As parents, none of us are ready for this gig. There is no practice, no rehearsal, no backing up and trying again. You’re thrust into the position of parenthood and told “go!” with your only option being the hope that you don’t screw up too often or too severely.
The early years are bad enough, not getting enough sleep, and having to cater to the whims of the small, cranky stranger in the other room who is demanding food, shelter, and a college education. Then come the terrible twos, where your child discovers their temper, not to mention various and sundry ways of using it on you at all the most inopportune times.
Unfortunately, just as you think you’re getting a handle on this parenting thing, the teenage years arrive, bringing with them a whole host of brand new problems. But take heart, you will survive, you will make it through this process, and the scars won’t be very deep. In fact, you may come to treasure them after a while.
Be aware though that these are some of the most formative years you will ever have with your child….you’re setting the stage for how you will interact with them for the rest of their lives. If that sounds like a tall order, it is, so resist the urge to go off half cocked even when the situation is fairly screaming out for you to do so.
Bill Cosby once said that all children are brain damaged, and to a degree, he is right. The teenage brain hasn’t fully formed yet, which is why they make boneheaded decisions much of the time, have an unwavering belief in their own immortality, as well as the intestinal fortitude to think they actually know better than someone like you who has already been around the block a few times and has the hard knocks to prove it.
Resist the urge to get into a screaming match with your teenager, as it accomplishes nothing. You need to state your case and back off. It needs to be understood that this is a battle of wills, and that they will lose.
If you do occasionally lose it, don’t worry, you’re not the first, and it will take a lot more than that to irreversibly damage your kid’s psyche.
Listen to your teen when they need to talk. Trust me, they don’t always want to talk to a parent because we are the enemy, we don’t get it, and we’re just looking for new and creative ways to kill their joy. By taking the time to listen, even if their reasoning is the most asinine drivel you’ve ever heard, will go a long way towards establishing trust. You might even find that they are willing to listen to you in return. Crazy, huh?
Find little catchphrases that work with them and drive your points home, and don’t be afraid to use them. My personal favorite, used after explaining how something should be done or handled, is “Or does that make too much sense?” Just the right amount of snarkiness and good humor to diffuse any tense situation.
Above all, stand firm in your decisions and don’t become prone to waffling or vacillating, because whether they let you see it or not, your teens are watching you to see if you are committed to this thing or not.
Make sure they know that the world does not in fact revolve around them (even though you and I both know it does). Have time for yourself and your life, even if they can’t understand why boring adults would want to do boring things.
Remember that there will come a time when their brains finish developing, and you may be surprised to find that they actually begin giving you credit for having half a brain yourself (the full brain recognition will come in time). This is the moment where you may begin having adult level conversations with your child.
You will also be tempted to look at your family and your parenting skills and believe that you are the biggest goober to ever come down the pike. Nobody could possibly have kids as trying as yours and nobody could possibly have formed as many variations on the term “screw up” as you have. But don’t worry, you’re not the worst parent in the world and your kids are in all likelihood perfect angels when compared to some others. Don’t believe me? Visit a Waffle House or Wal Mart late at night and tell me I’m not dead on accurate.
You will survive this gig, and the universe will roll merrily onward and properly unfold as it should. Have faith, children. And tan some hides when necessary……