Teenagers are volatile creatures, they will bite your head off for the most ridiculous reasons. Like asking them to put a spoon in the dishwasher. I’ve had my fingers burnt many times just asking a simple question.
I’ve learnt a lot over the last 6 years of parenting my own teenagers. So I thought I’d pass on the 13 things you need to know.
1. Don’t go in their bedrooms.
Teenagers need their privacy and are very protective of their environment. Also, if you do in there you’ll balk at the state of it and that’s not good for anybody. I’ve seen tidier skips to be honest. Not much makes them angrier than being disturbed when they’re relaxing in their natural environment. Especially if the source of disturbance is a parent asking them unreasonable questions. Like, how was your day?
Plus, if you have boys, you really don’t want to catch them in the act of something you don’t want to see!
2. Don’t ask them to tidy their bedrooms.
It doesn’t matter if you ask nicely, shout at them or offer bribery, you’ll be met with the same response : Eye rolling, attitude, and zero action. Teenagers are always too tired to hold a Hoover, but not tired enough to put their phones down.
Instead, ask if they want a friend to come over for a sleepover. You can guarantee they’ll be cleaning their room in next to no time.
3. Don’t be tempted to clean their bedroom for them.
Unless you want to touch things that could be a new species of something, catch ebola, or have an asthma attack because of all the dust (even if you weren’t asthmatic before you went in there), don’t touch a thing.
Because if you go in and clean their room to showhome standards, your teenager will probably go mad. I mean, you’ve interfered with their organised chaos for goodness sake. How are they supposed to find anything if you’ve moved it off the floor and hung it in a wardrobe?
It’s far more productive to ignore the mess and spend your time on social media instead- at least you’ll get to find out what Mabel at number 74 has been up to, and you won’t have angered any hormotional teenagers.
4. Never speak to them in the morning.
You know how you feel when you’re dragged out of bed at 4am by a screaming pukey child and discover you’ve got no coffee left? This is the mood teenagers wake up in every day.
Even if they sleep in until noon.
Joe once told me that the only reason he eventually got out of bed in the morning was because my ‘voice is so annoying it makes (his) brain scream to get out of his head.’ So that was nice.
Try to time when you Hoover for around the time you want them to be awake. Even if they start screaming at you, you won’t be able to hear it because of the Hoover.
5. Don‘t act happy to see them.
I can’t stress the importance of this one. Never act happy to see them.
Whether it’s picking them up from school/college or when they’ve come back from a week‘s trip away, never jump out of the car for a hug.
You will be met with the most chilling stare, limp arms, huffs and more eye rolling. You will also be called ‘hella embarrassing’ or ‘bare moist’ and feel rejected for the rest of the day. So just say hi and hug them when you get home. Or when they’re asleep and can’t fight you off.
6. Don’t sing along to the radio.
You know when you’re driving along and a song comes on the radio that takes you back to your teens and you can’t help turning it up and singing along? Don’t ever do this with a teenager in the car. For some reason they aren’t impressed when you’re able to rap every lyric from Gangster’s Paradise, and they will try to escape from the car whether or not you’re doing 70mph on a motorway.
It annoys them even more if you know all the lyrics to a track they love.
It is perfectly acceptable to do this when they aren’t in the car though. Whack up the volume and release your inner rapper.
7. Don’t ask them what they want for dinner.
Teenagers have no imagination, and are hungry ALL THE TIME. So asking them what they want for dinner is like lighting the touch paper of the hangry bomb. You know what they eat by now, so just make something they’ve eaten before. They’ll either reject the roast dinner you’ve lovingly slaved over in favour of a pot noodle or they’ll eat it. Whatever. They’ll never starve. (See number 12.)
8. Don’t ask them how school or college was.
There’s no point. The only answer you’ll ever get is ‘fine’. It’s very rare for a teenager to expand on this, so if you genuinely want to know how their day was, give them a different opening. Ask them something random like: Would you rather be a history teacher or a dinner lady? Or What did you think about during assembly instead of listening? Usually they carry on talking enough for you to get a gist of how they’re feeling at school.
9. Never expect any kind of affection from them.
But take it when it’s offered. Yes, they probably show more affection to their phones than they do to you, but don’t let it get to you. As long as they know they can have a hug whenever they want one, they will eventually approach you. If you need cuddles to get you through a day, get a puppy instead. They always want to give and receive attention and are always happy to see you.
10. Say your goodbyes to your cutlery, crockery and glasses.
They will soon be living in the teenage wasteland, prisoners of laziness, growers of new species. I’ve stopped nagging mine about it now, because they’re bloody quick to go and retrieve their stash of dirty things when they realise they can’t eat their dinner with their hands. Or they want a drink and there are no glasses or mugs.
Don’t be tempted to buy them their own mugs in the hope they will just use them. They will. But they’ll also use all the other stuff too.
11. Always check their pockets before doing a load of laundry.
Teenagers are notorious for leaving things in their pockets. Depending on their age you could find ; Keys, lipstick, chapstick, tissues, lighters even. And you can bet it‘s always your fault when the washing machine ruins whatever they left in their pockets. You won’t get thanks for washing their dirty clothes, but you will get demands to replace the items.
Counteract these demands with ‘OK, you do your laundry from now on then’ and you’ll find all is forgiven.
12. Don’t bother unpacking your shopping.
I can’t reiterate this enough: Teenagers are always hungry. Returning from the supermarket with bags of groceries is the closest you’ll get to feeling like a superhero.
They’ll actually be happy to see you, and will eat everything straight from the shopping bags which saves you the trouble of putting it all away. Oh, and by the way, you haven’t gone mad, you did buy 24 packets of crisps, 4 loaves of bread and 24 minirolls yesterday, and yes they have all been eaten.
13. Just love them.
Despite all the attitude, eye rolling, refusal to speak to you or be seen in public with you, they do still love you. Their rejection is just a part of them becoming independent from you. They are full of hormones and feelings that they don’t know what to do with. Especially when they suffer from the no-internet affliction. A minuscule drop in internet signal/speed can bring about rage like you wouldn’t believe. And their bodies are busy growing making them perma-hungry and exhausted. So not a great combination!
Do you remember the terrible two’s? You know, that lovely time when every food was rejected, naps were refused, giving them the wrong cup turned them into the hulk and every single outing resulted in a tantrum? The teenage years are kind of the same thing but the kids are just bigger and hairier.
They will grow out of it, and by the time they’re 25 they will appreciate everything you’ve done for them.
But the wonderful thing about teenagers is that they make you miss those days where they loved you so much they wouldn’t let you shit in peace. I like to remind mine of this when they’re being extra-attitudey. It makes them cringe so much it renders them speechless.
If your little darling hasn’t quite reached the teenager years yet, have a read of my parents guide to puberty here.