WAITING is a most useful tool for having a conversation with your teenager. Especially your child whom you are about to throttle, take away all privileges Forever, and never-ever again allow to ride with another teenage driver. The same child that you cooed over, changed their diapers, spent the vacation money on braces, and just last week bought a much-too-expensive Homecoming dress for. That child.
The one that did IT again. The one who wasn’t using his head. The one that should have been home ON TIME. The one that figured out how to get Dad to give her the money she wants for the make-up you don’t want her to wear. Your child. The one that is making you wish you had practiced safe sex fourteen years ago.
“I’ll think about it.” Or, “Let me sleep on it.” Or, “How about we wait to have this conversation when we’ve cooled off.” “We’ll talk later.” Take your pick, mix and match. Whatever works for you.
WAITING for the right time is one of a parent’s strongest attributes for having reasonable, logical dialogues with teenagers who are angry, righteous, scared or self-centered.
You do not have to respond to your teenager’s need for an instant answer. Nor do you need to make a snap judgment, which may be wrong, and which may provide even increased angst between parent and child.
Here’s a one of my stories to make this point (I happen to look good in this story):
My teenage child stayed out passed the time she said she would be home. I was worried. She was a responsible young lady who did not push limits, usually. By the time she got home, I was almost into “call the hospitals” mode. But not quite. She apologized for being late and then went into how she and her friends had gotten carried away and she had forgotten about the time. I would understand, wouldn’t I? And, oh by the way, now that she had my attention in the wee hours of the morning (and I had to work
the next day in another five hours), she sat down on my bed and proceeded to tell me how all her friends got to stay out much later than she did, that their parents didn’t worry about them, and further more, if I wasn’t going to be the most monster of parents, I should realize that coming home before 2am just wasn’t heard of anymore. How old-fashioned was I going to stay?
I let her run out of steam, sitting on my bed, pausing long enough to give me opportunity to agree with her. BUT, all I said was, “We can continue this conversation, but I have to work in 5 hours, so I need to get some sleep.” She’s a thoughtful and kind person. She took a look at my prone form under the covers and said, “Oh sure. Okay. So good-night.”
3 hours later, at 6am, dressed and ready to leave for work, I entered her bedroom. Her teenage body was flung all over the bed, the deep breathing told me she was into heavy REM sleep. I didn’t flinch. I said, “Good morning.” It took several “Good Mornings” and some shoulder shaking, but I finally aroused her to wakefulness.
“I’ve had some sleep and time to think about it. Let’s talk,” I said.
“Mom . . .” she looks at her alarm clock and groans, “You woke me up to talk? Now?”
“You said you wanted to talk about how late you can stay out at night,” I said, quite matter-of-factly.
“NOW?” She closed her eyes, flung herself back on the bed and gave a most mournful sigh.
“When do you think would be a good time to talk about this?” I asked.
A few moments of silence and then, “I get it. Not at 2am in the morning.”
“Ah, you’ve always been so smart about figuring things out,” I said.
“Can we do this after you get home from work?” she asked. [Right after work is not a best time for me, I’m tired and all I want to do is go on “automatic pilot” into the dinner hour.]
“How about this weekend? When we finish cleaning the house?” I asked.
“Oh great. Now I have to look forward to cleaning the house AND talking to you,” she said.
“Does this mean that staying out later is not that important to you?”
“Okay. I know. I know. I have to be grown-up about this, don’t I?”
“I think being grown up and 2am certainly have elements in common,” I said.
“Right. Now I can go back to sleep?”
“Certainly my love. It was good to have this early morning chat with you,” I said, as I covered her with a blanket and watched how she easily went back to sleep.
Timing with the element of WAITING can be quite helpful to learning gentle lessons–for all parties.