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The Typical Problem in Being a Teenager's Parent




Excerpted from
A Little Secret for Dealing With Teens
By Jennie Hernandez Hanks

Someone once told me that God gave us our children as cute little babies-so we would want to keep and take care of them. When eventually they would become teenagers-so we would want to get rid of them. Mow many of you remember holding your infants and believing that these little souls would be nothing but perfect as they grew up? But somewhere along the way, you began to feel as if you were in an episode of The X-Files and some strange alien being had taken over your perfect child. In other words, your child began to act like a teenager.

A few months from now, I will be the parent of four teens, and I actually like them-a lot. Even so, there are times I wish that I could be taken away on the alien mothership (pun intended). Nothing-but experience-can prepare a parent for what happens during the teen years. Being awakened suddenly by the phone ringing at 2 A.A. Hearing your four-year-old yelling for his older brother after he answers the door and a policeman is standing there. Getting into your only car to go to work and noticing the front end has been rearranged. Smelling alcohol on the breath of a teen who won't talk. Telling your kids something that will help them a great deal, only to see them turn away in complete disdain and say, "Yeah, whatever." Staring at a face you find vaguely familiar, but not quite linking the name to the face because the makeup is on too thick. Seeing your brand-new shoes on another's feet headed out the door going towards high school. And to top it all off, hearing heavy panting in the night and asking, "What's going on?!" You see two disheveled people appear-your kid and a member of the opposite sex. All this, and more, are part of raising a teen.

Realizing that many of these behaviors are "the nature of the beast," I tried to accept what was going on as a way of life. The only problem was that I already had too big a load to carry, and I didn't want to add the extra burdens of my teenagers' behaviors. I began to realistically look at what it was that I was really doing with my children. In business, any company that wants to succeed needs to take stock of where it is, where its resources are going and where its current direction will take the company. I decided to do the same with my family, starting with my eldest teen.

One Teenager's Expectations

Paul, my then-seventeen-year-old son, began to complain about needing nicer clothes and more access to the family car. He became really upset with me and what he saw as my neglect. He sent me subtle messages. A word here and a comment there. And then there is that look. I began to fall into the trap of feeling guilty, especially since I was either gone from the house or busy most of the lime. At first I felt that I should comply with my son's demands.

After all the not-so-subtle hints, Paul and I sat down together to discuss the matter of my neglect. I suggested that we make a list of the expectations we had of each other. I wrote the list, which went something like this. He wanted me to furnish him with a room of his own with restricted access by other family members. He wanted free access to the family car-fully fueled, repaired and always clean. He wanted me to pay the auto insurance, which was dramatically more expensive because he was driving my car in the first place. He also wanted free access to my computer, including the Internet connection. He expected me to buy his clothes, but of course only the clothes he approved of. (His shoes needed to be a certain brand and style, including special shoes for each of the sports he played.) I was expected to do all of his laundry including, those times he needed that special T-shirt washed, and I had to food shop, cook and serve him all of his meals.

Pointing to the list, I asked him, "What do I get in exchange for all this?" I saw shock covering his face. He was speechless. I continued. "So I guess what you're saying to me is that I'm supposed to give all this to you in exchange for which you bless me with your presence in our home."

"Well, y .. y.. yeah!" He stammered, wide-eyed and innocent.

"Would you like to be on the other end of an exchange like this one?" I asked.

First he looked at me, then he stared into space. He could see I wasn't going to go on until he responded. Finally he admitted, "Well, no, I wouldn't."

The $3 Million Kid

Part of the reason being the parent of teens can be frustrating at times is that you can never consistently predict what they may do next. Often it can really be fun or interesting, but sometimes they can throw a real curve at you.

When I read in the paper that there was going to be an open auction on the Internet I immediately knew that some teenager would fool around with it. I'm not joking, and there is really no way to check the credibility of online bidders. Mere a company was going to auction off many expensive items: Did they really think that no teenager was going to be tempted to try his hand at buying some of this really cool stuff? Guess what happened?

Andrew, age thirteen, who lives in New Jersey, didn't have the money to actually buy a 1955 red Ford convertible or a Van Gogh painting, or the first Superman comic book, or any of the other stuff listed with the Internet auction house. But that didn't stop Andy; he bid anyway. His mom got the bill. It was $3 million. Andy's allowance didn't quite cover a bill that large. But to him it was a game, and you know how teenagers like to play games. For his shocked parents, however, it was no game.

One item he bought was an 1860s bed which was put up for auction at $1,000 by the auction house. Then an additional thirty-three bids raised the price to $12,000, until Andrew joined in.



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