RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] parenting teens

From: Alan Klein <>
Date: Tue Sep 28 22:20:00 2004

I have three kids, a 27 year old son and 25 and 18 year old daughters, so I
have more than a little experience in this area.

So much for me is contextual, so to answer your first question I would have
to know more about the particular 12-14 year olds and their relationship
with me and with each other. In other words, how much trust do I have in
them as individuals and as a group. I did, indeed, leave my youngest home
with other kids her age when she was that age. I always knew who the kids
were. She always knew that I cared about who was there with her. I checked
in on her on occasion during such visits. (Cell phones are the single
parents' best friend!) I always took an active interest in knowing about her
friends. I paid a lot of attention to the kinds of conversations she had on
the phone and in Instant Messages with them. In addition, as she grew older,
I was always clear with her that she would be making decisions about the
hard things like when to become active sexually and if, when, and how to use
illegal substances. I also made it clear that I would be part of those
decisions, just as I was in the earlier, easier decisions she made in her
life, but that ultimately they were her decisions to make.

I did always want to know where she was and (Cell Phone as Best Friend
again) expected her to call me as she moved around. I expected her to answer
her cell phone when she was out, unless I knew she was in a movie or

I wanted to know where she was because I was responsible, legally, morally,
and emotionally for her. Her decisions, therefore, did not affect just her.
I had a legitimate right to require information, input, and, in some few
cases, veto power. Now that she is in college, but still my responsibility,
we have adjusted my expectations. I still want to know if she is going to be
overnight off campus, but I don't need to know if she is out for the evening
or staying overnight with a friend. We still talk regularly and I ask
questions and we discuss things like what goes on at parties, is she
sexually active with anyone, etc.

One thing I became very aware of as she got older was the difference between
my level of trust in her (high) and my level of trust in the people around
her (variable). I tried to make sure she was aware of this and we discussed
it periodically, as well as the ramifications of these varying trust levels
on what I was willing to allow her to do and what I was not.

We only had curfews when my life would be impacted, which meant any time
before she could drive (since I might need to go pick her up from wherever
she was) and after that whenever our schedules meant that her returning late
would have a negative impact on my needs.

So, now that she is 18, how did all of this turn out? Here's some
data...I'll let you decide:

By her own decision, and against my wishes and advice, she left the private
school we had her in and enrolled in public school starting in sixth grade.
By her own decision, and against my wishes and advice, she joined the "Pom
Squad" in high school, thereby falling in with the jocks and cheerleaders
crowd. In middle school, in a bid to be popular, she joined an informal, but
exclusive, club that a few other girls had started. She has smoked marijuana
and drunk beer, vodka, and other alcoholic beverages. She was sexually
active during high school with at least two boys. She was at one party which
got raided by the police and had to hide from the cops in the bushes, from
where she called her brother at 1 am to come get her.

And, she got 100% straight A's throughout her middle and high school years,
playing the Grade Game like a violin - tracking her grades, doing only as
much work as she needed to in order to get the grades she wanted, and doing
extra credit work when she needed to boost an 89 to a 90%. This left her
free to enjoy and learn what there was to learn from the teachers she
respected, since she wasn't wasting energy either through overdoing busy
work or through taking the situation too seriously. She impressed me
incredibly with the actual relationships she created with a small handful of
teachers who were willing to engage her as a human being, rather than simply
as a subordinate, even to the point of taking on extra independent study
work with a teacher she respected in order to pursue her interest in
writing. She quit Poms after a year after finding the drama crowd more to
her liking and became a fixture on stage for three years. She confronted the
girls in the exclusive club after refusing to be party to excluding her
other friends just to remain in their good graces. She always made sure that
she and others who were using illicit substances did not drive under the
influence and that I knew what was going on - she would ask for permission
to have friends over if alcohol would be present and made sure that my
boundaries (no kegs, no one except the kids I knew were to be in attendance)
were respected. We made sure she had access to condoms and that I knew she
was sexually active (and with whom). She asked for and received birth
control pills and we talk on and off about how scary the sexual scene is
these days. And she called me from her brother's car on the way home from
being "rescued" to let me know what was going on.

Bottom line? It's all in the relationship. There are no hard and fast rules;
no absolute guarantees. And, in the final analysis, I think it is as much or
more about the trust we parents have in ourselves than it is in the trust we
have in our kids. We need to trust in our ability to create and nurture
close, honest, loving relationships with our kids. It's easy to do the
loving part. The close and honest parts require us to be willing to own and
share our own needs, our own boundaries, our own foibles, and our own fears
with our kids and that's much harder.

~Alan Klein

-----Original Message-----
Would any of you ( on this list ) leave 6 12-14 year olds home alone ?
Older teens ? What about when they start driving; do you condone just
driving around ? Do you ask to know where they are at all times? If so,
why? If not, why not ? What's the point of a curfew ? All these "rules"
seem based on mistrust.
Received on Tue Sep 28 2004 - 22:19:24 EDT

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