Yesterday I wrote that my teenagers are scarily normal people and haven’t been abducted by aliens. I’ve been planning to write about this for a while but, over the weekend I asked the girls WHY they weren’t asshole know-it-all teenagers. I got very different answers than I was expecting, but I’m still happy to know I’m on the right track where they are concerned.
I started the conversation by saying “Most teenagers we know are assholes…” and heard an immediate and emphatic “YEAH, WE KNOW!” (Evidently, they share the same opinion. I’ll have to write about that another time.) Then I asked “Well… why do you think that you’re different? What makes you not behave that way?”
Surprisingly, they had quite a few answers to that question. I really expected “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.” So, here are both lists… the reasons I think they aren’t rebellious and angry… and the reasons THEY say they aren’t.
The kids say:
- When you say no, you tell us why. (Ida says: Sometimes the answer is “because I said so”, but I try really hard to let them know there are rational and reasonable reasons for the decisions I make.)
- Sometimes, when you want to say no, you give us all the risks and then let us decide for ourselves. (Ida says: It’s VERY hard to not just say no, but sometimes I use their requests as teachable moments. If the only danger in saying yes is that they aren’t going to like the result, I’ll let them roll with it and see how it turns out.)
- You don’t lie to us. (Ida says: This is Rule Number One. I don’t lie. I may be obnoxious, rude, and have a bazillion flaws, but at least you know you’re getting the truth.)
- You’re really open and you talk to us. (Ida says: They roll their eyes and groan and mutter under their breath… but dangit we communicate!)
- You’re the same person when your friends are around as you are when it’s just us. (Ida says: I wouldn’t want to be someone around my friends that I’m not proud to be around my kids. Of course, convention weekends are completely excluded from this!)
- You don’t micromanage us. – Anna says “Like the time I wanted to paint my room. You let me pick all 3 colors and you even helped me paint it. Most parents would veto the colors or make the decision for us.” (Ida says: It’s always best to pick your battles. Blue bedroom with green and yellow trim? That’s an easy yes. The more decisions they make now, when you can help if needed, the better.)
- You make it easy for us to talk to you. – Sierra says “Like the dinner topic. It’s easier for us to talk to each other than the other families we know.” (Ida says: To be fair, the dinner topic was Mark’s creation, I just participate. It’s been the best thing we’ve ever implemented in our house.)
I never make the mistake of minimize their feelings. Telling them they’re too young to have valid feelings is the fastest way to alienate your kids. I have never said:
- It’s just puppy love. You’ll find someone new in no time.
- I know she moved, but you’ll make new friends.
- You’re not old enough to know what x, y, or z feels like.
I recognize the signs of PMS or a really bad day, and take it easier on them during those times. I know that some days just suck. On those days, I don’t want to have to deal with chores, bad attitudes, or people in general… why think that it wouldn’t be the same for the kids? Signs that you should bite your tongue and be more understanding:
- Sudden acne outbreaks
- Mood Swings
- Coming home from school in a dark mood
- Emotional outbursts for no reason (or out of proportion to the reason)
- You know your kid best… what seems “off” for them? Look for the signs.
- I try to remember how I would have felt at that age and treat them the way I wish I’d been treated in those instances. I’m not talking about failing to punish because I wish I hadn’t been punished. But I am talking about trusting them to do the right thing and treating them as young women instead of children.
- I never ever settle disputes between them. I DO remind them (often) that they “are speaking to someone you love” when they’re snippy with each other, but I keep my nose out of who is right and who is wrong. As a result, I don’t have to spend time in the middle and they work harder to resolve their own disputes.
- I expect the same behavior from their friends that I do from them. In my house, the rules are the rules are the rules. I’m all for fun and games and hanging out playing Rock Band or whatever… but if you’re rude, inappropriate, or otherwise misbehaving in my house, you are just as in trouble as the kids I gave birth to. Why does this even matter? Having a double standard is a surefire way to lose their respect.
- I enforce what I expect. I don’t tolerate bad behavior. I don’t tolerate backtalk (debate yes… expressing their own opinion yes… backtalk no). I don’t tolerate bad grades. I don’t tolerate hurtful words being hurled. There is a standard and a code. When they don’t live up to that, I call them on it. Every. Single. Time.
- I listen to them when they talk. Teenagers are notorious for not talking to their parents after a certain age. They clam up and give one word answers to questions. But I’ve learned that if you shut up and listen, they’re talking. They will tell you everything you need to know as long as they aren’t on the defensive. And yes… I DO know how much babble that you have to listen to in order to get to anything meaningful. J It’s just part of the joys of parenting.
- I let them be responsible for their own actions. The single biggest problem I see in teenagers is that they are no longer scared of consequences. SOMEONE will bail them out, fight the school to bump their grade to passing, clean up their chores to keep dad from yelling, buy them replacements for things they wantonly destroyed or simply didn’t care enough to take care of. Screw that. Life is tough. They should learn it while they’re still in the relative safety of “the nest”.
- I encourage them in everything they do. Chorus, French Club, Plays, Talent Shows, Band, ROTC, Karate… if I can make it happen, and they want to pursue it, I do my best to support them. It makes them feel important, heard, cherished. We all need that to boost our confidence in life.
- I trust my parenting skills. I trust them to do what I’ve taught them. I let go of the bike and wait to see if they keep pedaling or if they fall over. If they fall over… at least they’re falling while I’m still here to catch them and NOT when they’re out on their own and the falls are harder.
What say you? Can you add to this list? Disagree with something on here? Let’s chat.