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Barbara Greenberg Headshot

Teens and Parents: A Role Reversal, Anyone?

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Just mention the word "teenager" and the hairs on the back of parental necks stand up. "Oh no!" we hear in unison, "I am not looking forward to those years."

I have bad news for you: Your kids inevitably turn into teens, and I hear one well-intentioned but bedraggled and befuddled parent after another lament about their daily frustrations. The teens stop talking; they won't answer questions; they distance themselves from the family and they just make parents feel oh-so useless. Oh man, just try asking them about their friendships and/or love lives and you'd think that you had just done the most horrible thing on earth. Suggest that they do their homework and now you've really gone and done it, and you're lucky if your kid will even look at you for the rest of the day and night to say nothing about tomorrow. The question "How was your day?" leads you to feel like you have just stepped into a minefield. Doors slam and eyes roll. The irony here is with adults, if someone asked us how their day was and was actually interested in the answer, we would be thrilled, correct? We all say "fine" when things are not really so fine, because that is what we assume everyone wants to hear, right? If only someone stuck around to hear the real answer, we'd be thrilled. At least, I know that I would. I'd have so much to talk about, including the nuances and minutiae of my day. Hmm. Maybe that's why no one sticks around for the answer. Perhaps they just don't have time. I will consider this possibility after I finish my musings about the parent/teen arena of life.

I would like just for a few minutes of your time today to introduce you to a new way of looking at teen behavior. Maybe we can all learn something while having a few laughs. Let's imagine that our teen children were adults and they were doing to us what we do to them.

Consider:

1. We come home from an exhausting day. We are both hungry, tired and are being followed around the house and barraged by questions about our day, how we performed, whether or not we experienced any stressful interactions or any moments of pride. How would we feel? I hope that I'm not being presumptuous when I assume that we, like the teens, would head for the nearest private room and do anything that we could to escape this mental and physical intrusion. We would want to get some space before approaching any of these topics.

2. Imagine that our teens asked us repeatedly if we had any preparation or important meetings or appointments for the next day and that they wanted to know when we were going to do that preparation. That would be the equivalent of checking up on our kids' homework.

3. Our teens are not sure that they like our husband/wife who is their mother or father and demand that we end that relationship immediately. They tell us that we are too good for that other half and that if our self-esteem was better than surely, we would have chosen a different partner and a different parent for them.

4. We come home from a party and our teens want to know exactly who was there, whether or not there was any alcohol and whether or not anyone was drinking and driving. Additionally -- and certainly -- they follow up with whether or not we were texting and driving or talking on our cell phones while we were driving. And, who could blame them?

AND

5. Our teens want to know how we are getting along with our bosses, sort of like how we inquire about their relationships with teachers and coaches. Yep, they would tell us that we need to learn to get along with all sorts of personality types. Or, they might insist on calling a boss who has treated us unfairly.

So, what do you think parents? Would you rather be a teen or a parent at this point? xo