Sometimes the best place to start is with our mistakes so here’s a list of classic teen parenting mishaps. Fortunately, children are really good at letting us know when we’re getting it wrong! See how many you recognise:
- – Treat your adolescent as the lazy, sullen, directionless, moody, ungrateful person we know all teens to be
- – Never think back to when you were her age and how it felt
- – Start her day by chiding your child if she is monosyllabic, disorganised and late in the mornings
- – Hassle her while she’s in the bathroom taking too long
- – If she’s rude, assume that she needs you to point it out, so she’ll change her ways
- – Buy sugary breakfast foods to kick-start her day with a zing
- – Impress on her the importance of doing well in the test today
- – Make her wear that waterproof coat she hates
- – Text to tell her that you found her wet towel on the floor, again
- – Give her money for sugary snacks to keep her going through the day
- – The moment she walks in the door, give her chores and remind her not to leave her bag where she drops it
- – Suggest she does her homework straight away
- – If you sense that something’s troubling her, sit her down and insist she tells you what it is
- – If she ever starts to tell you about something that’s upsetting her interrupt with your own story to prove you know exactly what she’s talking about and offer her your wise advice
- – If she’s worried about homework or exams, give her lots of tips for good technique
- – When you’re worried about her, don’t talk to anyone else about it
- – When her behaviour troubles you, see her as being in the wrong
- – Tell her everything that she’s doing badly, so she knows what to change
- – Tell her again if she doesn’t change
- – Eat junk food, never exercise, drink and stay up late yourself
- – Never smile at her or touch her
- – Make sure you’re never alone together, with time on your hands
- – Never eat family meals together, insist everyone eats at different times, takes their food to their rooms or in front of a screen
- – If her behaviour gets on your nerves, tell her to stop
- – When she’s worried about something, tell her about some really big adult worries to put her concerns into perspective
- – If she wears clothes you don’t like, ban her from leaving the house
- – When you don’t like her friends, tell her what’s wrong with them
- – Leave wifi on at night and give her a phone to take to bed with her
- – Finish her day with a bit of a grumble about all she hasn’t done that day
- – And if we really want to mess up, then tell her you can’t wait until she’s old enough to leave home.
It’s quite a list, but by no means exhaustive. I’ve done all these things, except perhaps the last one. Parenting a teenager really can bring out the very worst in us. But that’s because it’s challenging. Under pressure, we all mess up. But that’s okay because parenting is a process, so we get lots of chances to get it right, in a Groundhog Day kind of way.
Kids’ behaviour usually tells us when they need a different kind of parenting from us, and that’s when we need to call on outside support. Whether you find your guidance from other parents, books or the internet, parenting a teen is not a job to be done alone. Not if you’re going to do it well. Which you can.
Teenagers are great people and you can have a terrific time parenting one! It can be a fulfilling time of increasing closeness, even as they move away. Teenagers are exciting, thought-provoking and vulnerable. They are at a wonderfully interesting stage full of self-exploration and discovery, and I have an optimistic view of parents’ and teachers’ ability to guide them through this phase of their lives. These fickle and often exasperating young people really can transform into the visionaries and creators of the future. We are privileged to play a part in setting them on their path into that future.
Kim McCabe is the author of From Daughter to Woman: Parenting girls safely through their teens (Robinson). She is founder and director of Rites for Girls which, since 2011, has offered year-long Girls Journeying Together groups, support for mothers and training for women wanting to support girls. Kim’s vision is that every girl grows up expecting guidance as she matures and knowing that there’s a Girls Journeying Together group near to where she lives.
From Daughter to Woman: Parenting girls safely through their teens by Kim McCabe is published by Robinson How To