Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you...

This past weekend the hubby went out of town and my mom took my younger two giving me the rare opportunity to spend some quality time and talk with my teenager. It's not often that I can really talk to her. Whether it's my hubby chiming in finishing my sentences with what he thinks I'm trying to say, or her little sisters being nosey, it's hard to finish a thought, let alone a whole conversation.

We spent all day Sunday together. We had lunch, saw a movie, and went out to dinner. At lunch, we talked and I learned some amazing things. I started off by telling her that I was completely clueless about how to relate to her new teenager self. That I couldn't decide between punishing her for failing two classes or rewarding her for being so responsible around the house. I told her that I felt I was out of touch with what she liked and disliked, but that I realized that the punishments we were using such as taking her phone away, really didn't seem to bother her and therefore weren't motivation to do better. I asked her what kinds of privileges or possessions she wanted and would be upset if they were taken away as punishment. She shrugged and said I don't know.

We continued to talk and little by little the picture became clearer. What I figured out is she really doesn't like her sisters. I mean she loves them, they are her sisters after all, but they annoy the crap out of her. Even though my middle one is only 2 1/2 years younger than her, there is a huge gap between what she wants to do and what they want to do. Everything she said seemed to center on the same theme, "All they want to watch on TV is baby shows" "They're so annoying" "They always come in my room and get into my stuff". When I asked her if she would be motivated to do better in school if I offered her $100 for a straight A report card, she shrugged and said "Not really", but after a pause she followed it up with "If you gave me $100 for each report card with straight A's, I'd save it so I could go to Hawaii and visit grandma (hubby's mom) for a week without my sisters."

So now I'm able to formulate a plan.

First, I need to give her more opportunities to do stuff without her sisters, like offering to drop her and her friends off at the movie or at the mall for a few hours. This is going to be a struggle for me. Up until this point, if they haven't been in my sight, they were always in the care of some other adult I trusted or at school. Yeah I'm a little a lot overprotective. I just think I would DIE if something ever happened to my kids that I could have prevented if I was watching them. So just the thought of letting her go off on her own and not knowing her exact location for a couple of hours makes me literally nauseous. Do they make lojack for teenagers?

Second, we need to give her more control over her room and her ability to keep her sisters out of it. Now this one is going to be harder for my husband. I have no problem with her shutting her door or even locking it. He on the other hand hates it when the kids shut their doors, and comes unglued if one of them locks it. He sees no need for it, but then again, he grew up in a house with no doorknobs (I won't even begin to get into that). I told him he's going to have to let up on the door locking thing, because I think THAT would be a privilege she would work hard to keep.

Third, we are considering getting her a TV and DVR for her room so she can watch the shows that she wants to watch without her sisters interrupting her or bugging her to put on a "baby" show. Screw up at school and it's back to preschool TV with your sisters.

Finally... that trip to Hawaii... I think if she brings home straight A report cards, we can put $100 in a savings account each time towards her ticket. Maybe by next summer I'll be over my fear of letting her out of my sight enough to deal with the thought of letting her navigate the airport and get on a plane by herself.