The teenage years are preprogrammed for rebellion; it’s a time when emerging adults must prove they are distinct beings, separate from their parents. And, it’s a time when middle- and high-schoolers must determine which of their parents’ rules work for them, and which need retooling or complete abandonment.
Not surprisingly, the teenage years are often fraught with friction, as these too-big-for-their-britches youth clash with parents, siblings, teachers and coaches on homework, personal hygiene, laundry, meals, promptness, relationships, illegal substances, curfews, sleep cycles and more.
To make matters worse, many parents are simultaneously dealing with unprecedented stress resulting from loosening reins, worrying about their kids driving or attending parties, trying to save for college, waiting up for late arrivals and, as often is the case, the hormonal surges of peri-menopause.
Last week, I became the proud parent of four teenagers, when my youngest turned 13; my oldest has four months to age 20. To say the least, I’m in the thick of it.
And so, to honor my works-in-progress, their buddies and my quickly-turning-grey and pulling-out-their-hair comrades, I present the top ten tips for teens – written from the teens’ perspective.
Disclaimer: Yes, I know many amazing teenagers who demonstrate none of these behaviors, and most of the time, my own can be wonderful. The following is an amalgamation of several stories I have heard or read, and is intended to be tongue-in-cheek.
1. Eschew hangers and drawers.
Simply dump your clean laundry on your bedroom floor, and operate from a system of piles. If you’re male, select whatever is on top of the pile each day. If the underarm area doesn’t smell too rancid, you’re good to go. If you’re a girl, rummage through the piles for the perfect outfit every morning. This may take five or six tries. Changes are much quicker and more efficient if you don’t have to fold or hang up anything.
2. Never complete homework in advance.
Why waste your time working ahead? We all know deadline pressure is the best motivator. And “deadline” is a loose term. It could mean “sometime after the due date and before semester grades are turned in.”
By the way, remember that screens are crucial during homework time. For focus, try listening to music. Don’t forget to have a movie playing on your laptop and Twitter or Tumblr up on your smartphone. You might even get some homework questions answered that way.
3. Ignore parental recommendations.
If your parents suggest music, clothing, movies, restaurants or hairstyles, press the MUTE button immediately. Later, you can revisit their recommendations. Check with a few friends to see if your parents were on to something. Then, if you follow the advice, make sure your parents know it came from someone else.
4. Avoid outings with parents.
If, by chance, you are free on a weekend night, never, ever go to dinner with your parents. You never know who might see you. If you have no choice but to agree, you can always feign nausea or cramps at the last minute. And if the dinner is unavoidable, be sure to have an exit strategy or excuse ready in case you spot friends or classmates. Locate the exits and bathrooms ahead of time. If you’re put on the spot, anniversaries and birthdays make good excuses.
5. Assure your parents that they are “the strictest.”
Have several examples on hand of parents who permit later bedtimes and curfews, provide larger allowances, ask for less help around the house, and are less nosey and more understanding. Keep in mind that this could backfire, though. (One of my kids, when arguing for a later curfew, said, “All of my friends have gotten speeding tickets or DUIs, and they have later curfews. I have never gotten in trouble, so why do I need to come in so early?” My response: “Do you not understand the principle of cause and effect?”)
6. Remember that curfews can be negotiated.
You’ll have to feel your own parents out on this one; some stress out if you’re a minute late, while others offer a five- to fifteen-minute grace period. No matter what, a quick text five minutes before deadline reading, “Need to deliver some dumb friends who got drunk and can’t drive,” will always buy more time. And, your parents will be happy that you were the smart one.
7. Know that if they leave it, teens will come.
Master all the tricks for when parents go away: leaving windows unlocked, copying and hiding house keys, conjuring up dummy plans to distract your in loci parentis, having friends park a block away – in an effort to foil nosey neighbors. If your parents head out, your friends will find out. Even kids who aren’t your friends will find out. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, parties can be organized in a flash. One local teen even threw a party when the parents went out for dinner.
8. Leave no trace behind.
Sadly for the kids, most party-throwers and attendees leave a few subtle signs. This includes: empty beer bottles in bushes, furniture slightly askew, water in liquor bottles, small stains on carpets, un-flushed toilets, even small pieces of tape indicating beer-pong boundaries. Don’t underestimate your parents’ prowess in uncovering clues.
9. Live in silence.
Real, live conversations are a thing of the past. When you “talk” to a friend, you’re really exchanging printed words via Facebook, text messages, Instagram, Twitter or the like. Entire relationships have begun, fluorished and ended without one face-to-face conversation. Speed and efficiency are always of the essence in communications. (My own kids have not even set up voice mail functions on their phone.)
10. Keep in mind that it’s all in the delivery.
The following phrases, delivered in earnest (text message is preferred) will undo almost any wrong:
- U WERE RIGHT
- I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO U
- I M SO SORRY
- I ❤ U
- I M LUCKY U R MY PARENT
– Linda Williams Rorem, 15 April 2013a
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