Tuesday, March 8, 2016

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad World

When my now teenage daughter was a tween, I remember feeling at times like I was negotiating my way through a field of landmines. One miscalculation, one wrong step and ... BOOM ... good-night, mamacita.

By and large, things are calmer now. But before you think "How nice," let me explain. Back then, I was trying (too hard, probably) to keep everything the same. As my daughter became a tween, I was fairly desperate to preserve the closeness we had always shared. And, she was having none of it. 

I think there are less fireworks because we all do our own things now. These days, we simply co-exist. When dinner's over, she goes up and streams old episodes of Grey's Anatomy. Because, clearly, she'd rather be with McDreamy and McSteamy than her devoted parents.

But, even that doesn't always ensure peace and harmony. While the blow-ups are less brutal (and less often), my daughter can still get angry. Or, as Frank Kennedy said in Gone With The Wind, "She can get mad quicker than any woman I ever saw." He was referring, of course, to his then-wife Scarlet O'Hara, whose temper was legendary.

My daughter could give Ms. O'Hara a run for her money, y'all.

This week, Psychology Today published a story on the "20 Reasons Why Your Teens Get Mad At You." 

My first reaction was ... "There are only 20?"

My second was to read it. 'Turns out that according to Dr. Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist who "specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents," these are the most common reasons that a teen snaps:

1. They feel misunderstood
2. They think you're clueless
3. They're worried about you
4. They're embarrassed by you
5. They think they've disappointed you
6. You're comparing them unfavorably to their siblings
7. You're criticizing their friends
8. You're confiding in them too much
9. They're upset about something else
10. They're depressed
11. You're bad-mouthing their other parent
12. You're trying to solve their problems
13. You're treating them like your favorite child
14. You call their teacher or coach
15. You ask "How was your day?
16. They think you're freaking out too much

17. You broke their confidence
18. You're gossiping
19. You're giving them the silent treatment
20. They're done, but you keep talking

Uh-oh. They all make some sense, but am I the only one who sees some of these situations as no-win? For example, numbers 6 and 13: you can't negatively compare them to their siblings, but you can't make them your favorite. How about numbers 1 and 15: they want to be understood, but asking questions will just tick them off. And, then there's 19 and 20: silence is bad but talking ain't so good either.

It's a puzzlement.

I guess the take-away, is don't take it personally. Getting mad comes with the teen territory and, as parents, we're pretty much damned if we do; damned if we don't. I try to be cordial and interested these days. But, I try not to smother her or interrogate her. I listen and sympathize when she complains about her classmates (the drama this year could fill its own dedicated blog, forget about a mere post), but I don't pass judgement. After all, the girl making her life miserable in the lunchroom today could be her bestie by next week.

At any rate, she'll be home from school in about ten minutes. With my new understanding of teens and why they get mad, I'll forego the usual "How was school today?" Probably better to stay focused anyhow.

One wouldn't want to be too distracted when one lives in a minefield.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.    

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