Dispatches from the parenting trenches

Wait, she said… what?

When good kids do bad things

I receive a text from a friend, mother of my child’s bestie, with just “hello, when can you talk?”

I feel a momentary flutter of worry, but I’m in the middle of something at work, so I tell her that I’ll call her a bit later. How bad could it be? Our kiddos are 11, I figure they got in a spat and some mediation may be in order (it happens).

When we finally connect, I learn that our sweet child did a bad thing of “omg-i-am-so-mortified-right-now” proportional. Hurtful, ugly words were blurted out online for many more than one person to see. We had a little girl sized scandal on our hands.

Facing the music

The accused was staring up at us, lip quivering, but her steady, defiant gaze didn’t waiver. In preparation for the cross-examination about to follow, she penned a note telling us we ruin everything, are the root cause of all her woes, and generally stick our noses where they don’t belong. Oy.

There’s a teen in there

“Rats,” I thought, glancing at her father, “I thought we had a couple more years.” Her older siblings, 13 and 16, didn’t act out much. They sulked, slammed doors, threw stuff, but didn’t burn bridges with words. One side-effect of the pandemic and lockdown was earlier exposure to the internet, and lots of time with teen sibs. She grew up faster than they did.

The internet meets the adolescent brain

At her age, when hopping mad at someone, I would need to walk to their house to confront them. I would think and reflect on the way and by the time I made it to their place, the “mad” would have evaporated.

For adolescent kids today, there’s no “natural” pause for reflection. It’s way too easy to react, often after misunderstanding intent, impulsively type something angry up and hit send without considering repercussions.

The prefrontal cortex, where impulse control, risk taking and decision making happen is under reconstruction during the adolescent years.

Thankfully, (nearly) all the adults of the children involved reacted in a level headed manner, and appropriately to the developmental stage of our child and theirs, and we were able to move on from this.

And we learned the hard way that the combination of poor impulse control and easy access to the internet can spell trouble.

Lesson learned for both parents and kid.

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