The other day, I wanted to strap my oldest little dude to a very uncomfortable table, pry open his ears and begin yelling until my words were imprinted on his brain like tiny footprints.* The most frustrating thing about raising little dudes and dudettes is when they don’t listen to you. Them not listening can make a tiny anthill rise to the size of Mt. Everest.
With that in mind, I started flipping through some books and reading some more newspaper articles. I found some insight I consider might actually work. The advice came from Dr. Kristin Rager (hey, that’s how I feel when my little dudes don’t listen), the director of adolescent medicine at Levine Children’s Hospital and the medical director of Teen Health Connection.
The first bit of advice she gives is to try and talk to your teen when you’re doing something else, such as cooking or working in the yard together, instead of sitting them down for a serious talk. Well, that throws out about 90 percent of my recent talks with my little dudes. I don’t know if I want to do this one, since I love the look on their faces when I tell them, “We have to talk.” in a very deep voice. Naw, this is about help, not my own need to create fear.
Rager also suggests that parents talk openly and listen calmly, even if you don’t agree with what your teenager is saying. Or even, I guess, if you can’t believe the level of stupidity flowing from the mouth of such a smart little dude. That’s going to be tough, considering how much I love the sound of my own voice.
Finally, (and I might be paraphrasing a bit more than normal here, but go with it) Rager suggests you stop telepathically broadcasting instructions to your teen. They just won’t get it. More specifically, she said it’s a good idea to explicitly tell your teen what your expectations and values are, rather than hope they absorb those values by osmosis. That never worked with math, when I slept with the book under the pillow, either. She wants parents to tell their teens straight out what they think about sex, drinking, drinking and driving, or using drugs and smoking. Not a bad idea. I’m all for more clear communication.
I’ll let you know how it turns out.
*That last little bit was a joke that only comic book geeks such as myself would get and, no, I’m not explaining it because I want to keep some shred of dignity.