The Voice of Experience Talks Bringing Up Teens

Quite often I see threads on my local mums’ Facebook page about how to discipline a teenager. I read these threads that are detailing the issues they are having and I nod along going: yup, yup, yup, like some kind of nodding dog. They are usually asking for advice, which although I don’t always jump in and give as I don’t necessarily feel equipped to, I do find myself questioning what I do, or how I think I would react.

With each teenager, I am experiencing new things and coming up against new issues. The issues that existed with my step daughter are now different for my daughters and so on. Life changes and evolves in all sorts of ways and as parents, we must be prepared to move with it.

With this in mind, I thought I would write another post in my: Voice of Experience series. Not because I feel that I have all the answers to teenage/parent angst, but because I have picked up a few things that have worked and are working for me on my journey.

The Voice of Experience Talks Bringing Up Teens

Sometimes against every gut feeling in your body, show them and tell them that you trust them. If someone feels they aren’t trusted, they are more inclined to stray. It builds up a huge amount of resentment. Trust is an essential part of any relationship and it is certainly important with teens.

Equally, make them aware of your expectations surrounding this trust. This gives them boundaries to push against, and therefore the security that you care and that what they do matters to you. 

Communicate with them. Try to get them out of the house and on neutral ground. A walk is perfect, whether it’s a dog walk, a walk around town, even a trip to the supermarket. Stepping into their bedroom with the words: ‘we need to talk’, is guaranteed to switch them off.

Don’t be afraid to thrash things out. You cannot avoid confrontation for an easier life. If you haven’t got the energy to deal with it, put it on hold until you have. Sometimes it’s good to let the dust settle. 

Don’t set unrealistic rules and be prepared to be flexible. Don’t see this as backing down. Often if you listen to your teen they are making valid points about something that you may have previously dismissed. Not listening to their point of view will push them away and closer to their friends who will always agree with them. 

Try to keep them close. You will feel that you are losing them, but you are not. Don’t smother them, let them go and ironically this will keep them closer to you. As they start to seek independence, to spend more time in their rooms and less time on family activities, don’t panic – this is normal. At about the age of 15, they will probably stop bothering to come downstairs to say goodnight. Don’t hold it against them, it’s nothing serious.

Don’t use cutting off their lifelines as punishments: their friends, their phones, social media. They quite literally are their lifelines. By doing this you are simply making them feel even more isolated and less likely to cooperate. If they see that you are listening to them and trying to understand, then they are far more likely to play ball. 

Acceptance is so important. Accept that they are going to push against you. Accept that they are going to break some rules. Pick your battles. It is not a reflection on your inability to parent, it is a sign that they are growing up.

Embrace their noise! Be happy that they have a voice. Teach them how to argue effectively and to put their point of view across.

Throw comments into conversations. Snatched moments are all you may get with a teenager, so use them in a way that you haven’t perhaps before. Don’t see it as futile and worry that you’re not getting time with your teen to get a message across. If you sit down at a table and talk to them for 10 minutes, they will only be listening to a tiny part of the conversation anyway and will actually remember even less of it. Think back to those throwaway comments people have said to you in the past that you remember. Sound bites have a place – be a parent politician.

Please add your thoughts in the comments box. Let’s share the challenges and celebrate the successes!

MHM TEENS stroppy

The Voice of Experience Talks Teenage Girls

I thought that it was probably about time I stepped up to the mark and talked about teenage girls in my: Voice of Experience series. I have/have had quite a few (nearly 5) and although I am absolutely not an expert, I feel that I have waded through enough selfies and blusher brushes to at least voice my experiences of them.

img_2750

You will get to know the postman extremely well, as he or she will be delivering ASOS products and packages from China to your door weekly, possibly daily.

The Ikea shoe rack you bought when your kids were toddlers, no longer caters for 1, let alone any more teenagers. Shoes will take over your house. Shoes and boots. Teenage girls will continue to buy shoes and boots that look exactly like the shoes and boots they already own.

Despite duplicating shoes and boots regularly, they will constantly tell you that they have no money.

They shave their thighs. I was so shocked when I learnt this on holiday in Spain this year, I almost spat out my sangria. Yes, you heard me: their thighs…or perhaps I’m the last to know?

Contrary to popular belief, they don’t initially like to shower. It requires way too much effort. Once they hit 16ish, showering suddenly becomes very important.

They will quite happily take shit photos of you to feed their Snapchat story, but will demand that you delete even the nicest shots of them. They will threaten to report you for child abuse if you don’t.

They will not take off their school jumper, even in a heatwave.

They will not wear a coat, even in a monsoon. Unless it is a coat they have bought – which won’t keep the rain out anyway.

They have a very different concept of appropriate clothing to their parents. They will quite happily let their arse hang out of a pair of shorts and wear see-through leggings. This is very normal behaviour for a teenage girl and to suggest otherwise simply shows how ignorant you are.

They will bake cakes. Quite a lot.

They will pout. I never wanted to believe that my girls would ever pout. I honestly didn’t think they had the pouting gene. They are not even embarrassed by their pouting.

They will have friend issues. You will never quite get to the bottom of it. Just as you think you have nailed the friend that is being the little bitch, bam – that one is the bestie. Stand well back. Be there for them when they allow you onto their hallowed turf, otherwise keep a safe distance. That way, you are doing everyone a favour.

They will wear fake nails. You will find fake nails in odd places. The dog will shit fake nails.

Your house will smell like a whore’s boudoir all the time.

img_2752

Teenage girls can never have too many bags.

They have somehow managed to create a word, the sole purpose of which is to describe perfectly groomed eyebrows. They may talk of getting an eyebrow tattoo…this does not mean they want their boyfriend’s name across their temple.

They can make you feel like the most unfashionable/unkempt/ignorant idiot with a mere look. If the word: ‘on fleek’ was invented by teenage girls to describe eyebrows, I think the word: ‘disdain’ was actually invented by teenage girls to describe how they feel when they look at their parents.

Above all, teenage girls are vivacious, loving, astute and savvy and I feel  extremely privileged to have the terrifying task of bringing them up as single-minded individuals.

fullsizerender1-copy-9

I’ve been shortlisted in the Best Writer category for the Mumsnet Blogging Awards! Please vote for me by clicking on the link below – it takes literally a millisecond. Last date to vote: 7th October. Thank you 🙂

The Voice of Experience Talks Secondary School

Continuing my: Voice of Experience series (here is the link to my previous post):

http://madhousemum.com/2016/07/08/voice-experience-talks-smartphones/

I bring you:

The Voice of Experience Talks Secondary School

change

The induction process for your little year 7 will burn you out. By the time the summer holiday starts BEFORE they have even started school there, you will be absolutely sick of the place, the other parents and their kids.

Parents will be trying to swap mobile numbers with you to arrange play dates over the summer holiday. Your child will spend the entire summer hanging out with their primary school mates. Save the pleasantries for the kids to sort out in September. Then they will find out who they actually really like.

Buy second hand uniform wherever possible. Invest in a Sharpie and just put a line through the previous owner – they are so gone. Don’t buy everything on the list. Supplies of these things do not spontaneously combust in the first term – it will all still be available (but don’t just send your child in his pants on day 1).

Don’t think you can wing the sizes – get your child to try on. The VofE says they seem to grow a lot from leaving Year 6 Primary to Christmas – buy big. All Year 7’s wear huge blazers, it is an integral part of initiation into Secondary school.

Years 8-13 find all Year 7’s either cute or really annoying. Just accept that you no longer have a child who is top dog. They have been spectacularly relegated.

This relegation does not mean that you have to fuss over them. The most you are allowed to do is walk to within a few feet of the train station with them on day 1. After that, they’re on their own (except that they aren’t because there are loads more where yours came from, all shrieking and being like Year 7’s – see previous point).

You will drown in paperwork. You will get passwords. You will forget passwords. If you have multiple children, you will quite possibly forget which school parent mail is which. The VofE says keep tabs up on your computer and tell it to remember the goddamn password. If you don’t do this you are screwed.

After a couple of months, school e mails will become the e mails you click on ‘mark as unread’ the most. There never, ever seems an appropriate time to read them. You will resort to when you are on the toilet, or when you are waiting in a school car park, waiting for your little darling after a netball match.

You will have no contact with other parents. No, none. It is all your prayers answered. It is a breath of fresh air. (Unless you are foolish enough to join the PTA – in which case you will spend weeks haranguing poor parents who hardly have time to piss, let alone make potpourri sachets for the Christmas Fayre).

They will lose things with such frequency, you will begin to question whether they still have a functioning brain. Some of the things they say are ‘lost’ may well have been stolen and they may be too shit scared to tell you. Try to remain calm.

Remain at arm’s length to the whole school process. Don’t sweat the small stuff with teachers – get your child to sort things out directly because it is character building and they will learn indomitable spirit. Only bring in the big guns if you feel all else has failed – you don’t want to be labelled as ‘that’ parent in the staff room. The teachers are on the whole amazing and want the absolute best for your child, but they don’t want to have to deal with a whinger – you or your kid.

Year 7 will fly by! Before you know it they will be asking for Facebook ‘because all their friends have it’, constantly on Snapchat and in selfie heaven and you will be left wondering where your little cherub has gone.

Enjoy!

If you enjoy my blog, I would be very grateful if you voted for me in the Mumsnet Blogging Awards: Best Writer and best Comic Writer categories. It is a quick one – takes seconds and here’s the link, thank you 🙂

http://www.mumsnet.com/events/blogging-awards/2016

 

 

The Voice of Experience Talks Smartphones

Further to my post: The Voice of Experience

The Voice of Experience

I thought that I would share with you things that I have learnt about teenagers and their phones. This is:

The Voice of Experience Talks Smartphones

Don’t be fooled into thinking that when your child has a phone, you will be able to keep track/get hold of them. I have 4 children, all with phones and regularly ring all 4 and no-one answers. Is it a conspiracy?

Don’t get a contract without being very sure that there is a cut off to spending. However much you trust your angel and with the best will in the world, they click on an app that costs a shed load of money, that they don’t have a hope in hell of ever paying off and so you have to. I don’t let the girls have contracts. Ever.

You will get totally and utterly confused with top ups – especially if you have more than 1 child. They will all be topping up on a different day and on different networks. They will run out of credit a week before this day. They will then try and tell you that you topped them up a month ago. They are lying.

If you bought the phone for your child to be safe, bear in mind the above. No credit = back to the olden days pre-mobiles, when we were all at the mercy of paedophiles at every turn. Or, just relax until teatime, when they are sure to appear.

If you buy a phone from the internet for your child, be aware that if it is reconditioned it could be full of porn. This happened to number 1 friend. She sent the phone back after a couple of days…

Teenagers lose things. Teenagers lose their phones. This causes 2 things to happen: firstly a complete and utter meltdown of proportions you have never previously witnessed and secondly a bill for someone. Make sure that bill is theirs, to teach them responsibility. At least you may get your toilets cleaned for a year.

You will frequently be sharing your house with extras – Facetime extras. This creates more noise and just don’t enter their bedroom naked – I have had 1 or 2 close encounters with this one…or rather, their facetime friends have.

Expect the phone to be used for selfies. These selfies will also include you – probably when you are looking at your most shit and they will stick a pair of dog’s ears and a nose on you, then refuse to delete it until you up their pocket money.

image1Dog Mum and dog 2

You will take a photo of them, it will be heavily scrutinized and then they will refuse to let you keep it. Your only revenge is to photobomb their selfies.

image

They will take photos of inanimate objects for the purposes of keeping a streak going. Do not question why they are taking a photo of their bedside table – you will be ridiculed, when you thought it would be the other way around.

FullSizeRender(1) copy 3Daughter 4’s note to daughter 1 when she went away with the school – no mobile phones allowed

Expect to find them on their phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Unless you take it away from them an hour before bedtime, just as all the experts agree you should. In which case just expect an ongoing battle, in which part of their argument will contain the phrase: but I’m only listening to my music…Ha, yeah…just like I never read your texts.

They will constantly be on the hunt for your/aunt’s/uncle’s/friend’s/neighbour’s upgrade. They have no shame. They will ask the checkout assistant in Waitrose if they have to.

Everyone has a better phone than them. Woe betide if you have a better phone than them. When their granny has a better phone than them there is total humour failure, until the situation is rectified (either they have a birthday, or granny dies).

Are you the voice of experience? If so, join in – please add. If you are a very old person, who just wants to moan about how much time we are all spending on our smartphones these day, then please feck off!

If you enjoy my blog, I would be very grateful if you voted for me in the Mumsnet Blogging Awards: Best Writer and best Comic Writer categories. It is a quick one – takes seconds and here’s the link, thank you 🙂

http://www.mumsnet.com/events/blogging-awards/2016

 

 

The Voice of Experience

Sometimes, something rattles my cage and I have to write about it. For selfish catharsis and the overwhelming desire to set the record straight – subjectively speaking, of course. I mean, everyone’s opinions are valid… and then there is the voice of experience. 

Now, the voice of experience isn’t a know it all. It isn’t judgemental and it is certainly not saying it is a parenting guru. No, what the voice of experience is saying is that as much as we all have a way in which we want to parent, rules that we want to enforce and strict behaviours that we want our children to exhibit, we are all real people. We are all living in the real world. The world in which we are living is ever changing and if, as parents, we don’t keep our ears to the ground, observe, listen and be willing to change, then our relationship with our children and their development into mature, rational human beings will be compromised. 

The pressure nearly kills me sometimes. The desperate want and need to get it right. We read books and listen to experts on the radio. We are terrified by newspaper headlines and articles and weighed down by our own parents’ expectations of us. Through all this, however, when all’s said and done, there is one thing that we should be listening out for: yes, the voice of experience. (Oh and by the way, just to make it clear that in my mind the ‘voice of experience’ is people who are living with the issue in the moment – not well meaning very old people who can’t necessarily remember what actually happened…)

You see, the thing that rattled my cage this morning was something that someone had written about teenagers and mobile phones. It’s a hot topic of conversation this one: do we let our primary school kid get a mobile phone because her friends have all got one – justifying it with the fact that she needs it to be safe? Do we allow our 12 year old to get a smartphone, in the knowledge that once we do we effectively are giving them a free, uncontrolled rein on the world wide web and all the shit that lies within? Do we happily relinquish control of everything that up until the moment we were faced with these dilemmas, we had a pretty good handle on? Do we let our teenagers have a smartphone, but take it away from them from 9pm-7am? Do we…oh, I could go on. Such is the mountain of issues we face as parents when our child utters those words: I want a mobile phone.

So what got my goat about what this person said, was that they were talking about not allowing kids under the age of 16 to have smartphones and I could just tell that it was clearly written by someone who does not parent a teenager. It was unquestionably written by someone who isn’t yet, on this matter at least: the voice of experience. You could actually say that their voice is only as valid as the voice of the very old person I mentioned above.

Talk to my fellow blogger Helen from JustSayingMum about teenagers and smartphones. Helen is the voice of experience. She has two teenage girls and a 12 year old son, one of whom she made a vlog with about what  teenagers want and don’t want from their parents. In her vlog, her daughter tells her that the punishment you should never give a teenager, is taking away their mobile phone.

Now, you may well immediately say: ah ha! If that is the worst thing you can do, then let’s do it! Finally, I have a deterrent that is quick and fairly easy – a well-rehearsed lunge at the teenager and the offending article is in my grasp. However, what this says to me is that a teenager’s phone is quite literally, their life. Helen is the voice of experience, but she isn’t saying that she has the answers, in fact far from it – she has turned to parenting experts and is vlogging her conversations with them. She is the voice of experience because she has teenagers and she is observing their world. Check out the vlogs here:

https://justsayingmum.com/

Now, as parents we can all harp on about the fact that back in the day, we didn’t have mobile phones and we never got lost and we actually communicated with each other. We weren’t all narcissistic, selfie-obsessed snap chatters and we used Eye Spy books to get us through long car journeys.

But then you become the voice of experience.

I suddenly found myself with a teenage step daughter and I now have 3 teenagers and a 12 year old. Not a day goes by when I am not amazed by the amount of selfies they take. I honestly cannot fathom their obsession with snapchat and the compulsive need to keep streaks∗ going, even when they themselves have no access to their phone. Our house has turned into one huge vibration, as several smartphones buzz in every room, at any given moment, every day.

image

However, I also now know that this is their world. This is not the world that I was in as a teenager – it is their very real world.

And you know what? Parents are now bringing up their kids in this world with full access to this technology. Toddlers are handed smartphones to keep them quiet. Films are watched on I pads and apps downloaded on tablets. I read a blog yesterday, in which a mum felt guilty for not allowing her child to have access to technology as a toddler and now at nursery she is lagging behind her peers in her techy skills. We are laying the foundations for our teenagers and if we don’t, we are feeling guilty. Because suddenly that voice of experience kicks in and you realise that all the ideals you held when your child was an embryo are actually worth jack shit, because we are living in this world that we are creating now!

So my voice of experience doesn’t say to me: abandon all your ideals! It doesn’t say to me give up, nor give in and it certainly doesn’t tell me that I’m necessarily right. What it does tell me is to listen to your kids, observe them, communicate with them, learn with them and from them and ultimately remember that we are living in this world.

If you snapchat your friend day after day and you get a number at the side of their name then that means you are on a snapchat streak. The number means the amount of days the streak has been going

If you enjoy my blog, I would be very grateful if you voted for me in the Mumsnet Blogging Awards: Best Writer and best Comic Writer categories. It is a quick one – takes seconds and here’s the link, thank you 🙂

http://www.mumsnet.com/events/blogging-awards/2016