Not your namby-pamby teenage parenting advice column
I was quite annoyed this morning to read this recent advice column about parenting teenagers by Lisa Damour, entitled The Best Way to Fight With a Teenager. In first four paragraphs of this column, she never talks about what parents do, only what teenagers do. An excerpt:
As if adolescents actually favor refusing to engage in disagreements. What a ridiculous notion.
Actually, it’s more like this: parents regularly attack and/or discipline their children for thinking differently, having dissenting voices, and generally speaking trying to establish their independence. I’m not going out on a limb when I propose the majority of teenagers who “refuse to engage” are reacting entirely rationally to being previously shut down for expressing an ounce of opinion.
Parents think that they have difficult teenagers, but the reverse is just as often the case: teenagers have difficult parents. Instead of a column for parents to think about all the dysfunctional ways their teenagers deal with disagreement, there should be a book for teenagers to learn how to deal with parents who cannot deal with being challenged. Maybe I’ll write it.
I’ll go further, in fact. Teenagers are easier to deal with if for parents who like their views challenged and who can react positively to having their hypocrisies pointed out to them. Because that’s what teenagers do, and god bless them, they are the most honest critics in the world. By the time they’re grown up they’ve learned to lie to make people feel better, but I’d rather spend time with a teenager any day of the week.
So, here’s my parenting advice, folks: listen to your teenager, because he or she is probably telling you something honest and true, in fact something so honest and so true that you can barely recognize it and it sometimes hurts. Don’t kill the messenger.