By the time we find ourselves mothers or fathers to teens, we are usually experienced parents. We’ve walked bare spots onto our floors getting babies to sleep, separated arguing siblings, cleaned up spilled and thrown food, endured homework battles, and so much more. We laugh to remember those days when we actually read parenting manuals (you know, the ones we tossed into recycling bins after they failed to sell two yard sales ago). In general, we feel like we at least kind of know what we’re doing.
And then, one day, we looked up to find men- or women-children in our houses. We have Teenagers.
Teenagers call for a different approach to parenting, because they aren’t like the little kids we previously raised. One minute they’re like friends in conversation, discussing the refugee crisis in Europe. The next minute, slave to hormones they don’t understand, they’ve kicked shut doors, screamed in frustration and made you wish you could hop on a plane to a secret deserted island until they turn twenty-one because you said no, there will be no pizza for dinner tonight. And while the triggers for their rages may not seem like big deals to you, neither does coming home thirty minutes after curfew without calling seem like a big deal to them. Come on, you know you can trust them. After all, it’s not like they would ever do “anything stupid.”
How do we parent these proto-adults? In our house, respect is still the first rule. The kids are expected to demonstrate it to us and to each other, and they receive it from us as well. But how do we translate that into day-to-day parenting at this new stage in all of our lives?
There are numerous answers to that question, but I found one that was so good I have to share it with you. Lisa Damour recently wrote a piece on the NYT Motherlode blog asking how you, as a parent, would respond if your teen dropped a tidbit of news that someone he knew was selling prescription drugs. She laid out three possible options for a response and drew a conclusion as to which option is the best. As a person of strong opinions who often shoots my mouth off as soon as I hear something, I found Lisa’s approach so thoughtful and so in keeping with the foundation of mutual respect with which I’m trying to raise my kids that I’ve printed it out and will be keeping it by my desk as a reminder.
And now I’ll stop writing so you can read her column. Jump back when you’re done and tell us what you think.