How to Use A Pollyanna Parenting Perspective – Part One
Teenagers are designed to make parents lose their minds. It is a developmentally appropriate part of their growth towards adulting, and a required part of your parenting life. It can also lead you to question your own sanity, test the strength of your marriage, and bemoan life on this planet in general. You can read every book about parenting on the planet – and there are some good ones – but in the end you’re still going to just need to wait some of it out. Here’s one approach on how to get through it – by positively spinning every rotten thing they do.
Parents of teenagers will often feel the need to remind the world that, like most parents, they do actually love their children, and would indeed give their own life to save them, should that sort of apocalyptic situation (zombie or otherwise) ever arise. But with teenagers, parents sometimes wonder if that is a good idea. Maybe Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest has a point. Children arrive at puberty and adolescence and drive you insane because they consistently do things that do not make any sense. At. All.
Kindly allow me to illustrate some of the potential pitfalls of pubescent problems that will make you say “No, that doesn’t make sense”, and help provide an insight into what positive spin we can create. Is this lying to ourselves? Perhaps. Teen behavior might not make sense on the surface and our instinct is to try and make sense of the world around us. But it is completely normal and frankly, we parents of teenagers can justify just about anything to get us through these dark days of development.
Hygiene – From Filth to Fashion
Your teens may not find grooming to be a normal or needed part of life. They may have no problem or concern going to high school with teeth the color of mustard. You will wonder if spending money on braces was only important so that the plaque could cover their teeth in a more even plane. Your teens may not brush their hair. They may finger comb it on occasion. They may allow a bird’s nest knot to develop on the underside near the nape of their neck. Yes, the same neck that you use to drop sweet kisses upon when they were sleeping, smelling sweetly of baby fresh love. They do not smell like that now. Your teens may not use deodorant. You will buy it. You will remind them to use it. They will smell anyway. When you remind them of this they may lift their arm in the air and blow the odors of their stinky armpits towards you, wafting their disdain for your suggestions back to your disbelieving face. This will age you, and wrinkles and frown lines will appear because of this pollution. Your teens may not shower on their own volition. You will remind them daily to shower, and they will be annoyed by you, your voice, your insistence for telling them what to do, and your existence on the planet.
Try to go with it. Applaud them for having a positive body image and an indifference to what others think of their physical appearance and odor. Be grateful that they have not succumbed to the overpowering media that tells them what they should look like or what products they should purchase. Continue to buy toothpaste and toothbrushes and take your teenagers for their regular dental cleanings and let the hygienist and dentist tell them how that plaque and cavity thing is working out. Some of this they are doing purely to get a rise out of you, to make you respond, make you agitated. If you applaud their ability to house small birds in their hair, they may want to reject your praise, and may actually wash on their own volition. This will be pleasing to you as a parent and the community at large.
Then, one day, all of that may shift in an instant, and your teenagers may spend hours in the bathroom, in the shower, in front of any mirror, behind locked doors, doing God knows what in addition to perhaps applying hair gel and products from unknown procurement. Every clogged pore and zit may require a national day of mourning. You may find out that you have purchased the wrong brands of products and clothing for your teens (and yourself) for your entire life. Your teenagers may blame you for everything that is wrong with their appearance, from the lack of a whole house water softener to your genetic coding and DNA. You, according to your teenagers, are a complete idiot. You may begin to wonder if they are in fact correct. The verbal assault and abuse may make you question your inner soul.
This is an opportunity for you to use your high school drama class skills. Consider saying out loud what you wish they would say to you instead. You might hear “Where did you put my favorite hoodie?” but out loud you can say in response, and pretend that you are a politer, kinder, more evolved version of your teen: “Mom, I am so frustrated with myself right now because I know I didn’t put my hoodie somewhere that would make sense and I can’t find it and I know that you are the goddess of finding everything in this house, and while that amount of emotional labor must be exhausting, I do appreciate any insights or encouragement you have for me in finding my hoodie, because my hoodie makes me happy, but not as happy as you make me, because you are an amazing parent and supporter for life.” Say it out loud. Await eye roll. Repeat.
You may get full head rolls and perhaps sass, but you will be expressing words that are helpful for their continued developmental process. Their frontal lobes are still forming. They need help. This is the continued teenage version of “say please and thank you”, with just a tad more drama, which will help your potentially fragile parenting mind. It provides an outlet for your monologue. You deserve an Oscar. And a medal. And other parents cheering for you.
Stay tuned for the next installments of How to Survive Your Teen, which include Conversation, Chores, The Lazy/Messy Factor…and What to Do When Your Teen is Smarter than You.
Until then, I’m cheering you on. Onwards!
Image “Brain Power”, courtesy of Felipe Augusto de Oliveira Soares