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Insidiously Raise Better Humans

Insidious ways to raise better humans

Bringing up teenagers has always been hard. But if you try really hard to screw things up, you’ll find that in the end it’s all been worth it. Here are six ways to successfully make their lives h**l, for the better.

Teach them something.

This can run the gamut from how to properly make a soft-boiled egg to how to hang shelves in their room. Teaching them how to do yard work, such as mowing the lawn or trimming the shrubs, can be a real morale-buster, although they’re likely to find some joy in doing the gardening version of “donuts” with the weed wacker in the middle of the lawn. 

Celebrate their failures.

Struck out to end the game? Got a C- on that exam that they studied really hard for? Still can’t ride a bike after your 16th trip to the deserted parking lot? Order their favorite pizza and take them for ice cream.

Knowing that you still love them even though they’re not perfect is like a dagger in the heart.

Learn about their friends.

“So, who were you on the phone with” is a great ice-breaker. Chances are, they’ll instantly retreat into their cocoon of teen silence. Don’t let that stop you. Eavesdropping is a powerful tool, although probably unnecessary with a 14-year-old girl. There are no doors thick enough to dampen those sessions. If it’s a 14-year-old boy talking to a girl, you’ll probably need to be a bit more direct, like unlocking the door to his room “to get something” while he’s Facetiming. It really tests their reflexes.

Sleepovers are a necessary evil, although you’re far less likely to find out anything useful about their friends (they’ll be on their “best” behavior, usually). but you’ll probably learn a bit about your child, particularly if they’re getting a little older. But there’s a good chance that you’ll find out a bit about that whiny one who announces to you at 2AM that he can’t sleep without a white noise machine.

Laugh with them.

Never underestimate the usefulness of an inside joke. It’s insidious. When unleashed during a tense period, these can be potent tools for cracking a hardening exterior.

Another hidden gem is the “don’t tell mom” things that you do with/around them to tie some invisible strings. They will enjoy my having some unspoken “power” over you that they believe is an advantage. They have been duped. Mom knows that you snuck those cupcakes. But she doesn’t care because it will help you get through 7th Grade. 

But really, there’s nothing quite like doing something stupid that will get them to laugh can be disarming. That’s when you have the tactical advantage. Don’t be afraid to be stupid. Embrace it. Own it. It will serve you well. 

Be present during the hard times.

If they’re having problems with a friend - listen to them as they complain and tell you about their struggles. It’s not like they’re “coming” to you or anything, they’re just venting and you happen to be a human in the room. “Fixing” their problems by relating and giving them solid examples of the same exact thing happening to you and how you got through it is just evil. You clearly know nothing.

Respond with love.

This one really gets them. 

You may remember that very first nerve-wracking ride home from the hospital with your newborn, this person who changed your life and mindset so fundamentally that you can’t imagine life before. But they certainly don’t. All they know is that you’re a means, not a solution. And you obviously know nothing about being a teenager. 

Completely ignoring their feelings is the way to go here. They’ll pull back from your hugs - just hold on for another 10 count. You’ll charge their phone for them at night when your every instinct tells you to just take it away from them. But since they’re safer with it than without it, you just can’t do that. 

It’s probably the hardest thing to do when you’re higher up that wall than they’ve ever pushed you. But it’s still the most powerful weapon in your arsenal.

Keep teaching those lessons, even though you’re probably teaching yourself more than you’re teaching them. At least for the moment. Over time, they’ll seep in, despite themselves. You’ll find they’re screwing up less, making better choices, doing better in school, and excelling in ways that you never could’ve predicted.

All because you chose to ruin their lives.

It’s going to take some special insanity to get through some of their phases, but all the boundary-pushing is survivable.