Thank you, Nan. This was really helpful!
Mine I think does have trouble thinking before acting and thinking through likely consequences including how bad something is likely to be if goes wrong and how likely to go wrong. And he is more likely to get into difficulties from thinking he knows how to do something he does not actually know, or from trying to show off for someone else, not so much anger or state of the world issues.
Mine did stupid things showing off or not thinking sometimes, too. I think it is minimized (with a few absolutely spectacularly horrifying exceptions) because we did a lot of things where a wrong move could kill them, like going sailing. A wrong move can kill you at home, too, but home feels safer than a small sailboat, so I think they are more likely not to think. Mine are naturally cautious. All that helps, I think. But they have smashed cars, fallen off roofs, had encounters with the police, been struck by lightening, ... Some of those were a reasonable risk but some were just plain stupid. There is a reason why I said keeping them alive was hard.
How do you decide when teen is ready to handle a chainsaw etc.? Mine has already done that--did it on his own without my knowing. And thankfully nothing bad did happen. How do you move something like chainsaw use out of the "super bad if it goes wrong" category?
Hmm... We talked a lot? There are stages for teaching a task:. Each of these things happen for awhile, ideally.
New user is in the area while knowledgeable person (call them old but sometimes the ages are reversed) does something repeatedly
Old starts calling new's attention to a few basic dangers but new isn't really watching
New watches while old explains basics
New does (or does some parts) while old watches and directs and helps
New does alone while old watches and occasionally corrects and explains details
Old reminds new of the tricky bits and then doesn't watch but is within earshot and glances over to check occasionally
Old and new work nearby
Old reminds new of tricky bits then new goes off and does it out of sight
New does alone out of sight, just asking questions later
New becomes old and teaches somebody else
There is also the issue of how something feels to new when they are doing it: This sometimes has no bearing on whether they actually CAN do the task safely. This is really more of a circle than a list because little ones sometimes start at the ask for help part.
Too scared (and too young) to try
Willing to try but only with lots of help
Feeling very grownup doing it alone
Old enough that they feel sure they can do it alone with no problems
Old enough to know when to ask for help if they can't do something
The trick for my boys was to catch them at the right age. Being allowed to have a pocket knife at 7 was such a thrill that my boys were willing to go through all the stages of supervision. If we had given them pocket knives at 15, they probably would have been secretly using one for years and when we did, had no patience what so ever for those stages of learning. We would have missed our opportunity to teach them to learn to use a pocket knife. We found that if we gave them enough scary grown up tasks, they were more willing to wait to do the ones we really wanted them not to do, like use the chainsaw. Coordinating the timing requires a lot of cooperation between the adults in the boy's life. I could sort of tell when mine needed a new scary or super adult thing to begin doing by their behavior and conversation, but I can't really tell you how. Your child is probably different, anyway. Generally, that starting age is a lot younger than you want it to be. I remember asking a friend with older children when it was ok for them to go swimming by themselves, with no supervision. She answered never but in our town, the end of 8th grade seemed to be when they did. Another friend answered way younger than she liked (and then her son broke his arm badly getting it caught in the crotch of a tree when her son and mine were swinging off a rope swing into a stream in their middle teens alone in the woods, and from then on she sent a cell phone with them. Things happen. Raising boys requires a certain amount of luck.) Part of the reason this works is because if you give them tasks that they aren't quite old enough to do competently, they have accidents. You want them to cut themselves with their pocket knife (or watch someone else do it) so that have respect for the chain saw. Those small accidents and near misses when they do things alone are HOPEFULLY what keep them from being stupid with a chainsaw later. My boys will tell you this if you ask them, now that they are adults. They are sooo grateful that we took this approach because they say they can feel that experience stopping them from doing some things now.
It isn't a hundred percent and it is a risk, but I think it is an acceptable risk.
You can go to far the other way - not supervising enough. My mother-in-law raised 4 boys (and no girls). She says she always said she'd rather have 3 men in the end than 4 boys. I always supervised more than she did (which is why I know what she told herself grin). I was trying hard NOT to have mine do some of the things I had heard about. My husband has some wild stories and his brothers still do some wild things that I would hope mine have more sense to do, so I think my more supervised approach is a better idea.
The awful part of all this is that you have to find the right balance for the right person. It is tricky.
I think the parts about growing up and anxiety explains some things too. A few years ago ds could not wait to be driving. Now he is old enough to get learner permit, take driver-ed etc., but does not want to. I thought it came from having had a little bump against a tree while practicing on driveway, but seen as anxiety about growing up, it makes even more sense.
You wrote, "We found we had to break being a grownup into small parts and separate them out from each other in order to keep anxiety down. Going to college does not equal moving out forever. Graduating from college does not equal moving out forever. Mine would have ensured that they never grew up if we hadn't. As I said in an earlier post, this meant that we had to make being grown up seem like a more-fun-than-school, staying-in-your-clan, being-helped-by-your-clan, contributing-to-your-clan, clan-is-forever thing rather than a you-take-care-of-yourself-all-by-yourself, you-know-how-to-do-all-adult-tasks, see-you-around-some-time, don't-forget-to-call-me-on-mother's-day thing."
How did you go about breaking down those parts?
Mostly by telling them that as long as they stuck around and/or stayed in touch, we could show them how to do everything when they needed to know, and we explained that that was how we learned to do things. We labelled them late bloomers and said we were too and that they didn't need to figure it out all at once. I think the label was important, but I don't think they would have liked it at 13. That was more of a 16-and-I-am-not-sure-I-want-to-look-at-colleges thing. Having a paying job, even if it was a short one with family, helped. We had been telling them they could live at home forever from the time they were little. We also (at other times) had said that they would probably want their own household when they were married. We taught some things (like how to change a tire) and left some until later (like paying taxes). We also openly talked about how it is scary to grow up, how it is easy "to shoot yourself in the foot", as youngest put it, and sabotage yourself subconsciously by flunking out senior year or whatever.
I think it might help to define "launched", both to yourself and to your son. We told ours, from the time they were 2 or 3, that everyone who is well enough has to work full time. Little children's job is to play to learn. Bigger children's job is to go to school to learn. Adults either go to school full time or work full time or do a mix of the two. We said it over and over. We talked about how work isn't always something you get paid for and used me as an example. Eventually, we brought in the idea that some people have enough money to support themselves without working, but those people usually have worked really hard at some point in their lives. We didn't attach living on one's own, without any help, with "launched". We talked about different family patterns in different cultures to help with this idea. We tried to attach the word adult with the concept of working full time and, if you want, being able to start a family.
And conveying the continued clan membership idea?
I talked about it. I tried to keep the friction between siblings at a minimum because early on, I realized that your childhood relationship with your siblings lasts less than 20 years (usually) but your adult relationship lasts 60 or 80, with luck. I pointed that out when they were old enough to understand. We told ours that brothers are forever and that they had to stick together and look out for each other. This was fairly easy for us because my husband and I are embedded in a clan which consists of my siblings and their immediate families, one of my sister's husband's siblings and their families, and my husband's brothers all get together and do things. My brother-in-laws come to my clan's happenings, sometimes. And even so, STILL my children had to have emphasized to them, as teens, that they had a clan who would help them "forever", that many, many adult tasks, adults don't do by themselves, that Grammy and Grampa were still telling us (their parents) how to do things, especially when we did them for the first time. We told them that when we were first grownup, we had to ask how to do everything, from making macaroni and cheese to paying taxes to buying a house. Lots and lots of phone calls home grin.
If you aren't part of a close clan, you can think of some of the things that friends do for each other and talk about those things. For example, people tend to get their friends to come help them when they move, drive them to the airport or hospital, babysit, share recipes, build garden sheds, go on vacation.
That's how we did it, anyway. I should ask my boys what they thought worked. They have all bought in, at this point. They will probably have their own households when they are married or want to live someplace else, but they will (hopefully) stick together.
There was a time during their teens when each of them kicked against being part of a family and part of being a clan. They disliked having to take the time and energy to go to clan events. They disliked having to contribute to the family. I cut those obligations down to the minimum, agreed that it was an impingement on their time and independence, told them point blank that it was a nuisance sometimes, this was the down side of being part of a family, told them they had no choice about that, talked (briefly) about the advantages, said family didn't work unless you did both, and then crossed my fingers and hoped that when they were old enough to chose not to be part of family and clan, they would change their mind. This cropped up especially when they had to do something for a clan member that they weren't liking at the moment, or family events with cousins that weren't part of their in-town cousin pack.
The whole part about carrying groceries at 5 being special but as a teen it needing to be a man thing totally resonates.
We had a power outage during winter without prepared fire wood ready, and ds did excellently at supplying wood with an axe etc., which is a total fit with what you say about a "man job" and emergency real need.
The possibly breaking ribs with a hug issue has also been a big problem here that I am working on.