Counting to teen


Yes that’s right. You read it correctly teen. You see with teenagers in the house there’s no counting to ten or you’ll go on the naughty step/not watch Ben and Holly/not go to the library/not go to the park bribery because it doesn’t work. Teenagers need a different set of rules or words of encouragement each day. At times it feels like nothing works.

My girls (not kids they might be stubborn but they’re not goats, although I am fond of goats) are 16, 14 and 10 (that’s ten not tween which is one of those terms I can’t use because it’s too sugary and reminds me of Tweenies and then I think back to when my teenagers were smaller and weren’t teenagers). I’ve had the “oh my god 3 girls”, the “bet you want a boy next” and the “weddings will be expensive in your house” helpful remarks which are up there with the others like “only one more child to go through the teenage years” but the most unhelpful comment ever is the “remember what you were like as a teenager?”. That’s not helpful one bit, because when I was a teenager I wasn’t a parent and it’s very different.

My girls are all very different and our parenting style (or lack of) is as individual as the child we’re cuddling, cajoling or chastising. As we try different things with them as babies so we try things with them as teenagers. Trial and error. At least a non sleeping baby wouldn’t stamp its feet, or a hungry baby wouldn’t slam doors when there’s nothing to eat (because they’ve eaten everything).

Parenting teenagers is a completely different chapter and nothing prepares you for it. Subtle changes happen in body, mind and attitude. Children are inbetween phases (for girls the next big change to their body is motherhood and then menopause – no bloody wonder they’re angsty!) and it’s hard for them to appreciate, not only that but their bodies are going through the most mental changes. It’s not like being ill and you’ll get better if you follow the prescribed route as there isn’t a prescribed route, there’s not even a suggested map.

I’ve said before I’m no expert and parenting teens will never be my chosen specialised subject but there’s a few ways to make it more bearable and they include drinking wine, grandparents, giving in or going out! Only joking. Am I??

I use my police training and the PAT (problem analysis triangle) to explain how a problem could be sorted and that it is much like a triangle, there’s three sides to a triangle and if one side is removed there’s no triangle and therefore no problem. For example (Side No 1) Teenager {annoyed} (Side No 2) there’s no clean mugs (Side No 3) they’re all in the dishwasher. By emptying the dishwasher the triangle collapses, the mug cupboard is full and the teenager is happy. Until someone else uses the mug they wanted to use and then that’s a different set of negotiation tricks as the parents are caught in the crossfire and can only be settled by a Nobel Peace Prize, I’m surely due a few!!

But taking all frivolity and high jinkery aside I’ve found coping strategies when dealing with teenagers …..

Listen when they tell you something earth shattering however dull or repetitive. Keep the lines of communication open. It makes me smile to be asked “what have you done today” when the house is tidy, the cupboards are full and I’ve been cooking, but it’s conversation.

Be honest with them about addiction. Not only did I tell my girls about how addictions ruin lives I also took them to see the performance of Mum can you lend me twenty quid based on Elizabeth Burton-Phillip’s book.

Don’t take sides in their arguments with their friends, by all means listen to tales of friendship disagreements but don’t wade in as you’ll only make it worse.

By all means mother them but they’re not babies so don’t smother them. They’ve had their baby phase and the teenage years are a different bag of frogs.

Remind them how to use the washing machine, they’ll thank you for it. I’ve stopped using the washing machine after 6pm on a Sunday as a whole weekend has gone by and washing, tumbling and ironing isn’t my treat at 9pm.

Make sure the cupboards are full. Not just food but toiletries.

Don’t try and be their friend, you’re not. No honestly you’re not. You’re their parent and by putting yourself on a par with them the parent/child balance is skewed.

Surround yourself with good friends – you’ll know who they are when they know what to say with just a nod as they push the glass of wine and then the bottle your way.

But above all breathe, it’s testing but they’ll be parents one day and you’ll be grandparents! Karma.


3 responses »

  1. Fab post, thanks. With two boys, I suspect there are some differences in my family dynamic, but also a lot of similarities. There was trouble here yesterday when we had run out of ‘pudding’ ie biscuits. Sadly, my 8yo daughter finished tea last, just after the boys had wiped out the cupboards. I suspect that however much we stock up, things will disappear anyway! The mug scenario reminded me an awful lot of toddlers!

    • Thanks! The running out of things is quite honestly a crime. I am apparently a rubbish mother for not having a hidden stock of snacks and (this is the bit that made me angry) I’m a rubbish cook! Cooking wholesome, delicious food from scratch is being a rubbish mother apparently!!

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