time out of class then in class.)

    I don't have children of my own, but I love that quote about the ropes on a young tree. That is SO true :) Thanks :)