I can’t seem to get it right with my teenagers this week.
Whatever I suggest is wrong. The advice I give is outdated, the questions I am asking are ignored. Even my impression of the cat talking with a speech impediment didn’t get any laughs. Nothing. Just a sigh, a look, and then, slam.
Fortunately for my teenagers, I am not in my blubbering in the toilet fragile state this week. No. Instead, I’m in my ‘let’s research this problem and talk it through’ frame of mind.
I turned to Google.
I found a lovely little chappy who looked to me, quite frankly, as if he’d never spent twenty minutes with a teenager let alone a lifetime studying them. He couldn’t possibly have done. His hair was still brown, and he was smiling. With his teeth showing. Admittedly, it was a Jack Nicholson from ‘The Shining’ smile, but still, he didn’t look to me like a typical Dad. He showed no signs of mania. He showed no evidence of drowning, nor any of wanting to drown his teenage clients. No, I reckon he was a fake, but no matter, he was a psychologist, and surely that meant he would know the reason my kids think I’m the most antiquated, unfunny, plonker ever.
It seems that the answer lies in the questions that we ask our little bundles of hormonal loveliness. The questions. Not, the answers. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? That’s it then. Easy.
Armed with my pen, I searched the entire house- it was under the dog blanket warming itself, I began to jot down all of Johnny the psychologists recommended questions that we should be asking our teenagers. I was determined to make this work. I only had until next Wednesday, and then my monthly hormones would insist that I turn into Bruce Banner again.
There wasn’t much time. This was my window of opportunity.
As I got to number 5, my heart began to sink. I couldn’t help but look at the suggested questions all neatly lined up, and comparethem to the blurting inquisitions that spew out of my own mouth on a regular basis.
You will find below, the questions that the psychologists recommend you ask your difficult/moody/angry teenager.
Alongside are the alternatives of a psychotic Mother who gets it wrong/every/farts/end.
Please feel free to give yourself a little test (there’s a pencil in the cutlery drawer).
What is worse – this OR this? Me: You can either do the dishwasher, or you can empty the bins. No, I’ll tell you what, seeing as you get more pocket money than your sister, how about you do BOTH? What makes it better – this OR this? No discussion, just do it. OK? Are you feeling more angry/hurt? You need an early night. What time did you turn your phone off last night? How does that affect you? Why don’t you just come off Facebook and Snapchat? They’re all a load of twaddle. When you aren’t busy/when you are lying in bed at night – what are the things that make you most upset? Have you finished your reading response for English? You look like death warmed up. Why aren’t you asleep yet? Is there anything about this you feel embarrassed or ashamed about? I can not BELIEVE that you posted that on Facebook. Aunty Vera reads everything you put up. What were you thinking? Delete it, NOW. What do you wish you could change about yourself in all of this? You need to find yourself a different attitude my girl, don’t you think? What makes you feel a bit better about all of this? Do you want $10 for a Subway? What’s the most frustrating part of it all? You need to stop answering back and calm yourself down. Why don’t you go outside and get some fresh air? What do you think people don’t understand about this? Maybe I should text you? Maybe then you’d answer me when I ask you a question. Would you rather I text you? Is that it? What do you wish you could change about yourself in all of this? You want to be careful. Put something on You Tube, and that’s it. Forever. Everyone can see it. It doesn’t look good, does it? What is coming up in your week that will be hard? Don’t be dramatic, just get some early nights. Have you had plenty of water today? You look dehydrated. Why do you think that made you so mad/upset/worried? Can’t you see that you need to start spending more time in the real world and less time on your phone? It’s not all smiley emojis and thumbs up in this house you know. I won’t tell you again, empty the bins. Is there someone else you would like to talk to about this? Do you even remember how to hold a face to face conversation with a human being? What helps you cope? Do you want to come for a coffee? Don’t worry, they have wifi. This might seem like a dumb question, but do you know why you are most upset about that? Why do you talk to me like I’m a moron? What times of day are the hardest for you? Tired? Well maybe if you tried getting to bed earlier at night, like a normal human being, you wouldn’t be snottering in bed every morning. Get up. Now. What can I do to help? Want to hear my cat with a speech impediment voice? If you had unlimited powers to change things, what would you do? Shall I keep this Harry Potter wand and cloak? You might want to play with it again one day. I’ll put it in the spare room then. Just in case. What are your options? We love you so much. Don’t ever forget that, will you? Leave the bins today. You’re Dad’ll do them.
How did you do? Better than me I hope.
The truth is, we do have to ask our teenagers the right questions. It’s just that we also need a little manual on how to react to the answers. Maybe an App of some sort. Nothing out there for that though, is there Johnny boy?
I’m thinking something along the lines of this:
Q: What helps you cope?
Teenager: Being left alone with plenty of food and unlimited data.
Wrong answer from us: Cheeky swine! Wouldnt we all like to while away the day doing exactly as we damn well pleased…
Right answer from us: Well there’s plenty of food in the fridge just help yourself, and I’ll phone your Dad and tell him to increase the data plan. I’ll give you a knock when I’ve finished slaving away in the kitchen making you some more food. Love you, sweetheart.
Q: What is coming up in your week that will be hard?
Wrong answer from us: When I was your age I was humping a pig to get a free pony ride
Right answer from us: Yes. Life is hard. Even though your Dad works his ar*e off and I have given up on ever earning another penny in order to homeschool you, it’s tough. Take the week off. Relax.
Q: What do you wish you could change about yourself in all of this?
Teenager: I wish I were 21. With a billion You Tube Subscribers. I wish I were a millionaire. And, I wish I could always sit in the front.
Wrong answer from us: Well your bloody well not. You’re 16, you need to pass these exams otherwise you’ll be a dropout and people will blame me for homeschooling you. I’ll give you $30 to cut the grass.It’s not your turn.
Right answer from us: How about we treat you like a 21-year-old? You are mature enough after all. We will give you everything you need, including buying you more subscribers. And I’ll put your sister in the boot from now on.
Hhmm. How about it? Think it’d work?
Let’s all make a point of not just asking the right questions but also reacting to the answers with kindness.
I’ve got a week of niceness left. I’m going to try it. This will be the new me.
And if it fails?
I’ll be climbing into that computer, running after Johnny with a knife.
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