Ep 23: The Terror of Teenage Rebellion
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Neal Thompson, author of Kickflip Boys, discusses the drama of raising rebellious and defiant teenagers. He reveals some of the strategies he found that worked for getting through to his kids in the end and talks about how he coped with the rebellious years.
Full Show Notes
At first, Neal Thompson was glad that his young boys had found an activity that was getting them outside, keeping them active, and helping them gain acceptance from peers. But, as the kids grew older, skateboarding started to show it’s dark side: vandalism, drugs, alcohol, skipping classes, lying, and more.
He wrote about the whole incredible story in his new book Kickflip Boys: A Memoir of Freedom, Rebellion, and the Chaos of Fatherhood. I spoke with him about it this week on the podcast.
Through all of the drama, Neal learned some valuable lessons about how to deal with rebellious teenagers in a positive way. In the end, one of the big things he wishes he would have been able to do was to relax and stop worrying so much about the future.
The thing that kept his family strong through it all? Neal says it was the ability to say “I love you” to his kids consistently and really mean it.
He also shares some strategies that he uncovered by watching his wife and her natural way of getting the kids to open up. Neal noticed that she was often more effective than he was at this even though he spent a lot of time with the boys skateboarding. We explore her communication style in-dept during this episode.
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Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview
1. Make the Talking the Secondary Objective:
Neal told me that he and his wife had very different styles with their kids and one thing the he noticed she was good at is having a second activity going during talks to take the pressure off. She would talk to the teens while they were cooking together, going for a walk, or driving somewhere. Neal says he witnessed the effectiveness of this tactic first-hand with his wife and recommends other parents try it as well. I definitely agree that focusing your teen’s attention on a secondary task will bring down barriers and allow you to talk more openly. What are some activities you could do with your teenager while talking? Brainstorm a list and circle one new one you want to try this week. Some ideas are bowling, basketball, ping-pong, racquetball, tennis, jogging, walking, gardening, painting, sanding, cleaning, raking, eating, cooking, or driving. Watching something on TV or going to a concert would be great bonding events but not so great for having a conversation.
About Neal Thompson
In addition to his new book, Kickflip Boys: A Memoir of Freedom, Rebellion, and the Chaos of Fatherhood, Neal has written four other books and blabbed about them on ESPN, the History Channel, PBS, C-Span, Fox, TNT, and NPR — plus a fun five minutes on The Daily Show.
As a journalist, over the years he’s written for Outside, Esquire, Backpacker, Men’s Health, Sports Illustrated, Seattle Met, the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. He spent a dozen years as a reporter at the Baltimore Sun, St. Petersburg Times, Bergen Record, Roanoke Times, and Philadelphia Inquirer.
He taught creative non-fiction at the University of North Carolina’s Great Smokies Writing Program, and served on the board of Seattle Arts & Lectures. As a journalist and author, he’s mostly written about flawed and adventurous men – athletes and explorers, astronauts and bootleggers, warriors and risk-takers. And now: skateboarders.
Neal’s goal has been to tell inspiring stories that capture the aspirations and warts-and-all imperfections of those trying to live big lives, especially those who overcome hurdles, hardships, and setbacks.