When my three kids were much younger my husband and I had it all figured out… for the most part, we were on the same page about every major child-rearing issue including our views on disciplining our kids when they misbehaved, their bedtime routines, what we expected from them in terms of manners and even our expectations of what responsibilities we thought our kids could handle depending on their age.
Well… let me tell you, that all changed when our kids hit the teen years. Almost instantly when they turned 13 the smooth tides turned into turbulent waters. Suddenly, all the parenting techniques and ideology that we “thought” we had all figured out and had worked so beautifully for so many years didn’t seem to be working at all. I wouldn’t say we lost total control, but we were definitely thrown a very serious curveball and forced to step back and reevaluate every parenting technique we had come to rely on.
You see… what we didn’t realize at the time was that during those wonderful, respectful, obedient years when our kids were young, they were strategizing their attack…
Together, they were quietly and cleverly observing my husband and I, taking it all in, learning our weaknesses, our strengths, tendencies, and habits – all while preparing their tactical maneuvers for a sneak attack. Oh sure, they “acted” like they were the soldiers and we were the sergeants, but they were actually strategizing behind the scenes preparing for the ultimate take-over that would catch us totally off guard.
It was, by definition, a total surprise attack.
Looking back I’ve come to realize that my kids’ clever tactical maneuvers were actually quite brilliant. I have to give them credit… their masterful, sneak attacks kept us off kilter for years. We never knew what bomb they would drop on us next, what type of “artillery” they might use to ambush us or what strategy they might employ to take full advantage of our shortcomings, limitations or weak points. Not only that, they ingeniously rallied outside forces building a skillfully-formed coalition against us with their friends. At times, we found ourselves surrounded and completely defenseless.
Take it from me, if you have the slightest interest in protecting and guarding yourself against enemy forces (i.e. your teenagers), here are a few “tactical maneuvers” oftentimes used by teens that you should familiarize yourself with. The U.S. military would be proud…
A very clever and well-thought-out strategy that involves wearing down the enemy to the point of collapse through continuous loss of resources and money. A tactic often used to defeat enemies with low resources and high morale, teenagers will eat every fragment of food in your house, deplete every ounce of money you worked decades to make and then strategically wear you down emotionally and physically to the point where you begin to wonder where you went wrong.
Both a strategy and a tactic, this form of attack is designed to isolate and surround enemy forces. Surely you’ve been the victim of this type of attack. Your teens stand behind enemy lines ready and waiting for the optimum moment when mom heads to the grocery store leaving dad alone with zero back-up – alone, defenseless and unarmed. Then, when dad least expects it, the troops move in, surround him and ambush the heck out of him. This type of attack is often used when kids know that mom will say “no” to something, but dad, in all his cluelessness and stupidity, might just say, “yes.” (By the way, I absolutely love dads… in fact, I love my husband more than anything. But, let’s face it, sometimes dads can be a little clueless.)
A strategy used often in the jungle that aims at attacking the enemy from behind. This strategy is used in the jungle we call parenting when your teen plans an attack and strikes from behind. Enkulette attacks are especially difficult to defend yourself against because, as a parent, you simply don’t see them coming. In fact, you’re totally blindsided. Everything seems to be running smoothly, life is good and then “BAM!” when you least expect it, you find yourself completely caught off guard and defenseless. An example of this strategy is when your teen daughter comes home from school on a Friday afternoon and sheepishly tells you how sorry she is that she forgot to tell you she invited eight of her closest friends over for a sleepover that night. And oh, by the way, she promised them they could have a bonfire and roast marshmallows.
Dislocation is the aim of this strategy. Direct attacks almost never work, one must first upset the enemy’s equilibrium. Be aware, this approach is used all the time by teenagers. They creatively use casual conversation and sweet hugs to first earn your trust. Then, when they have you totally buttered up believing that you’ve been blessed with an angel of a child from heaven above, they slip in an attack from the sidelines. “By the way, Mom, my friends and I are going to the haunted house on Friday night. Mark got his driver’s license last week and the haunted house is just down I-285 – just two hours away… can I go?” Pleeease Mom? By the way, did you do something new with your hair? You look great!”
A strategy that seeks to erode the will or resources of its enemy. Oh yeah… you’ve seen this one before, I’m sure. Nothing is more frustrating than when your kids use this tactic to get what they want. You’re tired, it’s been a long week, you’re ready to sit down in front of the television and maybe catch the news of the day or a good movie and then… out of nowhere, the firing begins. This tactic is used when your teen really wants something badly. “Mom, you know that video game I want? It’s really not THAT much money and, anyway, remember two years ago you promised that if I got good grades you would reward me? Well, I have 2 “A’s,” and 3 “B’s” – isn’t that worth something? And, don’t forget, I took the dishes out of the dishwasher two weeks ago and I helped Dad rake the leaves last year…. Remember? Remember? Remember? Come on, Mom!!”
A strategy that uses incentives to gain cooperation. This is one you really need to keep an eye out for. It’s a sneak attack that gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling that your child is amazingly sweet, kind and thoughtful. Hoping to soften things up to solicit a favorable response, they cleverly draft a list of chores they’re willing to do to for the next five years just to get you to say yes. To think that my child is willing to take the dishes out of the dishwasher for the next six months just so she can take the train downtown to a concert (in a very bad area of town) that doesn’t end until midnight. Really? Does she honestly think she can use incentives to get me to say yes? (Well, don’t tell my kids, but actually… in some cases, yes, they kinda can).
To draw attention to another point of the battle where little or nothing is going on. Oh, I’ve caught onto this one… this is a calculating (yet fascinating) little tactic where your teen will whine for hours about how you let their brother or sister do things you never let them do. Maybe you did let your other kids do something and later regretted it, maybe you were worn out and caught off guard and subsequently made a decision you regret? Who knows? But, just because you allowed one child to do something doesn’t mean the next one in line has the same rite of passage, right? Teens can be relenting when using this tactic because they hit you with sheer logic which, in itself, throws you completely off kilter.
This strategy involves attacking the opponent from the side and/or rear. My kids have used this tactic so many times I’ve lost count. On the frontlines, everything looks pretty peaceful and smooth. Behind the scenes, however, there is a full-force collaborative crusade being secretly planned. You see, teens are brilliant at working in unison to get parents’ full cooperation. One teen will come at you from the front trying to get you to say “yes” to something they know you’ll say “no” to. Then, when you say no they shock you by obediently retracting. “Hmmm… you think to yourself. That was too easy!” Then, when you’ve almost completely forgotten about the entire thing, your other kids come at you from the side calmly telling you that you should cut your other child a little slack and say “yes.” “Come on Mom… he’s a good kid and he doesn’t ask for much. He REALLY want to do to this – you should let him, Mom.”
A strategy that seeks to deceive, trick or fool the enemy and create a false perception. I don’t know a teenager out there who hasn’t used this maneuver from time to time. It’s on every teen’s favorite list of strategies to employ. Leaving out a few important details, holding back on the “whole” truth, embellishing the story to their advantage – this is one strategy they begin using when they’re very young and, by the time they’re in high school, they have the technique completely mastered. It’s really quite impressive to see their skill-set improve so much so quickly.
Controlling the enemy’s movement by keeping the enemy out of an area. If you’ve ever walked into your child’s bedroom you know what this tactic is all about. When teens get to be about 15 years old, walking into their bedroom is the equivalent of walking into a field of landmines. You never know what you might step on. Totally frustrated (and often disgusted), you shut their door and vow never to step in there again until they leave for college. Beware though, this tactic can be used so your teen can hide things in their room they don’t want you to know about or find. The messier their room is the less likely you are to enter. Pretty darn clever, huh?
An attack by some of the force on one or two flanks, allowing a strong frontal attack by the rest of the force. Have you ever noticed that, as parents, we often make our worst parenting decisions when we’re frustrated, exhausted or totally distracted? Like the time I told my daughter she could go camping on top of a mountain with a bunch of kids and later found out that the name of the mountain literally meant “bear” after the many bears that lived on the mountain. Stupid on my part? I’d say so …but, don’t judge me… I had a lot on my mind that day. Anyway, teens are notorious for hitting us up with their toughest questions when they know we’re totally distracted or super busy. Our only hope of avoiding these types of attacks is to stay on full alert 24/7, never sleep and avoid our teens at all costs.
Divide and Conquer:
A tactical maneuver whereby attempts are made to separate the enemy and turn them against one another. Come on, admit it… you and your spouse have been the victim of this maneuver at least once or twice. This tactic is where your teen pits you and your spouse against one another to get what they want. Because of the risk associated with this maneuver and the possibility that the enemy will catch on quickly, teens only use this tactic when they’re totally desperate. “Dad… Mom said it was totally fine and she thinks you’re being totally unreasonable and strict by not letting me go. Don’t tell her I said this, but she said you’re pretty old-school when it comes to things like this.” Meanwhile, behind the scenes, you and your spouse are on the verge of a full-blown fight about what you “heard” the other one said about you.
The term “Turtling” typically refers to a purely defensive movement. It’s a massive, impenetrable build-up of defenses on a front, creating an ever-thickening “turtle shell” over an area. When all else fails teens often resort to something that motivates many parents more than anything …guilt. Even though we don’t have much to feel guilty about, they have a keen way of making us think we do. When they’ve exhausted all other tactical maneuvers they’ll throw the silent treatment our way for an extended period of time leaving us frustrated, helpless and desperate to try anything to break down the silent barrier. In the end, our teen holds all the power and then skillfully begins to “negotiate the terms”. “Maybe if you extended my curfew ‘til midnight I wouldn’t be so quiet all the time. It’s just that I’m frustrated and you keep saying “no” all the time.” Hmmmm….Very, very clever….