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“Adulting Is Hard. Teening May Be Harder.”

For my son, puberty brought with it more defiance and arguments. Our no-nonsense parenting approach wasn’t working, and neither was his emotional response. So we pushed pause and made a joint resolution to calm down and breathe. The attitude adjustment seems to be working.

Helicopter Dad

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m already wongry (angry/worried). My son was supposed to be home an hour ago from a sleepover, and he isn’t responding to my texts. I direct my nervous energy to cleaning, so I’m vacuuming the house when he taps my shoulder. I jump a mile.

He chuckles. “Sorry, Dad. I thought you heard me come in.”

“You were supposed to be home an hour ago,” I say. I’m not shouting, but I’m making it obvious in my voice he’s in the doghouse.

“This is what time I said I’d be home,” he says.

“No. You said you’d be back an hour ago.”

“Wait… I thought… but I said… ” He’s not angry; just flustered.

“Didn’t you make the same mistake last week?”

He lowers his head, and softly says, “Yes, sir.”

I pause for an awkward ten seconds or so, to let the situation sink in. Finally, I bring my voice down an octave and say, “Go on to your room and unpack your stuff.”

“Yes, sir.”

[Defuse the Tween Drama]

This is a huge victory for both of us. It’s been a long, winding journey for us to get to this point, where I don’t fly off the handle, and he chooses to calm down and listen when Laurie and I discipline him. He became a teenager a few months ago, and the hormones have certainly kicked in. The little boy who was once incredibly hyper but always respectful became a moody teenager who towers several inches over both his mother and me.

For a while, he constantly argued with us over everything, which meant we had to address the arguing in addition to whatever it was he was arguing about. Sometimes, he took out his frustration by picking little fights with his younger siblings, which we then had to address as well. The pressure was building.

Finally, a few weeks ago, we sat him down and told him we needed to worth together on a solution. “We can’t keep this up until you leave for college, son,” we said. “We’re sorry because we know we’ve been short-tempered and nitpick-y with you, but we can’t let these things go. So, if you can change your attitude, we can soften our approach. Deal?”


[Flip the Switch on Power Struggles]

And we did. Overnight we got our fun-loving, spirited, respectful boy back. When his room is a pit, or he leaves his homework at home, we speak clearly and calmly to him about it. And he listens. Then we all move on with life.

He heads upstairs and I hear his siblings shout for joy that he’s home.

“We missed you!”

“We watched the basketball game last night because we didn’t want to watch The Flash without you.”

A few minutes later, he comes downstairs and hands me his phone. “Check out these pics, Dad. We had caramel Rice Krispies treats last night. Do you think you can make these?” He shoots me a smile. “Please?”

[Free Download: Transform Your Teen’s Apathy into Engagement]

There is no resentment in his voice, no grudge regarding the stern talk I gave him three minutes ago. So I give him a hug. He says, “Love you, Dad.”

“Love you, son.” Then I look over his shoulder and see his overnight bag. “Did you forget to unpack?”

“Uhhh, oops.” He flashes me a big smile, which I return with raised eyebrows. “I’m on it.” Then he grabs his bag and rushes upstairs.

3 reviews

  1. You are right and any limited success is helpful later in life. Iit never goes away completely, though i spent 4.5 years in the armed forces where time is everything.
    Near the age of 35 I started to be late or completely miss important meetings with clients. Very few would come to my Office in the busiest part of Downtown unless they were already there to meet their lawyers. (Consultant). One in particular grew accustomed to a very expensive lunch a few blocks away when she had other business nearby. A $20k retainer and usually additional work was not enough to keep the appointment in mind once i became hyperfocussed on a project and i show up an hour late . After the second incident i was fired.
    As this was in addition to many other lesser crimes (15 minutes late with others) the responsibility for me being on time was transferred to far more punctual and responsible staff iN my office until retirement. Just another advantage of entrepreneurship.

  2. Helicopter Dad – Bless you on your negotiation of a new approach to communicating (even when disciplining) you son. A few successes, even minor ones, go a long way.

  3. Congrats on the compromise! It sounds like you have a great relationship with your son. My oldest (diagnosed with ADHD and Autism Spectrum) is 11, just started middle school and has started being rather defiant. We often have to work out ‘deals’ to keep everything running smoothly sometimes. I think something like this might work to keep us all sane.

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