I Know Nothing! Parenting in the Teen Years

Have you ever said the wrong thing when dealing with your teenager or their friends. Do you say things that embarrass them? Do you ever wish you could take back the things you’ve said? I know I have, more times than I’d like to admit! In my family, I’m not known for my tact. I’m a pretty straightforward person. If there is something I want to know about someone, I ask. If I feel I need to tell someone something, I do. I usually say pretty much what’s on my mind. While this “open mouth” policy works for me, it doesn’t always work for my teenagers. As my kids have grown, I’ve learned that there is definitely a time to keep my mouth shut – even if it almost kills me!

When my daughter was in grade school, I was a “Kool-Aid” mom. Her friends would come over and I’d chat with them and get to know them real well. I could ask about their families, where they went to church, what their hobbies were, how their grades were. I could tell them about our family and our latest adventures in living. But as soon as she entered Middle School, the rules changed. No longer could I ask her friends questions about their families nor could I talk about ours. In fact, if I discussed more than “name, rank, and serial number” with her friends I was given “The Look”. You know the one, that says “Oh, Mom! Stop it! It’s none of your business. You are EMBARRASSING me!”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it is wrong for a parent of teens to want to know basic information about a friend. We still want to know about a friend’s character, their family background, and other miscellaneous information. But as our children enter adolescence and grow into adulthood, we need to be more careful on how we get our information. We need to respect their privacy and I’ve found when I don’t meet their friends with a barrage of questions, my kids will gladly give me the information I’m seeking.

Another way the rules have changed deal with phone calls. First, there is the mistake of giving out too much information. When my kids were young I could just say something like, “No, Jeni’s not home, she’s over Mara’s house….” and all was well. Now if I were to give that message (and I have) I would hear “Mom, did you HAVE to say where I was”. *Sigh* …name, rank, and serial number – and no more! Then there is the mistake of just talking too much to their friends when they call. The other day, my oldest boy got a phone call from a girl – not a frequent experience. He’s a junior in high school, but has never been very interested in dating or girls until recently. Well, this girl called – a girl who is an acquaintance of my daughters – and she asked for my son. I was surprised and taken off guard. “You want TJ?” , I inquired. “You don’t want Jeni? That’s odd”, I continued, “He doesn’t get many calls from girls….” Immediately I knew I’d crossed the line. I thought to myself, “Oh no! Did I really just say that? If I could only I could take those words back! Well, maybe he won’t find out.” No such luck. That’s the first thing the girl told him when they talked. Needless to say, I was in the doghouse for that one.

So what’s a parent of teens to do? As for me, I’ve decided that I will try being more closed-mouthed and less free with the information I give out to the friends of my teens. “No they are not home leave a number and I will have them call you back…” “Yes, he’s here, let me get him for you….” No personal information, no excessive chatting. While it is going to be hard, I have decided I will become like Sergeant Schultz of “Hogan’s Heroes” fame….”I know NOTHING……NOTHING!”


Patricia Chadwick is a a freelance writer and has been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years. She is currently a columnist in several online publications as well as editor of two email newsletters. Parents & Teens is a twice monthly newsletter geared to help parents connect with their teens. Subscribe at www.parentsandteens.com or by sending a blank email to: subscribe-parent-teen@ds.xc.org. History’s Women is weekly online magazine highlighting the extraordinary achievements of women. Subscribe at www.historyswomen.com/subscribe.html or by sending a blank email to: subscribe-h-w@ds.xc.org

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