Despite those admonitions from more experienced parents and parenting specialists, I have always optimistically believed that my children and I could chart a different course. And sure enough, we’ve busted the myth that all children are destined to become “Attila the Teen.” Here’s how: Decide the “rude is normal” standard is unacceptable and communicate it to your daughter. How? Simply tell her, “Rude is not normal. It’s just rude.” Declare that you two aren’t going to settle for less than the best you can be. When she slips up, give your daughter the chance to regroup. At our house, a Steve Martin-esque “Excuuuuuse me?” sends the message that we’d like a change in attitude, reflected in a more respectful tone of voice. If she’s not capable of regrouping, let her know you’ll be available to talk further when she’s able to be more respectful. (Never engage with an overemotional tween!) Reward maturity and respect. Thank her for being different from the “norm” and demonstrating courtesy.
Whatever you do, don’t make jokes or roll your eyes with other parents about the rough and tough teenage years. That’s the permission slip to drop the bar and deliver the typical, tyrannical teenage tirade (say that three times fast). Instead, when parents make cracks about how miserable their teens are, smile sweetly and say, “Not at our house we’re having a blast!”
Getting through adolescence can be a struggle. But if you expect the best from your tweens and teens, you’ll usually get it.