Yep, we all do it. So let's have a little fun looking at our "parent fails"- those moments of parenting gone awry where we had the best of intentions but no guide to tell us exactly what to do. Those "oh no, did I just do that or say that? moments are inevitable if you are a parent who is deeply immersed in the parenting game. And, during this game wrong and awkward moves are bound to happen, REPEATEDLY.
Parent fails can and do happen in a variety of ways and fall into a number of categories. My observations and work with teens and their parents lead me initially into the land of "Did I really just say that?" The minute the words leave your mouth you find yourself wishing that you could stuff them right back in but it's too late and the words have already left an impression on your sweethearts. Let me also reassure you that even though you may try to repress what you have said that your kids will be all too happy to remind you, maybe even for years after, about exactly what you said. Perhaps, a time will come when the two of you can laugh looking back though. I sure hope so.
A. What are the most common phrases that you'll regret ever having said? Consider this partial list:
1. "You are too sensitive." Really, she was just tormented by her peers and you are handily dismissing her bruised feelings. Bad idea. She is unlikely to open up to you again about her vulnerabilities.
2. "Just ignore him." You think it's easy to ignore. Have you been able to do that? It is not the human condition to ignore things and to not take things personally. If something is said to us then it is usually intended to reach us on some visceral or emotional level.
3. "Because I said so." What exactly does that teach your child? Are your words that powerful or are you simply letting them know that you are tired of dealing with them. These words sound rather dismissive to me.
4. "Your brother got straight A's in that class." So, you are trying to foster sibling rivalry. Way to go. You are on the right track. Keep it up and your kids will start hating each other.
5. "I don't know where you came from." Honestly, you don't know where your child came from. Well, whose fault is that and you are trying to imply that you had expected a better child? YIKES.
B. What are the things that you will assume about your child that might also fall under that rubric of parent fails?
1. "My child would never be mean to another child." Hold on. Just as parents make mistakes so do kids. And, if we acknowledge that they, like us, are less than perfect then we can help our kids with behavioral corrections and adjustments.
2."My child is too smart to do anything stupid on the computer." Please rethink that one. There is so much room for misjudgment and mistakes when using technology.
3. "Not my kid." Maybe your kid will get wasted at a party but mine is just not that foolish. Think again because your child is just that a child.
4. "My teens love that I'm like a friend to them." Nope,this is not true. They want you to be a parent. Hopefully, they have friends and need you to be a nurturing authority figure. Yes, nurturing and setting limits and expectations can co-exist. Also, do yourself a favor and do not share their clothing. It is their turn to be a teen not yours. You had your teen years, remember.
5. "My teens just don't want to talk to me anymore." It is easy to see how you'd think this since they are often surly and unresponsive but, in fact, they do want to talk to you-just at the right moments, when they are ready, and in their own way.
C. What are the things that you should learn about that you have ignored because you have so much on your plate?
1. Maybe you have bought your kids all of the latest technology but have failed to learn about how it works. This is not a good idea. Get a tutorial in all things technological. This seems so scary. If I was able to do it then so can you. I am no technological wizard but I can now proudly say that I know that a tweet is more than a sound that a bird makes.
2. Learn about the teen trends. Kids get angry when they feel that their parents are clueless about their culture. This is especially true of teens. Keep in mind that you may be aghast when you learn of some of these trends. It is necessary,though, that you be aware of them so that you can talk to your kids intelligently and based on what teens are doing in 2012 rather than what we did in our teen years. Bob Dylan was right when he sang about "how the times they are a changing."
3.Try to get to know their friends' parents. They may not like this but this is your parental responsibility. And, if you have suspicions that there are parents who may be comfortable serving alcohol to your minors ten check out your hunches. There is a lot of information that can be acquired by getting to know the parents. I'm not suggesting that you bring them into your inner circle of friends but simply that you find opportunities to get to know who they are and what their belief systems are.
4. Get to know their friends before blaming them for your child's misbehavior. You may wrongly assume that they are influencing your kids negatively when ,in fact, the reverse may be true. And, if you judge a friend that you don't know-I can guarantee that you will be seen as judgmental and your child will shut down even more. This is certainly not the outcome that you are looking for.
5. Learn why they may be lying to you. They may be afraid of disappointing you or upsetting you in some other manner. You may be punishing them too harshly in the heat of the moment. Do not assume that they are simply trying to consistently get away with things,. This explanation rarely accounts for lying unless you have a child who is deeply immersed in trouble like using or dealing drugs.
I certainly don't want to flood you with more PARENT FAILS because the goal here is to have you become more aware of what might be helpful. My goal is certainly not to have you disparage yourself and crawl into the fetal position on the closest couch that you can find only to emerge when your kids are in their 20's. Most of us are doing many things right and good. Perhaps we can delve into that in a part 2 article when you are ready to come up for air.
More from GalTime:
- Parents Hosting Teen Drinking Parties
- Are You Giving Your Teen a Headache... Literally?
- 5 Reasons to Trust Your Gut when Raising Your Kids
- 6 Ways to Beat the Stress Out of Your Life
Barbara Greenberg and Jennifer Powell-Lunder are authors of the hit book, "Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual." They've set up an interactive website for parents and teens to listen, learn and discuss hot topics and daily dilemmas. You can find it at www.talkingteenage.com.