A Tale of Two Teens
Once upon a time...
there lived two teenage girls. These girls became step-sisters when Rain's mother married Ann's father. Ann spend most of her time living with her mother, only visiting her father and "wicked step-mother" every other weekend (per the custody arrangement made through the courts). Rain spent most of her time living with her mother, visiting her father every other weekend as well.
In the beginning all was well, as this arrangement had taken place before the two girls were teenagers. They were only 4 months apart in age, Ann being the older of the two. Then, one fateful year it happened; they both became teenagers!
Rain's daily life:
Rain had beautiful, long, blonde hair which her mother reminded her every day to brush and take care of. Rain was brilliant when it came to school work, kind and loving to her siblings, and helpful around the house. She was mindful of the rules and expectations placed upon her (and her siblings), trying to follow them as best she could.
She loved to sing and dance in her room, play dress up with her younger sisters and go on bike rides to the nearby park. Rain was given praise and compliments by her mother on her grades, her gentile nature, her appropriate choice in clothing, her natural beauty, and more.
Ann's daily life:
Ann had difficulty in school. She struggled with reading, being grades behind where the rest of her class was. She hated the way she looked. Her mother allowed her to dye her hair jet black, to wear dark make-up, and to dress in provocative clothing. Ann fought with her mother and step-father, argued with her siblings, and threw temper tantrums when she did not get her way.
Ann's mother valued Ann's friendship, so would give into these tantrums. She was allowed to go wherever she wanted, dress as she pleased, talk in whatever language she chose (including swearing at her mother) all without repercussions.
When Ann visited her father's home, she brought the same attitude and behaviors along with her.
The Evil step-mother:
Ann's step-mother held Ann to the same rules and expectations as all of the other children in the home. She wasn't allowed to wear the dark make-up or dress in inappropriate clothing while she was there. She was not allowed to talk back in a rude or disrespectful manner, nor was she allowed to swear.
Ann's step-mother encouraged Ann to practice reading and provided her with worksheets and other material that would help Ann regain the missing pieces of her education which were keeping her from reaching her full potential.
Ann bucked and fought the entire time, stating that she wasn't her mother and that she hated it there. She threatened that she would run away, back to her mother's house. She yelled about how she never had to help with chores or do homework when she was at home. It wasn't fare! Anne hated her evil step-mother for making her do things she didn't want to do.
When the evil step-mother asked Ann why she dyed her hair when her natural color was so beautiful, Ann replied "I would die if I had to have my regular hair color! I would just die! It's so stupid and ugly! If my mom said I couldn't dye my hair I would kill myself."
Knowing who's boss:
Ann's father would argue with Ann over every little thing. Ann would have her usual tantrum, lasting anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour. When the evil step-mother stepped in, it would all stop. "Ann," She would say, "Who is the most stubborn person at your mom's house?"
"I am" Ann would say proudly.
"And who is the most stubborn person here?"
"You are." Ann would lower her head.
"So," the evil step-mother would continue, "Knowing that I can out-stubborn you, there are two choices. You can either do as your father asks now and get it out of the way, or you can stand here with me until I ultimately defeat you in a stare down, because you know I will and then do what he asks. Which would you prefer?"
"To just do what he says now." Ann would say, shuffling off to go do whatever it was that she was asked to do in the first place.
The difference between the two:
LOVE! Not the selfish kind that people give only to get something in return. The true kind that is given expecting nothing back.
Rain doesn't need flashy clothes, goofed up hair, or any other attention grabbing exterior enhancements because she knows she is valued and valuable. She has clear rules and expectations. She has security. She knows what is expected of her as well as the consequences that will follow if she chooses not to abide by them. She gets her needs met. Rain is encouraged and praised for the positive choices she makes.
Ann has none of these things on a regular basis. She is told that when you feel bad on the inside, change the outside, any attention is better than no attention! She doesn't feel valued or appreciated. How could she? When she doesn't like herself or something about herself, her mother agrees with her that it isn't enough and should be changed. Ann does not get her needs met. She is not encouraged or praised. She feels lost, alone, and confused. She suffers from a low-self esteem and low self-image.
When she is at her father's house, her step-mother provides as much of these things as she possibly can, yet it is not enough. It could never compare to the constant affirmations that Rain gets, nor can it compare with getting these from her own mother.
Moral of the Story:
Be a parent, not a friend.
You can have a great relationship with your child without crossing the line between parent and friend. Your child has enough friends, what he/she needs is a parent.
Guide, love, protect, nurture, care, encourage, and respect them. Help your child to see what is so wonderful, amazing, and beautiful about them when they have difficulty seeing it within themselves. Foster the growth of a healthy self-esteem.