A mother. A daughter. A drummer boy.
What soft skill could help a parent survive adolescence?
Everyone had prepared me for the “Terrible Two’s” and I successfully passed the test. But no one, NO ONE, had said anything about the “Oh My God My Sweet Child Has Turned Into A Rude Little Monster — 14s”. Nor about boys with tattoos who play the drums at 16…
I caught myself reminiscing the times my daughter and I used to play at the park, making huge sand castles on the beach and watching cartoons together. Where did these beautiful — and peaceful — years go? Now, my daughter is interested only in famous fashion trends, TikTok, and …boys. I always thought I’d be cool when that time would come, but guess what; I — AM — NOT.
She is only 14 and constantly talks about James, who plays the drums in the school band. (Parenthesis here; I know I am getting older because instead of thinking that drums are awesome, I feel sorry about poor James’ parents and their long-forgotten afternoon nap).
Anyways, back to the topic.
Of course, I want her to have relationships with her peers, but at the same time, I just don’t want her to get hurt. Is that so bad? For her, it seems that no matter what I do, I am just a grown-up who wants to control her. I will show you how our last conversation went:
Little devil (aka the daughter)
Hey, I am going out with James! What do you mean “why”? Well, if you must know, because he wrote a song about me! It’s called “You are cool” and we are going to dance to it all night long… So yes, I will be late. Oh, and to save you the trouble of asking- or shall I say interrogating?- we are going wherever we want. BECAUSE; I am not a child anymore!!
Desperate me (aka the mother)
At first, I seriously tried not to laugh at the song title. Seriously, James? “You are cool”? How original! But I can’t control my initial thoughts and fears and I immediately respond…
“You are going nowhere with that kid! What if he takes you somewhere that you simply do not like, or- worse- feel totally uncomfortable being at? What if you want to leave and you don’t know where you are? What if he starts smoking, or offers you alcohol, because he thinks he is cool? If you need to see your friends, I am gladly driving you to the cinema- or any other PUBLIC place. Go ahead and include James in the invitation, as well. That is my last offer, misses- otherwise, you are not going! Period!”
The little monster starts yelling at me and leaves, slamming the door behind. I was left utterly frustrated. And angry.
What do I need to do to make that girl see the world for what it is? What did I miss?
According to the American Psychological Association, humans communicate to relate and exchange ideas, knowledge, feelings, and experiences for many other interpersonal and social purposes. When we have the ability to communicate effectively, we acquire one of the most important soft skills to learn. On the other side, lacking communication skills is a huge barrier in every relationship in our life. The good thing? As with all soft skills, communication can be taught! Nothing is lost yet! (Except for James’ inspiration on song titles…)
Let’s enhance communication skills together, shall we?
a) Let’s stick to expressing our personal feelings.
No, not those! But seriously, here is a bunch of things we can actually do.
- Focus on what happens here and now. Talk about current time; not about the fight we left in the middle (yesterday or last week), nor about something that might happen in the future!
- Acknowledge our irrational feelings. Don’t dismiss them as inappropriate, immature, or meaningless. Talk about feelings that we would much rather skip over or hide, feelings that we fear will cause us embarrassment or humiliation if we disclose them.
- Talk about what we want. The more we communicate on a deeper level, the more authentic our relationship will be.
b) Let’s actively listen to our teenager.
- Going into a conversation, it’s important to remember that we don’t know what our teenager really thinks and feels, especially in puberty which is a difficult period of changes. We may assume we do because we know our child well, but until we have actually heard them, we know almost… nothing.
- Applying empathy. When we feel what our teen is feeling, we gain a new perspective. Giving advice or being judgmental seems condescending and patronising.
c) Let’s try to give up the need to always be right
- A conversation with our teens is not a battle that we have to win. We may think that we know everything, and of course we want them to be safe and that will always be our priority, but at the same time, they need to go out there and… live!
So, based on the above, how could I have handled my daughter’s going out with James? Let’s hypothetically change my response, by using healthy communication skills.
Not- so-desperate me
For starters, I try not to laugh at the song title. How original of you, James! “You are cool’’… Seriously?. (This part needs to remain the same- sorry, this song title is simply awful). Instead of letting my initial thoughts and fear take over, I take a deep breath and try to deeply connect and understand my daughter. Then, I respond…
“I understand that you feel like I am being strict when I tell you that I’d prefer you going out with James AND other friends. Don’t get me wrong; I trust you, and I know that you wouldn’t put yourself in danger. It’s only that I feel afraid of you getting hurt, or finding yourself in a difficult situation- or at any place that you won’t be able to leave. That is why sometimes I offer to drive you to your date. I would like to hear what you think or feel about that. Then, we can find a solution that makes us both comfortable and happy. What do you say?”
Adolescence is a tough period. But if we have the right communication tools, it is going to be an easier journey. Unless your teenager wants to become a drummer — in that case, I am deeply sorry.