“Mummy, are you an astrologer?” my teen daughter asked.
“How do you always know what’s going to happen in the future?”
My daughter revealed how something I’d casually said a few months ago turned true. She laughed it off then. But today, I saw in her a newfound respect for my experience and wisdom.
This was such a relief, as parenting can be a nightmare during the turbulent adolescent phase. But it wasn’t like this always. You’re not always seen as the go-to-person for your teenager. In fact, I even wondered if I’d become a dinosaur in my teenager’s life.
Some days can be more trying than others. No one warned me that parenting a teenager would make me eat the humble pie.
Parenting’s been largely a breeze until my daughter entered her teen years. When you’re raising a teenager, you’re raising a rebel and my daughter’s no exception. This annoyed me initially, as I always thought I could focus on my career better as the kids grew up.
Sure, my teen didn’t want me around as much as she did earlier. She liked the privacy in her room, and the company of her friends, music, books, and movies. But she came to me whenever she was hungry and wanted good food.
She seemed independent at the outset. But independence does not always equate to being responsible, and that was the problem.
Or was it?
She’s a responsible child, a trait which helps her bag leadership positions in her school. But as she entered adolescence and started fighting for her freedom, I saw distraction and carelessness creep in, too. I told her how with freedom and power comes greater responsibility.
But it soon struck me that telling an adolescent isn’t enough.
Raise Your Teens Like A Fictional Writer
Like in fiction, parenting an adolescent is all about “show-and-tell”. You lose all rights to tell if you don’t show it in your life. A skilled fiction writer knows how and when to use both to maximum effect.
Earlier, you could get away with preaching to your child and not practising it in real life. It’s like love in the initial stages where the lovers are blind. Similarly, your child is smitten and blind to your ways. But teenagers are natural bullshit detectors.
Besides, we’re the ones who set the narrative. It’s not our teenager who’s distracted or irresponsible. It’s us. We, parents, are the problem, and it’s time we stop the blame game and take accountability for our words and actions. The underlying message we’re sending our teenagers with our unaccountable parenting is:
We don’t believe in you enough to tell you the truth. And we don’t trust you because we can’t trust ourselves.
Our children don’t come with prejudices and biases. They’re way more honest and wiser than we, adults.
Parenting is a humbling experience in a good way. I needed to change myself. And that called for regular soul-searching and being honest with myself.
Being An Accountable Parent And Accountability Partner
So, what does that look like? Here’s a glimpse.
Set The Example: If I want to wean my teenager from excessive social-media use, I have to go on a digital diet first. Only when I reduce my time spent on social media and use it judiciously can I have the talk with my teen about the effects of excessive social media consumption on one’s health.
Collaborate: If I want my teen to develop the reading habit, I have to read regularly before advocating its joys and benefits. This initiative is working wonders, as we now have a home book club, where we’re actively recommending each other splendid books.
Be An Inclusive Listener: If I want my teenager to listen to me, I have to listen to and understand her first. It seems obvious and simple, and it’s probably why it’s so overlooked. Listening is the key to better communication and relationships. I remember the times my daughter would come to me eagerly to show me an interesting post, video or song that she discovered. And because I couldn’t relate to the new generation’s tastes, I would go back to what I was doing. I was such a vibe-killer. I’m now open to her tastes and worldview. But, I admit it was an alien experience for me at the start with the new-age lingo such as ‘sus’ (suspicious) and ‘yeet’ (throw something forcibly). But thanks to her, I discovered some wonderful books, songs, shows and movies which I would have never had on my own. Some of my teen’s recommendations which I loved are Verity by Colleen Hoover, I Can’t Stop Me by Twice, True Beauty, a Korean TV Show, and more. The simple resolve to listen more is what made her reciprocate and listen to me as well. The best part is that listening to each other has opened up honest and difficult conversations, including sex. As parents, we need to keep having all kinds of conversations, especially the taboo ones, regularly so our teens don’t end up getting their information from questionable sources. Yes, there’ve been differences in opinions, but it’s taught us both to have a healthy debate and see things from each other’s perspective.
Seek Beauty In You: If I want my teen to invest in herself, I have to love myself. As mothers, we put others above ourselves. Certainly, we don’t want to teach our daughters to neglect themselves. I deserve to pour water and love into myself. I have to show that I am beautiful the way I am. That means not talking about how fat or thin I look and embracing body positivity. I need to make that time to pamper myself with things that bring joy to me. It can mean a relaxing bath, reading, writing, walking, exercising, listening to music, going to the beauty parlour, or meeting friends.
These things and a lot more are best shown, along with honest and empathetic conversations with our teenagers.
So, parenting a teenager is more about parenting yourself to be the best version of yourself. Not to compete with anyone or to prove a point, but to live fully, love well and be grateful for it.
Parenting Is Like A Video Game
Parenting a teenager is akin to moving to the next level of a video game. It’s more challenging but also more exciting. Yes, the falls are harder, but so are the jumps—higher.
What I’ve discovered is that our teenagers need us as much, if not more, than they did when they were toddlers. I don’t think a child will never ever not need their parents. At forty years, I’m still the child who’ll always need her parents.
So, while my teen is busy exploring her freedom, and claiming her rightful space, I know that she’ll always turn to me whenever she wants a shoulder to cry on, a light to show her the way, or simply a comforting meal that tastes like love. To be the role-model, mentor, and anchor our teens long for, that’s humbling and empowering.