As we all know and regret deeply, kids aren’t born with instruction manuals informing us of the intricacies of how they work. As parents, our only option is to learn as we go. When our kids were babies, we learned to nap when they napped, to put valuables up on the high shelves, and that M&Ms make excellent bribing tools when potty training. But now that your baby is no longer a baby (although he still may act that way from time to time), there is a whole new set of instructions to learn.
Parenting a teenager is a full-time job, because being a teenager is also a full-time job. Sure, they may busy themselves with school, sports, and text-messaging, but their true raison-d’etre is to perpetuate their teenager-ness 24/7. Which means while you are slacking off doing things like breathing and living, your teenagers are doing things like plotting and scheming. (They will throw in some sleeping as well, what with being teenagers and all.) Because their lives are all about them, and yours is all about working, cooking, cleaning, paying the taxes, and still finding time for Dancing with the Stars, they have the upper hand.
Were you ever a lifeguard? Me neither. As Woody Allen once said, I don’t tan; I stroke. But as any lifeguard will tell you, the biggest threat to their personal safety is not a riptide or a shark. It’s a swimmer in trouble. Yes, the very person they are dedicated to help will, in their own panic and hysteria, threaten to destroy them both. Sound familiar? That’s because you’re the parent of a teenager.
When babies, your children caused you to become sleep deprived, overwhelmed, and drink excessively. Now that they’re older, they still cause you to become sleep deprived, overwhelmed, and drink excessively. As you’ve heard, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and that holds true for parenting as well. So how do you survive? How do you get through each day with the constant screaming, crying, and demands (I’m talking about from your teens, not your babies). You follow the rules, of course. For as lost as you may feel parenting your teens, there are some guidelines to follow to help you keep your sanity. Or, what’s left of your sanity after parenting for so many years.
Therefore, to help you deal with your troublesome teen, keep the following rules in mind:
The Ten Commandments of Parenting Teenagers:
- You are always right. And if you’re not always right, it’s because your parents messed you up when you were a kid
- Praise in public, criticize in private. Most people do the opposite. Don’t be like most people.
- Yes, you do have to tell them a thousand times. Stop counting and get over it. Now tell them again.
- Your teens are smarter than you think, and stronger than you realize. So don’t go acting all superior just because you have wrinkles and credit cards.
- Remember they are growing up a lot faster than you did. Advantage, you. Growing up fast is way overrated.
- When they really screw up is when they need you most. If your parents comforted you in those situations, remember how good it felt? And if they didn’t, remember how much worse it made you feel?
- Their defeats are 50 percent yours, but their victories are 100 percent theirs. Not exactly sure what that means, it showed up in a fortune cookie. But it feels true.
- Remind yourself, they won’t be teenagers forever. Someday you will look back on these years and laugh. Definitely. Probably. Maybe.
- Love them enough to let them hate you. Don’t be their friend. Be their parent. Friends come and go. You’re all-in.
- Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you bleed internally.
- (Bonus Commandment) You can do this.
If you keep these commandments in mind, you’ll be much better equipped to tread through the dangerous road of teen-hood. These rules will enable you to survive the tough times filled with defiance, rebellion, and constant eye-rolling. Like anything else from working a remote control to getting through airport security, familiarizing yourself with the rules will makes things run much smoother (although I still manage to carry-on some forbidden article like one too many ounces of liquid, that sends me straight to the frisking area). Print out this list of commandments and keep it close. Stick it on the fridge for battles at home. Keep it in your wallet to for troubles on-the-go. And remember, if you can manage to get through this difficult stage of raising teenagers, in a few years when they move out, you’ll be rewarded with a lovely spare bedroom to convert into your dream room!