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Articles about punishment

Nurturing trust and openness with your teenager.

I vaguely remember what it was like being a teenager. It was a long time ago but some things stick with me. Feeling self-conscious. Overseas trips. Being taught stuff. Kissing boys. Learning how to sail and sew. Acne. Such richness of experience!

I also remember not wanting to “get into trouble” with my parents. I was scared of their judgement, anger and disapproval.

As a young child I tried to be a “good girl” and I mostly succeeded. I did my best to meet my parents’ expectations and I tried to anticipate what they wanted. Do as you are told was the basic “rule” that I perceived and internalized. I can’t remember the details of what was said or done when I was little. But I do remember flare-ups of anger, yelling and threats that scared me. Sometimes there was spanking. I have no idea how often but I don’t think it was common. My parents were blameless. We were all blameless. And inevitably, patterns of thinking and reacting were established in my mind.

I don’t know why I was so sensitive to judgement, anger and threats. I never had a thick skin. I took it all in, and it felt awful. Deep down, I believed that it was my fault; that if I said the right thing and behaved the right way I could avoid those flare-ups coming at me. Self-talk started to appear inside my head to remind me that I wasn’t good enough, that I should try harder, that I was to blame. I developed a keen sense of what would trigger my parents judgement and anger and I did my best to avoid it. This logic seemed to work for a while.

By my teens my desire to explore and have new experiences overrode my desire to play it safe. That’s when I started to hide parts of my life from my parents out of fear of their reaction. The highly charged topic of sexual relationships, with all their physical and emotional challenges, was something that I didn’t want to talk to my parents about at all. I used to sneak out of my bedroom window at night and walk through dark Sydney suburbs to meet a boy. My secret nocturnal life eventually led me to sex and fun, then to heartache and then to other relationships.

I was fortunate. I never came to any harm and I never experienced an unwanted pregnancy. I guess if it had come to that I would have talked to my parents out of necessity. As it was, I went my own way and kept quiet about my fears, questions and insecurities.

Perhaps you can relate to some of this? Did you ever react to your parents in fear and hide or pull back from them? Did you try your best to comply with their rules and expectations? Or did you rebel and fight back? Did you ever sneak or hide your explorations of food, porn, drugs, relationships, sex or something else? Did you have problems that you felt you couldn’t share with your parents?

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