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Teenagers Suck: What to do when missed curfews, texting, and Excerpt from Teenagers Suck: What to do when missed curfews, texting, and "Mom, can I have the keys" make you miserable

by Joanne Kimes, R.J. Colleary, with Rebecca Rutledge, Ph.D.



The A-to-Zs of How to Talk So Your Teen

Be careful not to say anything important to them while they're eating, since science has proven that their ears and mouths cannot be open at the same time.

Cash talks. And no matter the generation, it knows TeenSpeak. No teen alive will turn down money, even if they have to do you-know-what to get it.

Don't use multisyllabic words. Teens have short attention spans and tend to stop listening after one syllable.

Everyone likes to be complimented. Like chocolate, a compliment releases something good in the brain. So if you want the garage cleaned, try "Hi honey, your skin has really cleared up! Please clean the garage."

Forego subtlety. When you drive past laborers sweating in the summer sun, remind your teens, "That's what happens when you don't stay in school." If you see an old person with a stooped back, tell them, "That's what happens when you don't drink milk." If you come across homeless people, be sure to say, "Be thankful for what you have." These are the things they will remember.

Great minds think alike. Before you correct, connect. If (when) they mess up, say, "I can see why you thought that way," or "I would have thought that too," or "When I was your age I made that same mistake." This way, they get reminded that you're in this family thing together, and you make your point without diminishing them. You don't want to diminish them -- you just want to diminish their mind-bogglingly bad choices.

Here's something to try when they have done something bone-headed. Even if they're upset in the moment, you can cut the tension by telling them that next time, before they make a decision they should ask themselves: "What Would Fergie Do?"

If you want to strike them with fear, start a conversation with "We need to talk." If you don't, then don't.

Joke around with them. You are always their parent but you don't always have to be their keeper, their boss, their warden. Keep things light when you can. Try going around using "their language." Instead of "Hi honey," greet them with "What it is, gangsta?"

Know what's hard for them and what's easy for them. That will allow you to know when they need a kick in the butt and when they need a hug.

Let them slide sometimes. Let an obvious offense go unpunished and undiscussed (but do make it clear it did not go unnoticed). This nonverbal communication tells them that ultimately you're in this together, and they will probably appreciate it. It may also throw them for a bit of a loop, which is a nice bonus!

Minimize use of your "angry voice." Even dogs know intonation, and the last thing you want is for your teen to get defensive. Okay, the last thing you want is a colonoscopy, but the next-to-last thing you want is for your teen to get defensive.

Never be afraid to apologize. They will see it for what it is, a sign of strength, not weakness. It will mean something because you're the parent -- no one can make you do it. Again, you're building a foundation of trust and communication here. The stronger the foundation, the more it can withstand. So if you lose it a little bit, and you will, go back afterwards and say you're sorry. It helps if you mean it, but even if you don't, do it anyway.

Organize your thoughts before a big talk. Otherwise when you get into their room, all you're going to be able to think about are the towels on the floor and last month's meatloaf on a plate peeking out from under the bed and about how you could just put a sign reading "Garbage Museum" on their door and install a turnstile and charge admission. And you'll totally forget what you went in there to talk to them about in the first place.

Prior to reading them the riot act, give them a chance to explain their side of the situation. It's an opportunity for you to realize what they were thinking (or not thinking, as the case may be), and there's a great chance that by hearing their own flimsy rationale and excuses they will be able to realize where they went wrong -- and will hopefully go right in the future. A parent can always dream, can't they?

Quit nagging them over every little thing. Did your parents do that to you? Of course, and did you hate it? If you find fault on a regular basis about the little stuff, your teens are less likely to take it to heart when you come to them to talk about the big stuff.

Role-playing is a great way to shake things up from time to time. If you always give the same speech, always under the same circumstances, rest assured they will always tune you out faster than you can turn off that rap crap on their CD players. Next time go in there and role-play. You be the teen and let your teen be you. If you both really get into it, you'll learn to look at life through both sides now. And it should be good for a laugh.

Spend leisure time with them. join them in front of the TV. Let them control the remote. Ask them questions about what you're watching. Find out their opinions. Get to know them as people. Because that's what they are, or at least will be once you're finished teaching them how. And the better your bond during peacetime, the fewer and farther between the wartimes will be.

Teach them piglatin. Like real Latin, it's a dead language. But unlike real Latin, it's fun. The only other chance they'll get to learn it is if you send them to a swanky expensive private college and they offer it as a course, along with whittling and kite-flying. Hey, teach them now and they'll make Dean's List! Once they have learned, insist on PLO (piglatin only) conversations, particularly in public places.

U should learn to speak the teen's version of Morse Code -- the language of Instant and Text Messaging. These include the standard LOL, OMG, and ASAP, as well as the less common (but more important) POS (Parent Over Shoulder). With a complete list and a little practice, you'll be able to say NW (No Way), YGTBKM (You've Got To Be Kidding Me), and SMHID (Scratching My Head In Disbelief) without wasting time on actual words, which you can save for other adults.

Very often you might look at your seventeen-year-old and still see a seven-year-old with car keys and an expensive sushi addiction. Try to treat your teens like semi-adults by including them in some semi-adult conversations -- nothing too heavy but topics you might not have shared with them before. These might include issues you are having with work, or an aging parent, or sharing some insights you have obtained during your own life's journey. That fundamental shift can be invaluable to you both as your relationship starts to transition.

W
hispering speaks louder than yelling. Sure, that lacks logic. But in a world where Paris Hilton is an international superstar for no good reason (no good reason), anything is possible if not downright likely. Yelling backs people away. Whispering makes them come closer. Less volume, more communication.

Xylophone. No, this is not a pathetic attempt at finding something that begins with the letter X. Well maybe it is, so what? The other twenty-five letters aren't enough? Maybe your teens are right about you, you are harsh!

Yank a board game out of the closet out of the blue, dust it off, and challenge your teen. Checkers, chess, Parcheesi, anything that doesn't run on batteries and has no video. Odds are they'll try to plug it in, but before you're finished there's a good chance your other kids will fight to get in on the action before it's over. Tell them long stories about how you used to play with your parents and/or siblings when you were a kid. And while they're busy yawning, you can cheat.

Zen is perhaps the best philosophy in terms of communicating with teenagers. You can read a book about it if you like, but it's probably easier and faster to simply buy a box of fortune cookies and share them every night after dinner. Make yours sound like the solution to all the mysteries of the universe. Your teens will do it too. Compliment their reading, and then tell them to clear the table. If you're truly Zen, even if they refuse, it won't bother you. Sort of a like a philosophical Prozac.

The above is an excerpt from the book Teenagers Suck: What to do when missed curfews, texting, and "Mom can I have the keys?" make you miserable
by Joanne Kimes and R.J. Colleary with Rebecca Rutledge, PhD. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2009 Joanne Kimes and R.J. Colleary with Rebecca Rutledge, PhD, authors of Teenagers Suck: What to do when missed curfews, texting, and "Mom can I have the keys?" make you miserable

From Teenagers Suck, Copyright © 2009, Joanne Kimes. Used by permission of Adams Media, an F+W Media, Inc. Co. All rights reserved.