Not on Drug
Q My son, age 16, often resists my rules with an attitude of, “You say I'm a good kid, but it doesn't get me anywhere. I still don't have the freedom my friends have, and they give their parents a lot more trouble than I give you.”
A Pick one: A) After all I've done for you, Mother, this is the thanks I get. B) You should be grateful I'm not as bad as all those other kids. C) What do you want from me? At least I'm not on drugs. D) All the chances I've had to do bad things, and I still haven't done them. You could at least ease up on me.
All of the above are variants of a common adolescent theme: “I'm playing by the rules and you're still not willing to relax the rules.” Let's analyze your son's attitude piece by piece.
“You say I'm a good kid, but it doesn't get me anywhere.” Of course it does. It gets you good character, morals and a more safe and stable adolescence. If the prime goal of being a good kid is to get more freedom, more perks and more goodies, then you're not yet being good for the right reasons. Besides, why give you more chances to make bad decisions and maybe lose some of that goodness?
“I still don't have the freedom my friends have.” That is true. If I wanted my son to do and have what most kids have, I'd raise him that way. No matter how wonderful you are, my decisions are based upon your continuing welfare. I won't relax my standards simply because you've kept them. That's not good for you.
“They give their parents a lot more trouble than I give you.” I can't know that for sure, but I'll take your word for it. And that just proves my point. You are who you are in part because we are who we are as parents. Therefore, why would I want to change the very ways that helped me raise a son like you? I'm proud of you and I want to stay that way.
Son, your character is not measured by how you stack up to others with less character. It's measured by how you yourself act, independent of your friends’ actions.
Your son is echoing a modern attitude. Coming from teens, it's the “I'm not on drugs” claim. Across all ages, it's the “Well, I could be a lot worse; at least I'm not as bad as that kid” pronouncement.
As cultural morals decline, it becomes easier to feel self-satisfied over the fact that one is comparatively moral.
Continue in your high standards and your son will most likely mature past his moral relativity and judge character by more absolute standards of right and wrong. After all, he is still a kid — and a pretty good one. He has time to become more clear-eyed morally.
A final thought. Next time your son implies that you “should be grateful,” respond: “You're right. I am grateful. It could be a lot worse. After all, I don't neglect you or mistreat you. And I'm not on drugs.”
Dr. Ray Guarendi is the father of 10, a psychologist and an author. He can be reached at http://www.kidbrat.com