Busting the myth of the teenaged monster | Family Events

Are you living with Attila the Teen? 

Usually, when I tell people that three of my four children are teens, I get sympathetic smiles, along with the odd, “Bless your heart,” or “Hang in there – it will be over soon.”

qotw-Q.gif My daughter is respectful and appropriate at home, but when we’re at school functions or her friends are around, she’s almost unrecognizable. Suddenly she’s rude and talks back, even though she never does this when we’re together as a family. It bothers me that she seems to think she has to act this way in front of her peers. How can I make her speak respectfully when others are around? Post answers on our Family Events Facebook Page.
qotw-A.gifLast week we asked Family Events readers to offer suggestions on dealing with overly-generous grandparents whose gift giving saps ambition and allows kids to avoid working for wanted items. Here’s what readers think parents can do: 

As a grandparent myself, my “kids” know I’m not going to shell out lots of money for them. I will, however, spend lots of time with them. I don’t know who had more fun at Grandma’s Slumber Party, them or me (made cookies, had pizza, drove around and looked at Christmas lights, back to Grandma’s for movies & popcorn in our pj’s and sleeping bags). Those are what they’ll remember, not the big toys the other grandparents buy.


If you think your child has too many toys – put half of them away – in the attic or storage. Or, before they can bring one toy into the house, they have to remove one good toy from their collection for charity. If Grandma gives them an expensive toy you think they are too young for, put it on the top shelf or the case or storage for a later date.

Parents are the only ones that have a say in how their child(ren) are to be raised… Grandparents can still ‘spoil’ their kids with activities they do together, or junk food – but why must they abdicate their role has THE GRANDPARENT? It’s like they just want to be their grandkids best friend anymore.


By involving the children in the process of giving a “toy” of their choice (whether it be the new one they just got or one of their older ones) you are teaching them 1) to give to those less fortunate and 2) the important lesson of how to avoid clutter, for every one NEW thing you get, one OLD thing goes away.


The truth? I don’t want it to be over! I’m having a blast navigating the teen years with my children. In fact, I think too many parents set themselves up for an unpleasant experience with teenagers, and sure enough, they get it.

Here’s what I mean… when my eldest daughter (now 21) was nearing 13, I heard lots of warnings from well-meaning friends. Some said, “You’ll never know how dumb you are until you have a teenager.” Others cautioned me to put on my emotional armor because teens say cruel and insensitive things to their parents. One seasoned mom told me not to worry because, “She’ll be 25 before you know it!”

The assumption: Rude is just “what teenagers do.”

Even parenting experts promote this notion, advising moms and dads to expect back talk as a normal and necessary part of growing up. Here’s what an online expert says about teens talking back:

“Independence is another reason for children talking back. As children grow and become more independent, they have a need to assert more control over their own lives. Talking back can be a way for children to separate themselves from their parents… Kids need to talk back, but they need ways to do it that aren’t disruptive to your relationship.”

Kids need to talk back? Really? And we need to help them do it in ways that aren’t disruptive to our relationships?

In fact, the process of “individuation” (a fancy word for “growing up”) ought to reveal greater maturity, the ability to focus attention outwardly, and the capacity to control emotions and cope with challenges, not a second round of the “terrible twos.”

Ironically, the philosophy about adolescence that accepts behaviors such as rudeness, back talk, self-centeredness and condescension as normal and age appropriate actually promotes immaturity and emotionalism.

In other words, if we buy into this expectation about teenagers, we’re likely to get exactly what we pay for.

Children meet us where we expect to find them

A truism about children’s behavior is: They tend to meet our expectations. If, as they enter adolescence, we expect them to get cranky, rude, disrespectful and disinterested in their relationships with us, they’re likely to live up to that (low) standard of behavior. Worse, we’re unlikely to demand anything better from them.

On the other hand, if we hold that bar up just a bit and let our kids know that we have higher expectations for their behavior – even during their hormonally charged adolescent years – we send the message, “I understand you’re growing and trying to figure things out, but I have confidence that you can behave in a way that I find acceptable and you can be proud of.”

Of course, teenagers want control over their decisions and if we’re doing our jobs as parents, we’re setting limits. There’s a natural tension there that can lead to sparks.

But if we approach our children’s adolescent years with a positive attitude and some clear guidelines, I guarantee this can be one of the most enjoyable seasons of parenting.

Bust the myth of the teenaged monster

Despite those admonitions from more experienced parents and parenting experts, I have always optimistically believed that my children and I could chart a different course. And sure enough, we’ve busted the myth that all children are destined to become “Attila the Teen.”

Here’s how:


1. Decide the “rude is normal” standard is unacceptable and communicate it to your teen. How? Simply tell your children, “Rude is not normal. It’s just rude.” Declare that you and your children aren’t going to settle for less than the best you can be.

2. Let your children know that they are free to communicate respectfully and advocate their point of view, but they are not free to slam doors, yell, talk back, cuss, or scream “I hate you.” Those behaviors indicate immaturity and won’t convince you that your teen is ready for more freedom, privileges, input in decisions, etc. Mature, polite communication instills parental confidence.

3. Give kids the chance to regroup. At our house, a Steve Martin-esque “Excuuuuuse me?” sends the message that we’d like a change in attitude, reflected in a more respectful tone of voice. If teens aren’t capable of regrouping, let them know you’ll be available to talk further when they’re able to be more respectful. (Never engage with an over-emotional teen!)

4. Reward maturity and positive attitudes. Thank your teen for being different from the “norm” and demonstrating courtesy and respect.

Whatever you do, don’t make jokes or roll your eyes with other parents about the rough and tough teenage years. That’s the permission slip that teens use to drop the bar and deliver the typical, tyrannical teenage tirade (say that three times fast!). Instead, when parents make cracks about how miserable their teens are, smile sweetly and say, “Not at our house… we’re having a blast!”

Getting through the teen years can be a struggle. But if you expect the best from your teens, you’ll usually get it!

Thanks for reading and sharing Family Events!

Take good care until next week,


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This week’s best buys at your local bookstore
Stop Negotiating With Your Teen: Stop Negotiating With Your Teen:
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by Janet Sasson Edgette

If you’re struggling with a situation that feels out of control.

The Case Against Adolescence: The Case Against Adolescence:
Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen 

by Robert Epstein, Ph.D.

Maybe teenaged angst is a myth after all!

Promise You Won't Freak Out: Promise You Won’t Freak Out:
A Teenager Tells Her Mom the Truth About Boys, Booze, Body Piercing and Other Touchy Topics 

by Doris A. Fuller and Natalie Fuller

Straight talk from a mom and her (formerly) rebellious teen

The Military Father: The Military Father:
A Hands-on Guide for Deployed Dads 

by Armin A. Brott

Sound advice for dads and dads-to-be serving in our armed forces.

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