Sex & Relationships

How to survive a teenager

A badass in the boardroom, Elaine Allison has no problem negotiating with high-powered execs. But the author of The Velvet Hammer needed to rewrite the book when it came to dealing with her own teenaged kids.

Teenage girls using cellphones

(Photo by Getty Images)

1. Protect yourself, support them
Beware of the “flounce.” This is the rolling of the eyes, arms folded, and the flick of their head as they dismiss what you are saying. It starts around 13 or 14 and seems to go on until about 17, then magically disappears. I recommend putting a shield on for a few years: In other words, when your teenager implies you don’t know what you’re talking about, calls you a name or draws you into an argument, don’t take it personally. If we don’t support a child through this phase and instead are fighting with them all the time, they can either become completely dependent (failure to launch), or so independent they become a lone wolf and can’t work well with others.

2. Negotiate a curfew
I’m pretty sure most of us have missed a curfew, so I think this is an area to establish upfront. I don’t always name the time — I ask them first, “What time do you expect to be home?” Then we go from there, often meeting in the middle if their proposal feels too late. On occasion, when there is no means to get them home (no access to a car, taxi or transit service), we have to agree on a safe place for them to stay. If it becomes a serial saga (more than twice), however, we renegotiate the terms for going out altogether.

3. Put the onus on them
Access to constant connection is always the battle. Case in point, trying to get a teen off Facebook between answering math questions! If you control or schedule use of a mobile device, you may find they hide it well, or have constant excuses as to why they need to be on the device. And be prepared for the backlash — your teen won’t be happy if you take their phone away. The best bartering I’ve done is negotiating expectations based on grades and homework in return for screen time. The onus then goes back onto your teen to perform and to manage their use of technology.

4. Avoid being a taxi service
Kids today are much more dependent on their parents, and many teenagers seem to expect to be driven everywhere, whether it’s for outside activities or social events. As adults, we need to get better at setting boundaries for what we can or can’t do. Saying no to requests for chauffeur service and asking that they find alternate forms of transportation (or finding other parents to share the burden) are some ways to alleviate this. Tip: I bought my daughter a bus pass. She ended up loving the freedom and learning how to get around on her own. It was good for both of us.

Have you raised teenagers? Tell us in the comment section below what tactics you used to survive.