You talkin’ to me kid
October 15, 2012 2 Comments
Buddy-child was telling me tonight that her bff has recently moved out of her family home and is staying with a friend. It’s a friend that buddy doesn’t particularly like and she doesn’t think that moving out is the answer to the family issues. Buddy’s friend has a step-dad that is very authoritarian in nature and has a tendency to make excessively strict rules that never seem to end for no good reason. Still, the home is not an abusive home and the problems are not necessarily one sided (meaning bff has some behavioral issues as well).
This led to a conversation about how teenagers act differently in different environments or with different people. This actually came up in the class I teach recently as well so it seems to be a theme lately.
Teenagers have a lot of reasons to act the way they do and most of these reasons come from within themselves. They react to all kinds of environmental influences as well as internal influences.
Step-daughter is a great example. When she is in counseling and she has spent all this time talking about how sad she is, how confused she is and all the goals she wants to achieve. She wants to finish school, she wants to go to university, she wants to get out there and be more social with peers instead of hiding from people. In counseling, at work and in school, she is the sweetest thing you ever met. She’s really quiet and withdrawn and smiles when people talk to her (nervous smile but you know, she tries). She says please and thank you when making requests. This is mostly how she acts when she is here with me.
You put her in a room with her dad and she is flippant, rolls her eyes, becomes huffy and agitated, can’t sit still. She has a snarky tone when she talks. She never smiles. She is like this with her dad because he spends all of his time telling people she is like this and she doesn’t see the need or have the motivation to try to get along with him anymore. She needs him to demonstrate some changes and to change his expectations so that she can live up to them and show him what she is capable of. She is not necessarily presenting the “real” person she believes herself to be to her dad. She is presenting the person that he expects to see because she doesn’t feel motivated and it doesn’t feel safe for her to show her real self to him. And by not feeling safe meaning that she feels he doesn’t “get” her so she’s not going to show him her vulnerabilities in case he makes fun of them or puts her down for them. She is acting her behavior out based on his expectations of her.
She is totally different when she goes out to see her mom who she mostly lived with during her growing up years but would run away from there when things got out of hand. At her mom’s step-daughter is aggressive. She yells and screams and slams doors and storms through the house and orders her mom around and tells her mom what to do. When she is not yelling and screaming, she cries. Step-daughter’s mom will do anything in the world to make her happy all the time so she gives in to whatever step-daughter wants when she is angry or starts crying. She is not necessarily presenting the “real” person she believes herself to be to her mom, she is manipulating her presentation of emotions to manipulate her mother into giving her what she wants. No matter how many times you tell mom this is what she is doing, she can’t seem to help herself. To give step-daughter credit, she did try to work on this when she wasn’t with her mom but because of some other elements of the relationship being very dysfunctional, the only way she felt like she could get what she needed, was to manipulate her mom in this manner, and was well aware of what she was doing in this case.
I guess now that step-daughter is out on her own and making her own way, we’ll get a chance to see who the “real” girl is underneath all the behavior.