It’s very difficult being a parent with a teenager going through what I term the ‘I’m Invincible’ phase behaviour. This is the phase when teenagers start doing stunts, scary and dangerous things as a way of testing out their physical strengths and limits.
This is not so surprising given that, at adolescence, teenagers are effectively given a ‘new’ body or image, one which has many improved and advance features from that of their childhood body. It’s bad as parents thinking we can tell them about the limits of this body and capability; just as a toddler needs to work out for themselves like on how to balance to walk and crawl, so a teen needs to work out for themselves how to use their changed body and strength.
Pushing themselves that little bit further each time is necessary for the teen to find out what happens and experience it themselves. They need to make mistakes so that they can self-adjust and correct their actions. They need to know just how agile, fast, and strong their body is so they can use it appropriately and wisely in the future. Not knowing their own limits and capability is potentially much more dangerous.
However some teenagers also use this phase to ‘prove’ themselves. In today’s competitive society, teenagers have been brought up to become more ‘better’ than someone else at something. And for some teens, this will be playing video games, in the classroom, on the sports field or through the performing arts but for some teenagers none of these avenues are available due to financial or physical reason.
So, the only way they can prove themselves to be ‘better’ is through some daredevil or dangerous type of physical activity, where they can show that they are braver, able to bear extra pain or can execute more elaborate plan. With these activity, teenagers get their feelings of success, their sense of achievement, their sense of self-worth.
The ‘I’m Invincible’ phase is a crucial learning stage for teenagers; it’s all about taking risks and making judgements about the risk. As parents, it’s hard for us to let our teens take risks and we naturally want to protect them at all cost, but in attempting to protect them we are in reality often holding them back to grow.
Teenagers risk or taking risks is a necessary part of an adult life; moving from one job to another, starting our own business, asking someone out for a date all require a certain amount of risk. Although the risks in the ‘I’m Invincible’ phase are primarily based in the physical side, they give a good foundation for taking risks in the emotional and cognitive realms in the future.
Handling the ‘I’m Invincible’ Phase
- If at all possible, enrol your teenagers in a class or organisation where they can test their limits in a relatively safe environment like dance, sports, scouts/guides, army/navy/air cadets.
- For those that need to ‘prove’ themselves, give them chores that allow them to show off their new found physical strengths and capabilites; re-think that the chores they do are suited to their abilities. By receiving success, fulfillment, achievement and a sense of self-worth at home reduces the need to look for it elsewhere.
- Use the language related with ‘I’m Invincible’ to acknowledge that your teenager in day-to-day life. Words such as strong, brave, courage, determined, overcome, persist, hold-on, etc, can also be used to motivate your teens.
- Try examining our own fears. Asked of our fears is based on objective, rational information, or have they been more influence by other peoples’ stories or news reports. Get the real facts not the media hype.
- Explain your fears to your teeneager by expressing your concern and being worried over what others might do. If you express doubt in their abilities, you will just make them more eager and determined to prove you wrong. Eg “I don’t want you riding your bike late at night because drivers are more likely to have accidents then” is much more readily received than “I don’t want you riding your bike late at night because you might have an accident”.
- Do not use evidence of your teenagers mistakes to do ‘I told you so’. Recognise that their mistakes as valuable learning, and then acknowledge the learning as you would any other type of learning.
AUTHOR: Carol Shepley