Teens having fun


We Need to Calm the F&%$ Down About Parenting Teens

Mar 5, 2020

I love my children fully to the edges of my heart, but I think I actually liked them more once they became teenagers and I learned to CTFD when parenting. 

"What's CTFD?" you may be asking. Why, it's a parenting method. And it stands for: Calm The F&*% Down.

Teenagers present their own set of unique challenges for parents. They can be sullen, obstinate, rude, cheeky — and that's even when they’re not staying up until 3 a.m. and then sleeping in all day.

"In our family, it comes down to this: 'What hill am I prepared to die on?'"

They have freedoms younger children do not, which gives them the ability and agency to get into more trouble. A toddler can be a handful, for sure, but even a grocery store meltdown at its worst can’t compete with an all-out screaming match in the lingerie section of a department store, with an almost-grown human person who has a strong vocabulary. Babies are needy, but they don’t take your car and then proclaim the 17 scratches down the drive-thru side “must have already been there.”

So yes, teens can be jerks. But show me a kid (or adult!) who isn’t a jerk sometimes and I’ll show you… no one.

This mom had her eyes opened to the complexity of gender thanks to her teen girls. Read about her experience here.

But I've found there's something about parenting teenagers that, once you lean into it, is really quite fascinating. I’ve watched this child grow physically and developmentally for 13 or 14 years, but now comes the big stuff — the growing and learning that really shows you who this person is going to be, and it is amazing to behold. Suddenly these kids understand humour and have their own ideas (like them or not). And when I seriously calm the f*** down on what they can talk to me about, I'm lucky enough to have some truly interesting conversations with them.

In our family, it comes down to this: “What hill am I prepared to die on?”

"Does something happen to parents when they raise teens that they suddenly completely forget what their own teenage existence was like?"

I’ve never been a curfew micromanager, and my kids don’t really have much in way of restriction for media consumption. I don’t police their food intake and I’m not a huge griper when it comes to wake-up times outside of school. It’s about balance. If I freak out and make a huge deal out of a teen sleeping in until 1 p.m. on a Saturday, or spend all our driving time harping about that friend I don’t like or every meal becomes an inquisition over vegetable consumption, I'm raising the stakes AGAINST myself. We just need to let some shit GO. I try to light my feelings on fire, throw them aloft and allow them to be consumed by the atmosphere. 

If I start out at a level seven anger response to something requiring a two (like a missed curfew), I'm leaving yourself very little room to escalate to next time. And next time the situation may actually need a level seven, but I’ve used it up. Kids remember our reactions and if I've lost it over a vape in a backpack, there is no way they are going to tell me anything they even suspect will incite a similar level of response.

Love your teens, but miss the littler years? Find out why this mom thinks ages five to 10 are the best here.

Sometimes I read posts on social media about teens and I think that if an alien race saw these notes before meeting an actual teenager, they’d wonder why we didn’t simply force them to live in caves. Does something happen to parents when they raise teens that they suddenly completely forget what their own teenage existence was like? Once I read a post on Facebook from a parent upset at something her teen did — upset enough about it to tell the whole world via FB, mind you (which is problematic in itself; kids deserve privacy). It made me laugh because I know this parent personally, and we did things together as teenagers that were 10x worse on a weekly basis.

This isn’t to say that I let everything slide, or that I'm not allowed to feel mad or sad or defeated. The key is determining what is important to for us as a family in terms of values and then really — truly — sitting for a second to measure our responses before reacting.

Parenting is not ping pong, but chess. I try to be measured, let some pawns go and keep my eyes on the prize: healthy, happy teenagers who will eventually come visit me in a (hopefully nicely appointed) retirement home they choose.

Article Author Jeni Marinucci
Jeni Marinucci

Jeni is a writer with a guilty conscience, a love for humour and a questionable home-haircut. After her children were old enough to make their own sandwiches, she returned to university to complete her BA in English literature — a designation which has provided her with an extensive library and crushing student loans. When no teaching college wanted her, she had to choose between taking orders through a drive-thru window or from an editor. She chose the latter.

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