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Oregon Family Magazine

Expert Advise About Teens and Tweens

03/01/2011 ● By Anonymous
Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman on how to talk with your constantly irritated child.

Q. How Do I Communicate with My Angry Teenager?

A. Sit down with your daughter and say, "I'm giving you three minutes to tell me exactly what I do that irritates you so much, and I promise not to interrupt you. After that, I get three minutes to explain what's behind my annoying behavior, and you can't interrupt. Then we'll write down what we heard, and take turns saying what we wrote." Explain that you have two goals: to figure out what's creating so much friction, and to come up with a new strategy. For example, maybe the two of you could invent a code word or signal to let each other know when you're doing the things that are a problem. Conclude by telling her, "The bottom line is I need you to communicate your feelings without being rude, because no matter what your age or the situation there's never an excuse for bad manners."

Q. I think my 11-year-old daughter is too young for eye makeup but I'm tired of arguing with her about it. What do you think?

A. This is a rite of passage in your child's life and it's your job to make it meaningful for her, which you can do and still set some limits. Acknowledge that she needs to feel grown up by saying, "I know that you want to use makeup, and I'm going to let you wear lip gloss at 12 and eyeliner at 14 (or whatever ages you decide), but first I want you to learn to take care of your skin." Then buy her some nice, affordable cleanser and moisturizer and teach her to use them. By the way, I've had great success offsetting the makeup craze with my tween students by having them research and experiment with homemade facials (using olive oil, honey, avocados, etc). It's totally messy, crafty, educational—and distracts them from wanting that horrible blue eye shadow.

Q. My 15-year-old refuses to go on vacation with us unless we take her friend. We like the girl, but we really just wanted to go away as a family. What should we do? A. A 15-year-old has the right to request that a friend join you, but she doesn't get to make the ultimate decision. That said, when I was growing up we often vacationed with other families who had kids my age, with a few days set aside for family time only. Even during my most difficult teen years I looked forward to those vacations because of the time I'd spend around the people I loved. So if it's logistically possible, I'd compromise and have the friend join you for part of the time. Or plan a weekend getaway and invite her then.

Q. How can I make my 16-year-old respect his curfew? He doesn't ask for much, so it's hard to take away privileges. He doesn't study and seems to have no interest in any kind of work. I need some tips on how to handle him.

A. Your first task is to get to know him better, and it'll help if you drop the assumption that he's a total slacker. It's possible he has interests, like being part of the local music scene or skateboarding community, but hides them from you because he thinks you're judging him. Then, I'd say to him, "I can't have you staying out so late. Part of getting older is thinking about how your actions affect others. If you don't come home I imagine horrible things happening to you because that's what mothers do. So can you agree to get home on time? But my bigger worry is that I don't see what's happening in your life that you're passionate about. It's important that you find activities that give you satisfaction, pride, and a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself. I don't have to know every detail, but can you tell me what's going on?" Once you've said all that, please just sit back and listen.

Q. My 11-year-old has to be pushed to do homework. I've tried taking away his tech toys sometimes, but that hasn't helped. What else should I do?

A. Most parents, including me, have to pressure their kids. It comes with the turf. But I want to go back to his electronics because it sounds like you're coming across to your son as wishy-washy. There shouldn't be any debate: Completing his school and family responsibilities comes before everything else. There's no room for negotiation. Having said that, though, I don't believe in making kids do homework as soon as they get home from school. He can play music, get a snack, ride his bike, or just hang out with the family and unwind. Then comes the homework. When it's done he can veg out with his electronics.