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Teen Talk

July 2, 2011

Teenhood Today: Teens often 'success objects' of their parents

We've all heard the stories of men treating women like sex objects, right?

Well, ladies, you could be right, but what accusations would come about if we turned the tables? The term "success object" is seldom used in public, let alone casual conversation, for obvious reasons: no one wants to admit that their commitment to someone harbors deeply on their ability to succeed financially (or in the bedroom, for that matter.)

However, a "success object" is by no means limited to relationships. When it comes to the understanding one's parents have with their child, success is always buried deep in the manifolds of approval, or in some cases, a lack thereof.

Parents who are reading this will always claim that the love they have for their children will never depend on how successful they are, but let's take a step back and think of this in drawn-out segments.

When raising a child, everyone prefers to have less stress, as opposed to the obvious alternative. When this child enters teenhood, he's bound to make decisions that could ultimately determine his rate of success.

Maybe the teen is caught with drugs, and then not accepted to the college of her choice because of her criminal record. Perhaps another chose to spend an entire night studying instead of hanging out and therefore bumps his grade point average up a few points. Either way, the child's success rate is going to change.

I'm not going to pretend that parents have some sort of unconditional love for their children. I'm sure deep down they do, but I have seen countless parents who have expressed nothing but anguish and annoyance toward their offspring. Do you think they would have reacted this way if their child had flown through school with flying colors, and never even had a scratch on her criminal record? I don't like to assume, but we can all agree that the more of a hassle something turns out to be, the less we turn out to like it.

In this way, teenagers can become success objects for their parents.

To gain the approval and devotion that most teens crave from their parents, they have to achieve a certain amount of success. Now, the real question is: Is objectifying teens by success causing de-stress or distress?

The answer is both. While parents enjoy the benefits of having successful children, teens are stuck in a very different boat where in some cases their entire life is devoted to becoming as successful as possible in adolescence.

It's ironic, though, because as parents watch their children become more successful, in some cases a phenomena occurs where they simply give up on objectifying. Teens will develop an upward trend where after a while, reward doesn't exist. Success becomes the average as the parents of this extraordinary child look toward punishment only as the way to raise their child.

This is tough to look into, because psychologically we can't really say what kind of effect this will have on the child. We do have a few scenarios though. The most preferable would be that the teen develops into the type of person who rarely makes mistakes.

Don't get excited, though. There is a significant chance that this method will backfire tremendously. Even though teens are referred to as young adults, they're still children and still desire the attention of their parents. When parents stop rewarding, teens often take it as a sign of being ignored. They start to realize that the only time they really get attention is when they're punished, so they start to cause a slip here and there, although they almost always won't intend to do it. Some refer to this as a "cry for help" but that makes it sound so desperate. Desperate is far from the lifestyle these fall into.

Teens are success objects to some parents. But what about the kids whose parents really hold no weight on whether they succeed or not? Some teens succeed without the influence of their parents, while others are said to have failed because their parents didn't care enough. Is this a reverse situation where some teens only gain attention from being rewarded and therefore strive for success? I honestly couldn't tell you.

Every parent is different, and every child is different. No child will ever turn out to be exactly as his parent intends. For this reason, it's absolutely natural for parents to try to influence the lives of their children in the way that pleases them most. Whether that is with love, pressure, hate, etc. _ each child is the object of someone's success.

Dan Clark, a 2010 graduate of Afton Central School, is a rising sophomore at the State University at Albany. 'Teen Talk' columns can be found at

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