A Mother and Daughter Exchange Do's and Don'ts
A mothers ...
1. Do remember the old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same!” Instead of thinking that your parents just don’t understand, try to take the perspective that they may have had similar experiences and feelings as teens – the external circumstances were just different. Here is an example: Yale freshmen were upset at the music being provided at mealtime and so they “ ... shuffled out into Berkeley Oval and lighted bonfires, scampered into New Haven streets ringing fire alarms, pulling down trolley poles, pushing automobiles from their parking places, nagging, taunting, thumb nosing at policemen ... ” Does this remind you of the riot after the MSU Final Four basketball game in 1999? It sounds similar, doesn’t it? This quote is from the March 15, 1926, issue of Time Magazine and these freshmen would be 92 years old now! So, open up to your parents. You may find out that they understand the feelings of a teenager more than you expect them to!
2. Do take time to think over the most appropriate way to express how you feel to your parents. Put yourself in your parents’ place for a minute and imagine someone coming up to you saying, “You guys don’t have a clue about what is going on with me and my friends, so just stay out of it.” The first reaction on hearing this is to become defensive and resistant to what is coming next. Try using sentences that begin with “I feel ... ” instead of “You are ... ” Parents are more likely to listen carefully when they don’t feel under attack.
3. Do keep in mind the fact that you and your parents are on the same team! Most of the time parents and teens have the same goals. Do you want a future filled with joy and contentment? Do you want the opportunity to develop your gifts and talents, the parts of you that make you unique? Parents long for all these things, too, and they struggle to come up with the best way to help you realize these goals.
1. Don’t expect the world to be fair. Psychologists use the term “immanent justice” to describe the sense that young children have about the world being fair. It means that children expect an immediate (just) response when a rule is broken or when something isn’t fair. Teens and adults also find it difficult when life isn’t fair. Why does one high school student have to face treatment for cancer when his best friend is playing three sports in the best of health? We don’t have the answers to these questions, but we do have God’s eternal love to help us through these times.
2. Don’t expect your parents to treat you and your siblings in exactly the same way. All of us are unique and it doesn’t take parents long to realize that children respond in different ways. Your parents don’t just influence you – in many ways, you influence them as well. Parents may need to change their rules and decisions based on the personality and behavior of each child. Also, family circumstances change. Allow your parents the freedom of trying to make decisions as best they can rather than trying to have everything end up the same for each sibling!
3. Don’t be afraid of the word “obedience.” This word really isn’t all that bad if you go back to the Latin roots: “ob” means “before” and “audire” means “to hear.” When you are obedient to someone you are willing to stand before them and hear what they have to say. If you listen attentively it is quite likely that your parents will feel comfortable hearing your point of view as well. Remember, your parents are trying hard to be obedient to God’s will, too.
One Last Comment – Parent to Parent!
Don’t panic! It is scary, at times, watching the decisions that our teenagers make. We may feel that we know the best path for teenagers to follow, but adolescents must begin to make their own commitments and plans. Approach your children with gentle guidance, knowing that they are in our Lord’s hands. God’s love for them is infinite and if they turn from God on one occasion, God will offer other opportunities to grow in faith. As the Gospel of Matthew 6:34 tells us, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
A daughters ...
1. Make time to ‘just talk’ everyday. It’s easy to do and it’s much more pleasant to recognize these problems before they explode into major issues. The content won’t matter as much as the fact that you’re talking. It won’t matter if you discuss philosophy or baseball, the fact is that you are talking and spending quality time together. When trouble arises, you will already have a habit of talking to one another.
2. Be supportive and open-minded toward your teen’s friends. They may not be the friends that you would have picked for us, but put trust in your parenting and in what we’ve learned at church. Remember that old cliché, “You can’t judge a book by the cover.” Maybe that person with a pierced eyebrow seems a little shady, but inside he or she may be deeply spiritual and will be able to accompany us on our path to Christ.
3. Be a good role model for your teen. If you want us to accept your faith, practice it and don’t make exceptions in it for yourself. I know someone whose dad dropped him off at the door to the church and then sat in the car reading a newspaper. What kind of example does that set? Use alcohol in an appropriate manner if you expect us to. It is very easy for teens to justify their behavior by thinking to themselves, “Well, mom and dad drink, so why shouldn’t I?” There are lots of temptations in life – it helps us to see how you deal with them.
1. Don’t ever start a sentence with the words, “When I was your age ... ” You aren’t our age and times have changed since you were. The situations that your generation faced are different from those that our generation faces. For example, you never had the need to worry about school shootings. Last year, after the Columbine shootings, there were threats at my high school. The police began checking up on our school, and any student who mentioned anything violent was investigated by the school and the police. This created a very stressful environment, one my parents never experienced.
2. Don’t expect us to express our relationship with God in the same way that you do. Our concept of God is likely to be different from yours. More teens than adults are able to accept the concept of God as a nurturing mother and a just father. We may also have a different way of communicating with God. Many of my friends find God not only in church but also in their music or their writing or their art.
3. Don’t forget to say, “I love you.” One of the sweetest things anyone has ever said to me came from the lips of a 3-year-old I baby-sit. Right before naptime she called me into her room and said, “Erin, you are the cutest beanstalk that I ever did see.” Everyone needs these reminders in their lives, that they are the “cutest beanstalk” and it means a lot to hear it coming from your parents, also. Childhood nicknames act as a bond between parent and teen. My dad still calls me “Erooney-toons” every once in a while. He sounds like a nerd but it is also very endearing. He is the “cutest little nerd I ever did see.”
One Last Comment – Teen to Teen
Try to remember that your parents have good intentions most of the time – even though it may be difficult to understand their decisions. Rather than becoming frustrated, it may be helpful to talk to another adult. For example, while my friends may use my parents as mentors, I’ve found that it is easier to talk to a more neutral party. I baby-sit in the church nursery every Sunday and have become very close to not only the children but also their parents. One, Nancy, has become a great friend when I need adult advice but I don’t want to give my parents the satisfaction of being right. Nancy may say the exact same thing as my parents but it is easier to heed her advice than theirs.
A Do’s & Don’ts Guide: From Both Parents and Teens
As part of our Parent/Teen Forum, we asked teens and parents to come up with a Do’s and Don’ts Guide – you know, those things that really push buttons and can lead to heated arguments. Hopefully this guide will help both teens and parents open up and communicate.
Do’s for Parents: A Teen’s Perspective
• Be open to our opinions.
• Give us space.
• Remember what it was like when you were our age.
• Trust us to make the right decision based on the knowledge you’ve given us.
Don’ts for Parents: A Teen’s Perspective
• Judge us against your experiences when you were our age.
• Contradict yourself.
• Baby us – if the world isn’t fair, let us learn that.
• Leave us without an explanation.
Do’s for Teens: A Parent’s Perspective
• Be responsive to questions.
• Understand responsibility.
• Communicate regularly with your parents.
• Remember your family is forever, while friends may come and go.
Don’ts for Teens: A Parent’s Perspective
• Have false expectations of others.
• Assume you think you know how we are going to react or what we will say.
• Speak until you think about how your words will impact others.