Many fathers often deal with a pressure cooker at work. Patience can grow thin and perspective can shrink. Little things get under your skin in a big way. A tolerable co-worker becomes a banshee. An inconvenience becomes a roadblock. Deadlines scream at you. The workload exceeds its weight limit. You’re no longer your cheerful, easy-to-get-along-with, lovable self.
The Dreaded Eyeroll
So when you get home, late again, and suggest that your teenager should clean up the chocolate ice cream spill on the new carpet in the upstairs bonus—the room with the new carpet that is off limits to teenagers with liquids or sticky desserts of any kind—you’re not too pleased when you get the universally loathed eyeroll. You feel steam escaping from your ears as you remove all sharp objects from your mind and try to find some perspective.
And then a cell phone goes off, and your teenager holds up a hand and announces, “I gotta take this,” bounds down the hall and disappears. You, dear dad, have been dismissed. Or is it “dissed?” Other family members quietly back away as they watch in wonderment at your meltdown. You imagine 12 members of the jury — all teenagers.
Scooping The Poop
“All I do is scoop the poop,” one poetic father told us and several nodded in agreement. It is in the comfort and solace of home where the scoopers would appreciate being appreciated for the poop they scoop. So when dads discover that they’re still in the poop business at home because of unappreciative daughters or ungrateful sons, they tend to lose it. Kids can’t understand because they’ve not experienced the world of the office or shop where one’s self-esteem can take a thrashing. Kids only know need. By their very nature, they’re takers, not givers. They can’t help it. They don’t appreciate the expensive, new carpet and don’t understand that a well-timed thank-you can extend a father’s life another two, three hours. They cannot conceive of the idea that to follow house rules—like no food in the bonus room—is not a parental strategy to be bossy and keep them under thumb. Rules help to maintain order and sanity.
How do you make it clear to your teen that showing respect isn’t simply following rules and taking orders—but it is honoring the home, the comforts, the conveniences and the new carpet that mom and dad have worked hard for and will continue to work hard for because that’s what parents do?
We discovered in our conversations with a lot of dads that two words, respect and appreciation, are really important to fathers. And, yep, those words really are important to teenagers. It works both ways.