Sunday, August 27, 2006

Grumpy parenting advice

Booze, boys and other headaches - Opinion -

Parents and teenagers today, I dunno. The article above (from The Age) relates a mother's attempt to "do the right thing" in the way she manages her daughter's party for a bunch of 15 year olds (some 14).

Maybe I will regret some of these comments when the time comes that my children are teenagers, but at the moment, here's how I feel:

1. There are 57 year nine students invited to this party. Seems quite a lot of invitees, doesn't it? Why do school kids, or their parents hosting, want to have a party at which (surely) they don't know a significant proportion of the invitees very well at all? A smaller party is a more controllable party, and 60 people over is pushing the limits.

2. The mother gives up on the idea of banning alcohol entirely, because she has learnt from experience that it will be smuggled in anyway. (And the effort to police a ban is too overbearing.) The end result was allowing each guest to bring "2 or 3" drinks.

She seems well intentioned, but isn't this attitude just waving the white flag of parental responsibility way too early? There are 14 year olds at this party. What parent should care that a 14 or 15 year old resents going to an alcohol free party? What 14 year old should expect to be able to drink at a party?

3. The limited alcohol option fails anyway, with a few impostors getting drunk, a fight (apparently not alcohol related) and some damage to the house.

What is it with this teenage party gatecrashing phenomena? It puzzles me in several respects. What's the typical reason the gatecrashers want "in"? Because they were not invited and they want to prove a point? What sort of point would that be usually - fail to invite me and I'll come and smash up your house (or your friends)? Is it that they don't want to go to the party at all, but are just out to pick fights with someone they know there? Or is it that it is because some parties are alcohol free-for-alls that is the attraction?

Anyway, it's a disturbing thing that parents these days live in fear of gatecrashing teens. I expect, however, that parents allowing consumption of alcohol is not the way to reduce the likelihood of it happening.

Teenagers: you don't run the world. You have decades ahead of you to drink. You can wait.

Parents: when did you start letting teenagers set the rules? You don't have to be buddies with them. Make yourself unpopular for a change.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said...


On a similar vein this was on the Australian Doctor site (I think it is doctor only, so I can't just put a link)

The teenagediva years 24-Aug-2006

While education has been focusing on boys, adolescent girls have sneaked under the psychological radar. By Dr Michael Carr-Gregg.

“ No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible. ”


SOMEONE once said that the worst two years of a woman’s life are the year she was 13 and the year her daughter reached the same age. There is more than a touch of truth in this for some parents.

For example, I heard of a couple recently contemplating a holiday on a secluded South Pacific island to celebrate a significant anniversary. But their teenage daughters were incensed at this “selfishness”. Before being ‘permitted’ to go on holiday, the parents had to promise to arrange for a local restaurant to deliver a gourmet meal to their home each night they were away. Astonishingly, they agreed.

This is certainly an extreme, but sadly not unusual, phenomenon, and around Australia a growing proportion of parents seem to be capitulating to their daughters in a similar manner.

A group of teachers in Brisbane told me it is now not unusual for girls to inform their parents they won’t be attending school on their birthday, and suggest their parents take the day off to take them shopping. More often than not, parents submit to their requests.

Of course, there are plenty of teenage girls who rise early, shower and get ready for the day without being demanding or disagreeable. But on listening to parents and teachers, as I do on a regular basis, it is clear that a growing number of parents are losing the plot when it comes to parenting their teenage daughters.

The past few years have seen the emergence of teenage girls whose slightest whims are given priority over almost everything, including family harmony, financial considerations, parental sanity, common courtesy, respect and commonsense. Their wish lists become must-do lists, because to deny them a pedicure (let alone make them attend a “boring” family function) is seen by many as akin to being “mean”.

More and more parents appear to be creating a culture of entitlement, hesitant to use moral language, unwilling or unable to set limits or say “No”.

In recent years educators and psychologists have rightly focused their attention on boys, especially their academic disengagement and poor anger management and conflict resolution skills. In so doing, adolescent girls have sneaked under the psychological radar.

Irrespective of whether one blames a mass media marketing machine that seeks to fast-track girls into womanhood, their faster brain development, superior language skills or the earlier age of puberty compared with previous generations, this is a real syndrome that deserves a name.

The vast majority of girls enter the ‘tween’ years as delightful human beings — capricious, garrulous and interested in just about everything.

Then as mother nature’s hormone titration experiment kicks in, gradually the little girl who loved to be tickled, cuddled, tucked in and told bedtime stories suddenly recoils from your touch, regards you as practically mentally retarded, confides in her best friend, and becomes fixated with her body, music, make-up, clothing and, more often than not, boys.

She drops out of netball, quits ballet and declares that the local McDonalds is her Mecca. As part of a generation born with a mouse in her hand, when she arrives home from school she disappears behind an emotional firewall called MSN — where she socialises in cyberspace for hours.

In the past, bolstered by any number of societal institutions, including an active and involved extended family, most parents weathered the storm with firm, consistent and loving parenting and gleefully awaited the time when their daughter emerged from this phase, kissed you on the cheek as if nothing had happened in the past few years, and asked if there was anything that needed doing.

But things seem to be changing, and we are witnessing a parental sea change where many parents are either exhausted or clueless, and increasingly capitulate to these apprentice divas. In doing so, they are producing self-absorbed tyrants — a one-stop emporium of all that is most hideous and vile in teenage behaviour. Girls who think nothing of telling their parents the family car is “gay” and demanding they buy a new one, or demanding to take a six-pack of vodka mixers to a year eight party.

In the current environment, it is politically incorrect to suggest parents are even partly responsible for this state of affairs — because this is ‘parent bashing’ and induces guilt. But let it be clear — responsibility for these girls’ behaviour belongs, with few exceptions, squarely at the feet of their parents, many of whom have ‘outsourced’ the parenting of their daughters for most of high school and are now paying a heavy price.

It is time to break the silence around this type of behaviour and teach parents basic competencies to guide and socialise their daughters, so they become independently functioning adults. If parents don’t perform this role, who will? l

Dr Carr-Gregg is an adolescent psychologist and author of a new book, The Princess Bitchface Syndrome — Surviving Adolescent Girls, Penguin 2006.