Teenagers. Do they ever listen? Heed our advice? Think that we’re anything but just dumb grown-ups?
Hey, dad and mom, how many times a day do you ask yourselves these questions in reference to those mysterious creatures living at your house … those teenagers. You ask them a question and their eyes glaze over. You make a request—their brain has set up camp on Neptune. You beg them to pick up their clothes, turn off the lights, set the table, dry the dishes, fold their underwear, fasten their seatbelts, do their homework, stop singing at the table, quit hitting their sister, watch their language … and their response is (D), none of the above. Instead, they crack their gum and peer longingly into their Smarty Pants Phones.
It’s All About Control
You know why this drives you—us—crazy? Much of it has to do with control. We’re gradually losing control of our teenager. Our teenager is gradually pulling away. At the same time, both sides are struggling to kinda … sorta hold on. The realization is that we’re losing our grip. Our kids are doing a test run with their courage and independence, and they are administering a final exam on our patience and endurance.
Many times we parents flunk the exam. Teenagers have the luxury of not responding, of dragging their feet, getting to a task whenever they feel like it. Their responsibilities are few. Most of them haven’t been introduced to the privilege of multitasking. For many, life is a lark. It is to be consumed, refilled, and used up again. (Oh, how we long for those days…)
An Uneven Playing Field
On the other hand, because parents jump on that job treadmill every day, bring home those life-sustaining paychecks, maintain a schedule, cancel that subscription for the fifth time, attend meetings, remember to thaw dinner or serve another microwave feast, serve as taxi drivers, pay bills before their due dates, call Aunt Edna, make, keep or change appointments with a thousand people—and make sure that their beloved teenagers have finished their homework … dear ol’ mom and dad often just don’t have the energy to joust with a rambunctious, rebellious teenager who never sits still.
How do parents pull on the reins hard enough to cause their teenagers to slow down, to notice that they have parents and to listen? Here’s a comforting thought. We don’t know. What we do know from what we have experienced as dads and from our conversations with other parents is that teenagers are involved in a power struggle. They need to fight the folks. “I’m trying to find out who I am. One thing for sure—I’m not like you!”
A teenager’s search for identity can be a difficult journey for everyone involved. As a youngster strives to grab his own reins, his parents feel the control slipping away. Parents, here’s a parting and hopeful thought: When you have thought or said, “We’re losing his/her love,” what’s really happening is you’re losing control—a very natural, but often maddening, transformation.