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Teen Talk: What happened to my Baby?

Updated on July 30, 2011

Teen Talk - Live

Chris is taking “Teen Talk” on the road. If you are a member of a parent group or responsible for finding engaging speakers for student or youth groups, please contact Chris at

Chris Lincoln MEd
Chris Lincoln MEd
Sunshine and smiles, it can happen!
Sunshine and smiles, it can happen!

Why listen to me?

A quick tour around a bookstore, particularly the books in the childrearing section, would give the impression that once you had mastered the pregnancy, birth, and early infant years, you were at that point fully informed, and the rest of job was a piece of cake. It would appear that, once you’d enrolled your little darling in pre-school or kindergarten, signed them up for ballet or soccer, you no longer needed the army of experts and their myriad helpful handy books. You could now relax and let the “village” raise your child and, all you have to do, is to drive a couple of hundred miles a day, and volunteer for stuff.

Not Quite.

Over in the corner, hiding from all the cute books with babies on the cover, are a few, very serious, books on teens, but they all seem so dark and terribly negative and could not possibly apply to your child, right? Queen Bee? I don’t think so. Anti-social behaviors? Not in our family…

Hopefully, you hung onto a version of Terrible Two’s for Dummies, as it may prove to have some repeat value, as your baby leaves the single digits and launches into the terrible two’s, part two.

Sometime between the ages of ten and twelve, your child sets off on a new, and interesting, challenge; adolescence. An unexpected side effect of the changes and challenges facing your child is the impact they have on the entire family. The purpose of my presentations and writings are to provide a guide to help the first time parent of these “tweens” and teens. Primarily my goal is to help you realize that you have not totally lost your mind. And, through humor, learn to handle the enforced humility.

Because, as I see it, there are two options, you can either laugh or cry.

And laughing is by far the better option. Your child will do the most idiotic, half-baked, goofball, hair-brained things AND they will look at you as if you are the idiot. Choice one is that you get mad at them, and thus stress out, raising your blood pressure, bringing on a permanent migraine, and, slowly but surely, become a total physical wreck.

Choice two is to find the funny, let humor diffuse the situation, leave the room if you have to, but laugh.

And, it is not too hard to find the funny. This age group can be intentionally (or unintentionally), very funny indeed.

However, a word of caution...

First, make sure your tween/teen understands that you are laughing with them, or about a funny situation, and absolutely not, AT them. To miss this important caveat is to unleash an attitude atom bomb that you may never recover from!

Secondly, spouses and partners have to be united, as the core of your relationship could be under attack. You will need to bolster each other’s self esteem on a daily basis, and, under no circumstances, are you to believe that you are as stupid, ugly, unhelpful, and mean as your child implies (or blatantly tells you!)

So why listen to me?

In a word, experience.

I entered this particular world with a double whammy. Once upon a time, I lived in England, lived a nice comfortable middle class life, graduated from University with a degree in psychology, and after a stint in the Police force, ended up as an elementary school teacher.

My six years with the Police and an unpleasant period handling child-abuse cases, did a spectacular job of showing me the underbelly of “civilization”. And, a burning desire to do something positive for children. I actually had fun teaching; I enjoyed the company of eight and nine year olds, and felt privileged to be allowed into their world on a daily basis. They were tough kids who lived tough lives, but, I felt valued and sometimes, appreciated.

Teaching began to erase the negative parts of my life and it led to a dramatic life change.

Through a mutual colleague I connected with a wonderful woman who taught a similar age class in California and our classes became pen-pals. This is a great story for another time, but the upshot was, I left England, and ended up married to my perfect partner, some 6,000 miles away, in California.

And, I found myself transformed from bachelor to step-dad of two boys aged 9 and 11. My very first ‘job’ as step dad was to take the eldest to his first day of Middle School and get his schedule. This was a whole new world. A few weeks later, it got more interesting, as I found a position as a Middle School teacher. And found myself on a spectacularly steep learning curve.

Who on earth were these creatures? They looked like children, albeit big ones, but they spoke an entirely different language. Not only were the words and meanings different, they expressed themselves mostly, through body language and grunts. I did recognize that they had an amazing ability to communicate with each other. The problem was, it left all outsiders completely clueless.

I have now spent the last twenty years around this particular age group, as a parent, as a teacher, and as a school principal. I know that I do not get every nuance, or think that I know everything there is to know about them, but I figure I’m twenty years ahead of most.

Our boys, now men, graciously accede that I did a pretty good job in the parenting department, but I really can’t claim the credit. That is all due to the sheer brilliance of my wife, who guided her three “boys” with a natural grace and understanding that is the hallmark of her personality.

It was a life change in her world that spurred me on to write down, and talk about, the understanding I had gleaned. After many years in elementary school, my wife got “promoted” to middle school. She had the same initial “who are these people?” reaction as I did, and looked to me for some guidance. With the aid of anecdotes, patience, and not a few glasses of Merlot, I did what I could, and helped ease her transition. As my number one cheerleader, she suggested that there were others who could benefit from my experiences, thus my being with you today…

Please be aware that my advice is the product of my personal and professional recollections. I am not a licensed counselor. I have degrees in Psychology and Education, but, for me, the true learning took place in the real world of home, classrooms and for a great part, in the principals’ office. I have had conversations with countless numbers of students and parents over many years, and, through careful listening, and working through their situations, I have acquired a fair understanding of the teenager in our midst.

I hope I can help guide you through some of the complexities of this time in your child’s life.

I hope you can enjoy much of this journey with your child as they can be outrageously funny and creative, but most of all I hope that you feel that you are not alone.



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