There’s an article over at Momtourage.com, which usually has its head screwed on straight, that SOBUMD reviewed, retched, and had the Human Tape Recorder read as well. She also made gagging noises, and I was forced to step in. The article purports to review 15 things that should be said daily during your child’s teen years. Needless to say, I can’t recommend most of these.
1. No one will ever love you in the same way or have your best interests at heart more than your mom/dad and I will. Crap. This tells them that you and you alone are the only person they should ever trust, setting you up as an authority figure from on high. You sound like a bully. Are you unsure of your position as a parent? Why do you need to tell this to your child, or even to yourself? You are not infallible, and having their best interests at heart will not make you smarter.
2. You have so many gifts and options; I will help you capitalize/benefit from them as best I can. First, see above. Then ask yourself how that would sound if someone said it to you, today. This sounds like pressuring someone to stop JUST SITTING THERE and go out and do something with your life because I know I didn’t and god I wish someone had kicked my ass into gear when I was your age, do you know I won that art contest in 8th Grade with Mrs. Grody’s class, and I could have been famous but I met your father and he needed to go to fucking LAW SCHOOL and where is he now, I ask you, and you have so many gifts, honey, you could really do something, and I will help you monetize your dreams so we don’t have to move anymore, OK?
3. How can I help you reach your dreams? Good question. A better question might be “what are they?”
4. No matter what you confide in me, I will always love you and do what is best for you. Crap. If you don’t have ANY lines or boundaries, you probably haven’t been on planet for very long – welcome! Also, you won’t do what is best for them – you’ll do what you think is best for them. Again, you are not infallible, and having their best interests at heart will not make you smarter.
5. My job is not to be your buddy. I am your parent and will love and mentor you. As best you can. No arguments here.
6. I am sorry. (Say this whenever you hurt your child, or your child is in pain from something someone else said to them.) Innocuous in the latter case and not strong enough in the former. First make sure you’re not going to hurt them again, and tell them why you did it in the first place. Regardless, the word is “apologize” when you need to.
7. I embrace your friends, but I love you the most. If you’re embracing them so much that your kid wonders which one you love most, I hope their friends are over 18 in most states.
8. It is okay to mess up; I do it all the time. Wrong and wrong. First, it’s OK as long as you learn from it, and you didn’t hurt anyone else in the crossfire. Some things are important, and if you’re talking to a kid and that kid is about to get a driver’s license, then sometimes it’s not OK to mess up. Second, if you really mess up “all the time,” I’m calling CPS.
9. I am sorry you don’t like my rules, but you will have to abide by them. I will hold you accountable if you break them and there will be a consequence. Crap. Rules are like facts. Have your kid read Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations” and then talk about this. I don’t care if you don’t like my rules. Also, “if you break them there will be a consequence?” Are veiled and vague threats really the best you can do? Fear is a bully’s weapon. Talk about what the rules are and discuss what the punishments for breaking those rules are as well. Make sure you follow through with them.
10. If you are in trouble, call me first, no matter where you are. I may be angry, but my first concern will always be your safety. We will talk about punishment or consequences later. Be smart and keep your wits about you. If you’re in real trouble, 911 may be your better option. If you’re old enough to be out on your own, you’re old enough to call the police when you need to. If you’re not smart enough to know the difference between when to call your folks and when to call the cops, you probably shouldn’t be out on your own. Also, note the veiled and vague consequences – what are the rules under your roof, and what are the rules if you’ve let your kid out to deal with the world on their own? Think about it BEFORE it happens.
11. You are an integral part of this family, and the family needs you to run smoothly. So take your Castor Oil. Seriously, one of my best friends was presented with “you are part of the family unit” when asking to complete high school in one state instead of moving in senior year; the response was “What, we’re R2-D2 and I’m an extendable arm?” If you’re really working with your child’s “best interests at heart,” remember that the best interests of the family may not be the same as the best interests of each member. Your goal as a parent is to raise a decent human being who can survive without you – not to outbreed the Joneses.
12. I don’t care what your friends get to do. I am not their parent; I am yours and you are my main responsibility and concern. Ah, making sense here.
13. I admire you more than you can ever understand or know. Back to the beginning of this list – you can’t conceive how much smarter I am because I’m older than you are. Your words are that they’ll never understand or know how much you admire them, but what they’re hearing is that they will never really understand or know you. Is that really what you want to say? Is the age difference between you the main source of your authority?
14. If you get in trouble at school, be honest with me. Your teacher is the authority at school and if I hear it from your teacher before I hear it from you, I will feel betrayed or deceived. I may react to this breach of trust. First off, make sure you know how this works – in this age of instant communication, the kid may not have access to a cell phone in the school, and you may get a call or email before they get home. Yes, of course they need to be honest with you in this – as with everything else. Also, “I may react to this breach of trust?” WTF? Back to vague bullying and veiled threats; I “may” react, but you know, I might not, since if you failed that test and it was in a subject that I didn’t care about anyway, and I always got D’s in math as well, and I’d had a couple beers already and you told me this bad news while bringing me another one, and it was nice and cold, you know, I might just not beat you for this one, but don’t let it happen again, youknowwhaddimsayin?
15. From the first time I saw your eyes, I vowed to be the best parent I could be for you. I make mistakes but they are not meant to hurt you. I make them because I love you so much and get scared sometimes. It is hard parenting a teen (your child will understand this confession). Crap. Unless your child is a teen parent as well as a teen child, they’re unlikely to understand this confession – as you yourself have stated pretty explicitly in Number 13 and implicitly in many of the rest of these. “I make mistakes, but I don’t make them to hurt you, I make them because I love you.” What in the hell kind of logic do you think your kid is using? What the hell kind of logic are YOU using? You were doing better with Number 8 (“It’s OK to mess up!”) than you are here – are you seriously excusing your mistakes by blaming them on “I love you so much?” I assure you that your teenager will read this as “I make mistakes and they are your fault,” which is actually what you’re trying to say. It’s not your fault, is it? It never was your fault.
After this, it would be disingenuous of me not to post my own set of Big Ugly Truths to say to your kids. Look for that post this week.