I have a secret. And what better place to share a secret than a blog that many women read, especially many women I know or who are married to people I know. I am an idiot for saying it but here goes: I occasionally watch Teen Mom on MTV (brief pause now as I consider the revocation of my man card and the sarcastic comments I will receive from all angles concerning this thoroughly un-masculine disclosure.) For the uninformed, Teen Mom on MTV is a reality TV show that follows four teenage moms as they mother, work, go to school and navigate their sometimes perilous relationships with their baby daddies (it’s always nice to find a connection to the name of the post even though most of the baby daddies in this show are dead-beat fringe types.)
While my main interest in this TV show is the so-called train-wreck attraction (that phenomenon where people simply will not look away from the carnage no matter how macabre it might be) but my bigger curiosity comes from understanding the pathology of these little teenage moms gone wild. With an 8 month old daughter, I am obviously concerned about making sure my daughter’s life trajectory bypasses a hosting career at Applebee’s while barely squeaking through High School (my apologies if you are looking to make a career at Applebee’s but seriously that place is awful. Chili’s I understand- the queso is delicious. But Applebee’s? Give me a break.)
Seriously speaking though, what led these little teenagers-gone-wild down the wrong path? I am not simply speaking about teenage motherhood. Unwanted pregnancies happen. But these girls have issues with rage (this is obviously Amber), addictions, attitude (oh …Maci this is you), entitlement (classic Farrah), narcissism, greed….the list could go on. In all honesty, having a child as a teenager probably occurred to these girls as an antidote to their woes but of course ended up compounding their issues. But why? How did these teenagers who only 6 or 7 years ago were precious little girls in elementary school, how did they get to such a bad place so early in life? How did they get to a place where they can’t see past themselves? How did they get to a place where fighting comes so natural? How did they get to a place where self-medicating with all manner of substances became normative? How? Why?
While I cannot know the answer for certain, (don’t let my wife know I said this, because I constantly claim to know all the answers) I do have a theory on these teenage girls gone wild. The power of “No.” That might sound a bit trite and honestly, it kind of is but hear me out on this. I am not talking about “no” when it comes to immoral or unwise decisions like early sexual activity, partying, etc, even though “no” is important in those moments. I am talking about :“no you’re not the best thing since sliced bread”, “no you’re teacher wasn’t wrong for punishing you.”, “no you’re not the smartest/best at everything you do.” Now this may seem harsh and I am not advocating for emotionally abusive parenting but I am pushing forward an antidote to “extreme self-esteemism.” (ESE).
ESE is rampant in America today and stems from our everyone-gets-a-ribbon–culture. ESE leads parents to defend their child endlessly to their teachers despite the fact their child is a hellion of the first order. ESE leads kids to assume they are the best and the brightest in every situation, which usually leads to poor cooperation skills and extremely lowered levels of compassion. Worst of all, ESE, if left unchecked, usually leads to discontented, self-medicating, angry teenagers when they begin to discover the reality of this world and the sad truth that truly nothing comes easy.
I know it is hard but say “no” this week. Of course say “no” to things like biting and hitting but learn to say no to ESE. While your child is a precious and beautiful gift from God, they are nowhere near perfect or the best. And that is OK. When you refuse to raise an ESE child you are moving away from the allure and competition of your peers and moving more towards a happy, healthy and self-aware kiddo. OK, I am stepping down from my soapbox now, mainly because Teen Mom is about to come on.