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Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Mom, I don’t wanna talk about it!

January 30, 2011

The classic standoff

Clinical research shows the hairs on the heads of parents of teens get noticeably grayer on Friday and Saturday nights. (Assuming previous teen shenanigans haven’t already caused you to pull out all of yours.) I probably should have written this blog on Thursday so you’d have it in advance of the weekend. But no worries. There’s no expiration date on advice for dealing with a teen’s poor judgment. If you don’t need this now, save it. It’ll come in handy sooner or later.

I recently got an email from Distraught Parent describing how Teen Daughter had purportedly gone to a friend’s sleepover (Just us girls). In the wee hours of the Saturday AM Parent receives call from local law enforcement reporting that Daughter and two equally Clueless Friends have been picked up riding in car driven by Drunk Teen Boy. Daughter comes home, announces: “I don’t want to talk about it!” and proceeds to sleep for the rest of the day. Parent describes how Daughter’s had a “rough” semester, has been “sad” for months and how her grades have plummeted from A’s to C’s. What to do??

Here’s my reply:

I’m relieved to hear your daughter’s choice to ride with a drunk driver didn’t end in tragedy for her or anyone else. I’m sure you are too! Sounds like something’s been going on with her for a while and this is the capper. (So far!)

Yesterday she didn’t want to talk and that’s OK for yesterday. It’s not an option for today.

She needs to talk and you need listen. (I mean really listen.) If you lay into her with The Lecture she’s going to shut down. She knows she blew it, but the real question is WHAT’S GOING??

Have the fact-finding conversation today. Let her know how you felt when you got the 4 AM call. Let her know that your TRUST in her honesty, her ability to make good choices and to keep herself safe has been shredded. Let her know that you know things haven’t been easy for her lately. Let her know you love her and it’s your job to keep her safe and to help her sort through the challenges she’s facing. Let her know she can talk to you anytime and that you will NOT throw anything she tells back in her face.

Do your best to help her figure out why certain choices she’s making aren’t in her own best interest. That’s the best you can work towards. You are her mentor, teacher and guide but you can’t live her life for her.

Your daughter deserves a meaningful consequence for her irresponsible and dangerous choice on Friday night. And you both deserve some professional help in rebuilding the trust and improving the communication between you.

Like I said at the top, teens aren’t known for their prescient decision-making. In the best of situations, their “still-under-construction” brains often works against them. Add alcohol/drugs, sexual tension, peer pressure, sleep deprivation and a whole host of other stressors and it’s tough for them to do the right thing, which often includes resisting the wrong thing!

The more we calm down, tune in to our teens and listen to them attentively and compassionately, the more likely they’ll let us know the kind of support they need from us during a rough semester and beyond.

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 7:20 pm
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6 Comments »

  1. What a nightmare!! Hope they were able to resolve it.

    Comment by Isa — January 30, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

  2. Annie, how I wish I knew about your website when I went through hell with my middle daughter. We really didn’t have a handle on how debilitating the spectrum aspects of her ADHD were until we had to put her in a wilderness program. It was then, once the ipod, phone and computer stripped her of her “soundtrack” that I was able to see some of the stuff that looked similar to her brother with autism. It was scary but made things a lot easier to deal with from previous experience.

    I would have really benefited from your blogs a few years ago and will happily share this with all the parents I work with in our local support group.

    Comment by Queenbeach1 — January 31, 2011 @ 10:43 am

  3. My mother always told me she would give me twenty fours to recover from me falling on my face. I’m so glad she did. The much needed time allowed me to get my thoughts together and grow up a little more. I do this approach with my teens and the time helps.

    Comment by Annalise H — January 31, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

  4. Wow! That sounds really scary and definitely difficult for the parent to handle. I think giving teens a little time really does help because the truth is, the teen usually knows they are in HUGE trouble and they messed up. I think it’s difficult for anyone (including adults) to be able to fully hear and pay attention to wisdom when we are dealing with our own humiliation or anger at first. We all kind of need that space to kind of collect our pride and our thoughts.

    I like that idea Annalise of giving your child a 24 hour period to recover, I definitely think that’s helpful!
    Great post! I really enjoyed reading it!

    Comment by Alexandrea J. Wilson — February 1, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

  5. In working with teens and families in my practice, I put the “mental time out” into place from the beginning. Parents often need the space to gather their thoughts and find the words to express disappointment without being hurtful to their teen. Teens often need the time/space in order to process the event and rest after a very emotionally draining experience (breaking rules they knew they should not be breaking). Great article!

    Comment by Megan Sigmon-Olsen — February 3, 2011 @ 8:06 am

  6. Sounds really reasonable. It’s often tempting for us parents to be confronting our teens right away regarding the mistakes they do but i think it’s also good to give ourselves the time to gather our thoughts and not let our emotions get the best of us. I’m sure it was hard for the teen to be experiencing such an unfortunate situation but still, there’s a right time to confront them with issues concerning their wrong actions. It’s probably not a good idea to just let the issue slip by just because they have gone through such a difficult ordeal, the teens might think it’s okay to do something like this and they might get the wrong message. Defiant teens are often difficult to deal with so articles like this can be useful for parents who have this type of children. Consider this an additional info too – http://www.teenwildernessprograms.org/teen-wilderness-programs/help-for-defiant-teens-wilderness-programs-for-troubled-teens.html
    Thanks for sharing the article!

    Comment by Lovella Fargon — November 3, 2011 @ 7:15 am

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