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'Sleepovers' Becoming Pampered Teen Experience; Experts Disagree On Causes, SignificanceAmagosa, CA-- Susanne Byers noticed two months ago that her 13-year-old son John didn't get many takers on his invitations to friends to spend the night at the Byers' home. He was a occasional guest at the homes of his seventh grade classmates at Amagosa Middle School, but rarely were reciprocal invitations accepted. When she asked her son for a reason why his friends didn't seem to want to sleep over at his home, the answer shocked her.
"Our home had been ranked a 'one-star sleepover' by his classmates," recalls Susanne Byers. "The kids had actually compiled reviews of each household, ranging from critiques of the meals, snacks, and desserts served, to the entertainment offered, to extra amenities such as swimming pools, game tables, and access to pay-per-view movies. Why stay at a one-star sleepover house when you can have burgers, milkshakes, video games, and your choice of dessert at a four-star sleepover? Our household was dead last in the ranking of the whole seventh grade, because I don't serve my family fast food and we don't own a video game player."
The Byers' experience is not unique and reflects a growing trend in teenage social activities. "'Overnights' or 'sleepovers' have become critically important to a teen's self-esteem and social standing" says Amilie Tagooli, a consultant with the Parent & Young Adult Interactions Council. "It's simply an extension of the expectation that began in the '80s with the birthday restaurants, theme palaces, and catered museum parties. If you love your pre-teens, you'll take them to Discovery Zone or Water World for their birthdays--home parties are passe."
According to Tagooli, "your teen's social standing depends on more than how your teen relates to his or her peers. Failure to provide a good sleepover 'experience' can lead to loss of popularity among peers, leaving the teen to be perceived as a less desirable friend. Parents who fail to provide the minimum 'standards' for a good sleepover are usually, in our experience, operating from some obsessive needs to control their child's creative tendencies. Fortunately, there are consultants who can advise parents on sleepover issues, with the ultimate goal of catering to your sleepover guest's every whim."
"I feel like I'm running a hotel here," objects Candice Romney, mother of two teens attending Lamacita High School in Peneville, CA. "Anymore, I dread having my teens' friends come for a sleepover. It's as if they consider my home to be the downtown Hilton, complete with maid and concierge service. They often leave courtesy and neatness at the door. When I ask them to help by drying the dishes or setting the table, they tell me 'I'm a guest, I don't have to do that.' I was floored the day one young guest walked up to me and *told me* what he wanted for supper, and what time he wanted it served. I would have phoned the young man's parents right then and there to have them fetch him home, but my teens begged me to overlook the incident, saying that the young man's opinion could make or break them in their social circle at school."
Dr. Paul Soren of the Baltimore Institute of Pediatric Sciences in Baltimore, MD attributes the shift of seeing sleepovers as simple 'kid swaps' to that of full-blown pseudo-vacation experiences to the recent popular perception of the parent as the "teen's friend rather than as the adult who provides structure and guidance. Many eager-to-please parents are trying so hard to be their child's 'friend' that they let the child walk all over them. It reflects an abdication of parental responsibilities that has had some downstream effects--obnoxious sleepover guests being one of them."
For the time being, Susanne Byers is standing firm in her belief that the best thing for her teen is consistent and loving parenting. "It's unfortunate that his friends place a higher value on video game equipment and greasy junk food than spending time with my teen. But I won't try to win the approval of the sleepover crowd by putting aside our own family rules and standards. I want my son to learn that true friendship can't be bought, not with money or presents or laissez-faire sleepovers."
Reported by the Daily Apocrypha News Staff. All rights reserved. © 1999.
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