The parenting job didn’t come with instructions. No, the most I got was a few eyewinks, sly smiles, and rye salutations like, “Welcome to the club,” from older, well-meaning, seasoned procreators. But, no worries, seventeen years into this gig, I’ve figured out the entire situation. It’s easy, really. Follow these eight simple steps to be the best mom or dad ever to your teenager. Let’s begin with the first tool of superior parenting . . .
A phone. Get your kid a phone and do it as early as possible. Forget about waiting until middle school right-of-passage. Heck, your two-year-old needs a phone or at the very least an iPod. This will be the first of many expensive electronic devices. A protective cover should never be used on said phone lest the cool factor diminishes. If your teenager breaks the phone, cracks the screen, or misplaces the phone, immediately replace it. No questions asked. In fact . . .
Buy your kids whatever they want. They didn’t put credit card limits in place for you. No, that’s why you have two or three cards. Saving for retirement is of no importance. Cash out your 401k and buy that sixteen-year-old a new car. Under no circumstances insist that they seek employment to pay for their entertainment. Don’t forget, it is entirely acceptable for you to endorse and to finance their self-expression. The tattoo they love at sixteen will suit them perfectly at thirty-five. The more piercings, the better. And remember . . .
Diet and nutrition are of no consequence. It’s best if teenagers eat fast food most nights. And they should try to have as many meals away from home as possible. If that’s not realistic, there are always microwaveable TV dinners that can be heated up and eaten in their rooms by themselves. If you must eat together as a family, try to eat as late as possible, because . . .
There shouldn’t be a bedtime. Sleep doesn’t matter in the teen years. Your kids should set their own routines. They know when they’re tired and grumpy. Trust me, they will self-regulate appropriately. And yes, the phone and computer can stay in their bedrooms 24/7. Oh! I almost forgot, when they turn seventeen, they don’t need to come home at night. If they’re inclined to call to let you know where they are—great, but it’s not required. But don’t forget . . .
They need lots of time to relax. The school day is long and stressful. Be understanding. It’s possible they weren’t able to spend the entire day on Twitter or Instagram. Upon reentry into the home, a proper learning detoxification period alone in their bedrooms is necessary. Please, no chores. Straightening their turf, or even more egregious—their closets—might send them straight to the psyche ward. On average, most school nights, a typical teenager needs five to six hours of Netflix. It’s probably best to bump that up to ten hours on the weekends.
Do not pay attention to their friends. Do not ask any questions and never inquire about their associates. Under no circumstances call another parent to find out where or what the kids have planned for Saturday night. This will send you straight to Remedial Parenting 101.
Before 10 am, do not speak to or make direct eye contact with your teen spawn. In fact, it’s best if you limit communication to occasional texts (I told you that phone was important). However, under no circumstances engage with them on social media. It would be very weird to comment on a teenager’s post with a controversial statement like, “Good job” or “Happy Birthday.” You know, like only a creepy, super-weird, stalker-like, voyeuristic middle-aged woman would do that.
Okay, now the biggie: You must refrain from saying, “I love you,” “Be careful,” or “You mean the world to me.” Keep your loving, parental feelings to an absolute minimum. Please DO NOT utter them aloud or, God forbid, in public (again it’s probably best to text). Maybe, if you sneak into their bedroom while they’re in a deep sleep, you can think them.
See, I have parenting teenagers nailed. My name tag reads: BEST MOM EVER! Follow my advice and you’ll be fine. It’s a cakewalk.
I’m raising teenagers . . . what’s your superpower?
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