When my kids were younger, I used to wonder how I’d survive the trying toddler years — the tantrums, the defiance, the irrational behavior so typical of the age. Just wait, I was told. There’s even more fun ahead in the tumultuous teens. Boy, were they right.
Of course there are plenty of joys in raising a teen, but these moments are often overshadowed by attitude, moodiness, and oh my word, the mouth.
Recently my teen dished up a whopper. The time was 7:52 A.M., and darling daughter needed to be in first period class in 8 minutes. She came waltzing down the stairs without an ounce of urgency, expecting I’d compensate for her poor time management and give her a ride to school.
I don’t drive my kids to school because it’s less than half a mile away — an easy walk, or an even easier bike ride. Since I knew on this particular morning she’d been texting and piddling around with Flappy Bird instead of getting ready for school, I told her no, I was not giving her a ride.
“But I’m going to be late!” she exclaimed.
“Then you’d better run, or ride your bike,” I said.
“You suck. I hate you!” she yelled, and stormed out the front door.
I probably shouldn’t have been stunned. She’d been slowly amping up the mouthiness for months, but this took it to another level. I’d crossed into a whole new parenting frontier.
In cases like these, I call for reinforcements: the family, friends, and colleagues who have weathered the teen years, who can empathize and provide sound advice. Everyone agreed she should lose a privilege. Something that would hurt, or leave a big void in her life.
Nowadays that’s an easy fix. You take away a teen’s electronics. It’s like keeping them from oxygen.
When she arrived home that afternoon, we met in her room for a private discussion, where I calmly explained how disrespectful she’d been, and how her mouth and impulses were out of control.
I saved the punishment for the end: 2 days with no gadgets. After some protesting and a failed attempt at negotiation, she surrendered her phone, iPod, and laptop.
My sister felt she should have suffered a whole week without gadgets, and I considered this. But I know down the road there will be more and worse things to come, so I need to reserve a few weapons in my arsenal. I promised my daughter the next time the mouth roars, her punishment will be longer.
For now, anyway.