Wednesday, February 08, 2012


Do you know how awkward it is to be expected to give parenting advice to parents when you yourself are so very much not a parent?

It's Parent-Teacher Conferences this week; that time of year when I am asked to call upon the lessons I've learned from my ten years of being around teenagers and my own personal experience of being raised by two competent, capable adults (Thanks again, Mom and Dad!) in order to explain to grown-ups older than myself what they should do to be better parents.

Believe me, I try to avoid that type of advice-giving. But what can I do when they look me in the eye and say they're frustrated; they don't know what to do; please, please tell them what to do?

And so, over and over again, I talk about setting boundaries; creating enforceable consequences and then following through on those consequences; asking specific questions; discussing what they learned at school; taking away the cell phone/xBox if they stay up until 3:00 AM texting/playing video games; and so on.

I don't tell them what I really want to tell them - that you need to be home when your children are home, at least some of the time. That eating dinner together as a family makes all the difference in the world. That you shouldn't use your kids as pawns in your petty divorce games or make promises you don't keep or expect your kids to stand up to your ex-spouse's flakiness because he/she might be your ex, but he/she is still your kid's parent and your kid really, really misses them. That your kid isn't your best friend and you should never, ever call them in "sick" because you're lonely and want them to hang out with you all day. That you need to let your kid solve their own problems, even if it means they fall down a little on the way. That even tall, grown-up-looking teenagers are still kids and they need bedtimes and healthy meals and rules and time to play and an awful lot of reassurances that they are good, they are smart, they are loved. That you are the grown-up, whether you feel ready to be or not, and you need to act like one.

Some schools try to be more inclusive in calling them "Parent-Teacher-Student Conferences." I appreciate the honesty as well as the brevity of the title "Parent-Teacher Conferences."

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