The Teen Code: A Wake Up Call for Parents
- Wednesday, November 23, 2005
For instance, when it comes to alcohol, Rhett suggests that, at least for older teens, drinking is "more of an inevitability than a possibility." Thus, parents should talk to their teenagers about how to drink alcohol safely, rather than not at all. "The leap of faith is to accept that we will most likely drink in the future or may be drinking now, and since you will probably never know about it, it's better not to take the risk, so prepare us realistically, not idealistically." So, Rhett advises, concentrate on convincing your kids of the danger of drunk driving, not of the evil of alcohol itself.
Rhett took a similar approach on the issue of sex. As he told his readers, "Sex is one of those areas with a high Scary Quotient, so brace yourself. Here is what a lot of kids told me about the role of sex in their lives." Right from the onset, Rhett lays down the law on oral sex. "Of all the teens that I interviewed on this topic, it seemed like maybe one or two in a hundred considered oral sex to be sex." As he continued, "When I was in seventh grade, to have oral sex was a big deal: We only knew one kid in the whole grade who said he did it (but most of us thought he was lying). By mid-year eighth grade, oral sex was no big deal -- everyone said they were doing it (and this time we knew they weren't lying). By the time high school rolled around, giving and receiving oral sex became so normal that it was basically expected, even in casual hook-ups." In other words, oral sex is not sex, parents -- so deal with it.
Rhett also suggests that parents should teach children "about the proper way to use a condom." In other words, parents should join the "safe sex" bandwagon, and leave behind any real hope of sexual abstinence and sexual purity.
Throughout the volume, Rhett's mom, Neal S. Godfrey, offers a response at the end of each chapter. When it comes to sex, Rhett's mom talks right out of the safe-sex handbook. "Should parents buy condoms for their kids? There's certainly an argument for it. At least that way you can be sure that your kids have them, even though it doesn't guarantee they'll use them. But for a lot of us it just doesn't feel right. We may not believe that abstinence is the answer to sex education. But we still don't want to be in the position of appearing to encourage our kids to have sex." So, what does she propose? "Maybe the mom who put the condoms in the cookie jar on the kitchen counter has the right idea. It's halfway between."
Halfway between what? What teenager whose parents put a cookie jar of condoms on the kitchen counter is going to realistically believe that they expect him to refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage?
What about homosexuality? As Rhett explains, "I know that certain religions--and millions of people around the world -- think that it is a horrible thing. But if your teenager is gay and thinks you feel this way, it's going to make for a very difficult life for both you and your child. The question you need to ask yourself is: Do you hate homosexuality more than you love your child?" Rhett is thoroughly convinced that sexual orientation is simply "part of who your child is," and thus parents should just deal with it.
An even more fascinating section gets further into the heart of the matter. In discussing teenagers and the issue of privacy, Rhett counsels parents to prove their trust by granting their teenage children a wide swath of privacy, even when they suspect wrongful or dangerous behavior. Privacy, he offers, "is a sacred thing to teenagers."
Rhett tells the story of "Jessica," a sixteen-year-old girl in Akron, Ohio. As Jessica relates, "My mom came to me one day with pictures of me and my friends drinking and smoking (and not just cigarettes). I got in sooo much trouble. But I also was so [outraged] that she went through my purse. She told me that she was looking for makeup and she just saw them. I know that is [nonsense]; why would she want any of my makeup? We have totally different tastes. I felt really betrayed, and we didn't talk for awhile."
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