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Embrace your child’s declaration of independence

  • Chicago Tribune
  • Published Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at 9:38 p.m.

Your preteen child’s pals listen to seriously raunchy music. Are you a prude to discourage her from listening?

It might help to think of it not as seriously raunchy music, but as a declaration of independence (albeit one that would make Thomas Jefferson blush).

“What you’re looking for during early adolescence, in words and actions, is the declaration of difference: ‘I am different than I was as a child, and I want to be treated differently than I was as a child,’ ” says family psychologist Carl Pickhardt, author of “Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence: How to Understand, and Even Enjoy, the Rocky Road to Independence” (Jossey-Bass).

“What your kid is now starting is the journey to independence, and they’re going to start developing different tastes and beliefs than they had as a child and than their parents are familiar with,” says Pickhardt. “The job of the parent now is to maintain a connection with that child by bridging those differences. Adolescence is not the time to go it alone.”

Pickhardt suggests using the music as a topic over which to bond.

“My older son got into punk rock, which was never my taste, but I listened to a great deal of it, and we had wonderful conversations about it,” he says. “It creates a hugely powerful reversal. ‘You know more about this music than I do. Can you teach me about it? Can you help me understand and appreciate it?’ The kid becomes the authority and the parent is saying, ‘I want to be part of your new world.’ It’s a supportive statement rather than a critical statement.”

Even if the music offends your value system, he says, find common ground.

“You can bridge that with something like, ‘You and I have a different take on some of these lyrics. For me, some of those lyrics really put people down or say things about people that I really don’t agree with. I’m not saying you can’t form your own opinion. We can listen to the same music and we can still see it differently,’ ” he suggests. “You’re not trying to control their tastes and choices. You’re just giving them your perspective.

“Part of what you’re saying to your child is, ‘This is a time when you’re going to be interested in new and different values, and I want us to be able to talk about those things,’ ” he says. “ ‘And just because I don’t see those things the same way doesn’t mean I’m criticizing you.’ You want to maintain that connection through communication even as adolescence is growing them apart from you — which is what adolescence is meant to do.”

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