Parenting a teenager is like entering a treacherous world, where one wrong step could result in a weeks of the silent treatment. To navigate safely through your child's teen years, stay focused, find like-minded parents and read these words of advice.
1. You shall not attempt to engage in meaningful conversation in the morning.
Don't even bother trying to talk to your teen at breakfast or on the way to school. It will go badly, resulting in an escalation of frustration that is not healthy before 8 a.m. Short sentences with simple instructions and very few questions are your best conversational gambit.
2. You shall not approve the use of more than two electronic devices simultaneously.
Teens can handle two devices with ease, and they will attempt to add a third into the mix. But once they go to three devices, you've lost all ability to attract their attention in order to "instruct" them. Wild hand gestures, signal corps maneuvers, even pleading faces will fail to penetrate their Cone of Connectivity.
3. You shall not offer commentary about haircuts, hairstyles or haircolors.
Save your judgment for piercings, tats and those giant knob things that some children insist on putting in their earlobes. Let the hair go! In the spectrum of personal grooming offenses committed by teens, hair is relatively impermanent. It grows out—even if it's dyed pink.
4. You shall not offer helpful suggestions on homework management.
Don't you know they've got it under control, Mom? Instead, drop small time-oriented bombshells periodically, like "When you have that math done, we'll have ice cream" or "I put off dinner with grandma this weekend knowing you have a huge history project."
5. You shall not extend curfew beyond midnight.
Nothing good happens after midnight. Nothing. There is no academic, artistic or athletic event worth attending that is held in the wee hours of the morning.
6. You shall not expect a fully functioning frontal cortex.
New research proves that when you ask teens, "What were you thinking?" the answer "I wasn't" is scientifically correct. As if mothers needed science to prove what we've suspected for generations. But knowing that teen brains are still developing and accepting that teen brains are still developing are two different stages. Accept and pray.
7. You shall not believe in the chaperoning abilities of the "older sibling."
The presence of an older sibling is not a guarantee for mature supervision. Chances are "Joey's older sister" or "Tommy's big brother" are also teenagers. Please refer to Commandment 6.
8. You shall eat dinner together as often as you can.
Early evening is about the time that teenagers appear to be most alert and animated. Take advantage of this window to discuss school, friends or college applications. And, if you need more reasons to eat together, studies suggest dinner as a family encourages kids to eat better, stay in school and refrain from drinking and drug use and lowers the risk of teen pregnancy.
9. You shall not hesitate if they call and say they need a ride home from a party.
Grab the car keys first and ask questions later. Be grateful they called you. Respond with concern and compassion.
10. You shall remember that you were 16 once.
Even if the memories of leg warmers and braces make you wince. Or precisely because the memories of your own teen years make you wince. Try to summon up that empathy when they are driving you crazy. It may save you both.
What are your Teen Commandments? Comment below and add your own.
Lian Dolan is a mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, writer and talk show host. She writes and talks about her adventures in modern motherhood for her website, ChaosChronicles.com, and her weekly podcast, The Chaos Chronicles.
Published on April 21, 2010