When I asked a good friend whether there's anything she regrets saying in front of her teenager, she responded "pretty much everything I've ever said." Since I have three teenagers -- ages 13, 15 and 19 -- I know what she means. When it comes to efforts to engage in meaningful conversation with any one of them, I've often failed by talking at them instead of with them. I've been guilty of saying "look how well your brother does his homework" when I know it's hurtful to compare children in this way. I've also been guilty of saying "you can't imagine the day I've had" when all my kids really wanted was for me to be present and to pay attention.
Yet there also are plenty of things I never want to hear from my teenagers as well. For example, my 13-year-old daughter has been lobbying for weeks to get her nose pierced. Pierced ears on her 13th birthday? No problem. But a full nose ring? That's a line in the sand. The answer has remained -- and will remain -- absolutely not.
The exchange -- on top of many others -- has led me to think about the other things I wish I didn't have to hear from my kids. I've made a list of five of them below. How about you? What do you never want to hear from your teenager? Let us know in comments.
1) "You just think I've been on Facebook all this time. I switched to SnapChat and Instagram ages ago."
You mean I only thought I was being a good parent by monitoring your social media usage all these months? Yep. So, I ask, "why do I still see your posts from time to time?" "Oh mom. That's because every once in awhile I share the photos I don't mind you seeing from my Instagram account." Really, I should have known better. A recent study found that there are 3 million fewer teens on Facebook now than in 2011. Note to self: Get Instagram and SnapChat accounts -- now.
2) "Just wait until I'm 18 and I can do anything I want."
What do some teenagers think? That we're going to throw them a ticker-tape parade and abdicate all authority the minute they blow out their candles? The truth is, no matter how old your child, I believe you still have the right to enforce the rules of your house -- at least when your teenager is still at home. Obviously kids will earn more privileges as they age. But being 18 doesn't give them free rein to run amok under the family roof.
3) "Just give me another minute."
This phrase -- muttered as your teen is finishing up yet another text message to a friend -- indicates a brush-off. Sure, if it's really just a minute, well, that's okay. But if that minute turns into 15 minutes, that's just not acceptable. For me, being actively engaged in my teens' lives trumps everything else. But it has to involve a little bit of effort on their parts as well.
4) "Geometry is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Could you please just email the teacher to see if you can get me out of it?"
Uh, no. Your class, your challenge to work through. No doubt parents mean well when they step in to fight their kid's battles. But doing so only sends the message that we don't believe they're capable of solving problems by themselves. We can empathize and we can even role play. But ultimately -- in my opinion -- we want to empower our kids by allowing them to resolve conflicts without our help.
5) "Lots of people didn't go to college mom. Look at Lindsay Lohan. She never went to college."
If my teenager is going to make this argument, at least he or she should point to someone I actually have some respect for such as Steve Jobs, who dropped out of Reed College to become the mastermind behind all things Apple, or Ellen DeGeneres, who fled the University of New Orleans after a year of studying communications. But Lindsay Lohan? Better start filling out those applications.