MARCH 29, 2012 7:05PM

How to Survive Your Teen (and Maybe Even Your Tween, Too).

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I've been a parent now for, let's see, almost seventeen years.

If the title of "Dad" were a tenured position, I'd probably have attained  full professor status by now; if it were a seventeen-year-old Glenlivet single malt Scotch, you'd have to cough up sixteen bucks for the privilege of throwing me down.

Had my experience in the fatherhood realm reflected equal progress within the Church of Scientology, at this point I'd be an Operating Thetan able to process whole track implant materials dealing with dichotomies and binary thinking.

Cruise can do that, you know.

But alas, my storm-weathered status has hardly resulted in many moments of fatherly enlightenment, even after over a decade-and-a-half stuck in the trenches without the benefit of an awesome World-War-I-era flame thrower.

More often than not, I still feel like a rookie.

These daughters of mine—these rosy cheeked cherubs for whom I would chew up my arm and feed it to them should they ever be starving and for some reason without teeth, are at the tops of their games.

As we slowly mature and morph into our adult selves, a porous filter gradually develops upon the territories of our brains which convert thoughts and emotions into spontaneous verbalizations.

For instance, yesterday after I arrived home, I pulled out some athletic shoes I'd just purchased. They're adidas "Stan Smiths," a style I've owned sporadically since junior high.

Upon viewing them, my eleven-year-old, whose filter is still on back order, stated, "Wow, Dad, those look like old man shoes. Where's your metal detector?"

My sixteen-year-old, whose wafer-thin sieve lies wrinkled and askew, yet is able to intercept the large, Tourette-sized chunks, remarked, "Umm, whoa. Those are so white. Those are white white. Those are really white. Do you like these jeans I'm wearing?"

On second thought, I'm not sure her brain actually contains a filter, either. It's more of a narcissistic "me magnet," which routes all external information though a self-glorification call center somewhere in the heartland of her hypothalamus.

My paternal challenge, as it's always been, is to not engage them, to not accept the gauntlets which they've laid before me. I can handle the new shoe comments and other insults, like "Dad, when you smile, so does your forehead," or "Hey, Dad, maybe you should have your testosterone checked."

I can shrug those snarkisms off with a snort or eye roll. What I struggle with is the insubordination, the dogged relentlessness my daughters employ to get their way.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I attended a lecture given by author and child psychologist Tony Wolf. Dr. Wolf specializes in teenage behavior and has written, among many others, books entitled, "Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?" and "I'll Be Home Before Midnight and I Won't Get Pregnant."

Dr. Wolf's advice to parents of teens and tweens is simple: Establish your position with your child and get the hell out of Dodge. Kids will badger you and hound you and try their damnedest to wear you down.

For example, your daughter asks to go to Wendy's house, and you say, "No. It's eleven o'clock, it's a school night and anyway, Wendy's still in rehab."


"Why what?"

"Why can't I go?"

"I just told you."

"I know, but why?"

And that's when you leave the room, because the child will stay on that gerbil wheel until she's hoarse and it's time to leave for school the next morning.

You see, your youngin' doesn't really care why. She wants to harass you to your breaking point, make you cave and emerge victorious. Reason and logic are not arrows in your quiver, so don't reach for them.

My bride has mastered the art of stating her position and coolly disengaging. I have not. While she is Mount Rushmore, I am yet an ice sculpture...

...which was actually a pretty sweet liger before it melted.

Author tags:

fatherhood, kids, open call, humor, dad, teen, tween

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Reflections,I like to thank you so much for this reality.I always tell my mother.."tell me what I do wrong,I will make it better if I can".Ρarents is a human relationshiρ.With my last relationshiρ I knew what of and on me bothered and after seeing the reason and logic in it..I changed or at least I tried. But that is what the other ρerson did on my botherings as well.

This is what relationshiρs are..A feeling give and take..An understanding.And you are the first ρarent I have met that is a human also with feelings and thoughts,and mode,and beauty..And I want to thank you for your work here is my teaching.No one has taught us how to be the most significant selfs..Ραrents..I do not know how to be a ρarent and I am sure that I will buy books and go to lectures as well..totally forgetting myself and blaming me along the way....And tears,sometimes,sorry,but when one has seen a lot of your tears and not your blaming yourself,your criticism..sorry but tears,call me insensitive..does not work to me as an argument..A change ,yes..a change that indicates that one can resρect me as I do...not in,no..words are easy...actions..that are hard to do...
But my meaning is that children must resρect and consider ρarents as humans..but ρarents also when they find a friend in their child they must too acknowledge it..and love it..I never took my family love for granted..I know as a child I have been abusive in the ways you described..Not so thinking of them as humans with feelings,just as ρarents..And that is my regret..

I do not know..I want to give love to my family..I want to have a loving family..If only feelings could sρeak louders then words..If only a hug could be our communication..I do not know..

But you do..and I thank you for sharing your story..You taught me somefeelings.Best regards.Rated for not only being a great writing,rich in feelings and reality but also for ρutting uρ with my so longed comment.But you ορened such a big issue here..Family relations..Best regards and thanks.
Ahw you poor poor man. We have lived through three teenagers and thought we had come out unscathed...Not so lucky, they rebelled after they left home. Which is good in some ways, (you don't have to know everything). On the other hand, you no longer have ANY influence on the outcome of their poor choices. Either way parenting is the hardest job you'll ever love. R
I tell people I'm counting the days (6 months to go) until Imp 1 heads off to college, it sounds good. Maybe I'm trying to convince myself.
Well told and so true. One day as I was on my way out for my walk wearing my red shorts and orange, paint crusted tee shirt, my then teenage daughter tackled me and said: "You are NOT going out like that. I have FRIENDS in this town!" She never did develop a filter.
"She is Mount Rushmore and I am an ice sculpture." Perfect!
Ah, I vividly remember becoming a young teen. Somehow, my parents became the most clueless humans alive! Imagine my surprise when I hit my early 20's and they, as if by some miracle, wised up.
My 12 year old offers me lessons in straightening my hair, along with make-up advice. My 14 year old informs me that the new outfit I bought is "something a high-schooler would wear."
Have faith, Fellow Parent, we will make it through this.
Just a suggestion: Sick a grandparent or two on em, or maybe a cranky aunt or uncle. At least you can nap for 20 minutes.
Oh, and you can also try the following: avoid eye contact; mumbling some profound answer to what they just said; point your finger at some imaginary thing behind them while yelling "oh, my gosh, what is THAT??", then when they turn around to look, run away to your safe place. This only works a couple of times before they catch on.
You can try fake-crying, but that is iffy.
Another good one is going off on a long, boring ramble about things that happened when you were a kid. The keys here are:boring and rambling. They will get tired of listening and go away, therefore affording you another 20 minute nap.