My teen daughter has been complaining lately that I’m mad at her all the time for just about anything, and that it’s getting both annoying and boring to her. She claims to listen to me, but cites that she has absolutely no idea why I am mad at her.
The sad thing is that she knows exactly why I am mad at her, and she makes the conscious choice to go down that wrong path. She knows that there are three basic things things that can set me off on a daily basis as a parent: (1) being disrespectful or having a terrible, nasty attitude; (2) making me wait for her when I pick her up after school; and (3) not doing her chores. Of course, this list is not all-inclusive and allows for other heinous real-life offenses such as flunking her core classes, sneaking out in the middle of the night to attend drug and alcohol parties with 18-year-old boys, and drinking vodka at a supposedly all-girls’ sleepover — with boys there!!
The first annoyance is almost inevitable. All teenagers have nasty, petty, horrible little attitudes at some point, so there’s really nothing that can be done about that. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to lie down and put up with the nasty, petty, horrible little attitude, but that problem should eventually go away — at least by the time she’s 30 years old.
The second issue, not showing up on time to be picked up from school, is very much avoidable on her part. There have been numerous occasions when I have been forced to wait up to 45 minutes for her to show up — with no real explanation or apology. Generally, all she has to do is to go to her locker, pack up whatever books she needs, and come to the side of the school to meet me; that takes about eight minutes, ten minutes at most. Her showing up late has become such a regular occurrence that I now arrive 10 to 15 minutes after the final bell in an attempt to avoid the volatile situation completely and the resulting inevitable confrontation. Yet, on occasion, she still makes me wait at least a half hour; just this last Monday she showed up 37 minutes after her last class — again, with no reasonable explanation or apology; she could only account for 15 minutes of the 37. On those now-frequent days she is properly waiting outside when I pull up, she interprets “Thank you for being on time today!” not as a token of gratitude, but instead as a reminder of previous offenses. If it’s not a day she gets yelled at for making me wait a half hour for her, it’s a day she brings home an issue with her from school. Either way, attitude usually ensues.
Number three is one of the biggest issues in our household — she will not do her chores. She’s luckier than most kids, because she only has six things to do every day: (1) clean the cat litter box, vacuuming or cleaning the surrounding carpet when necessary; (2) fill up the cats’ water container, cleaning it when necessary; (3) fill up the cats’ food container, cleaning it and the surrounding countertop when necessary; (4) change the frogs’ water; (5) take out the recycling that is accumulated indoors; (6) empty out any indoor trashcan that have anything in them. That’s it. It takes ten minutes. Twenty minutes if the cats are truly slobs that day. There are other weekly or as-needed chores, but this is the small list of tasks that must be performed every day.
She completely refuses to do her chores, citing that homework is more important than doing chores. When called to task on it, she states that “no one acknowledges that… teenagers have rights of a free mind and the freedom to say what they want, whether people think so or not.” She goes further, stating that she “is a human being and that she has the biggest say in her life — because it’s her life.”
Wrong. And irrelevant.
First of all, homework is not necessarily more important than chores. Both of those tasks are lumped together under the heading of Responsibilities. If a straight-A student graduates first in her class and she repeatedly ignores and refuses to follow the instructions of her new boss, not one of those A grades will prevent her from being fired. Responsibilities you are given as a child develop discipline. Without discipline, you are guaranteed to fail in the future.
Here are a teenager’s rights:
- you have the right to live with people who love and care about you
- you have the right to an education
- you have the right to be safe at home and at school
- you have the right to have food to eat, a place to live, and health care
- you have the right to have a say about things that affect you
- you have the right to be treated fairly and with respect
- you have the right to be protected from harm
Addressing the first right, my teenager already knows that we love and care about her. She also knows that if we didn’t we wouldn’t care what the heck she did, or didn’t do.
She has the right to an education, which we and the State of California provide to her. I have never told her not to complete her homework, but I think it fair to request that she curtail talking on the phone, watching TV, playing with the cats, and generally goofing off in favor of completing her chores and her homework — her responsibilities. She also has the privilege of having her own work desk in her room, along with her own computer, phone, and restricted high-speed Internet access.
She has the right to feel safe at home and school, and to be protected from harm. We live in a neighborhood where our houses do not need bars over our windows and doors, and she has yet to come home from school suffering the losing end of some schoolyard brawl. ‘Nuff said there.
She has the right to food to eat, a place to live, and health care. With the number of PopTarts that kid eats, she can’t have any complaints about available food! While I wish I could afford the best possible health care for my entire family, our budget-minded plan suffices for everyone. And, last time I checked, the roof over her head doesn’t leak.
She has the right to have a say about things that affect her. That doesn’t mean she has the final word, only that she is allowed to have input. On children’s right, the Supreme Court says: “We have recognized three reasons justifying the conclusion that the constitutional rights of children cannot be equated with those of adults: the peculiar vulnerability of children; their inability to make critical decisions in an informed, mature manner; and the importance of the parental role in child rearing.” We as parents must continue to exercise our more experienced judgment in most manners, especially as she has not demonstrated adequate decision-making skills in many, many areas.
Even the right to privacy as established by law protects children from privacy invasions only by outsiders, and does not establish legal rights to privacy from a child’s parents. Luckily for her, we generally respect her perception of her right to privacy, although her email and incoming calls are sporadically screened.
She has a right to be treated fairly and with respect. It wouldn’t surprise me if our views on our treatment of her and her treatment of us differ greatly. She doesn’t like getting yelled at for not completing her chores and thinks it is unfair — and yet this week she has not completed her chores since Tuesday (today is Friday). One recycling bin has been unemptied for almost two weeks, a bin that should be emptied every day. If she wants to be treated fairly and with respect, then she has to treat the rest of the family the same way. If someone knowingly and willingly shirks their responsibilities, then they should expect to get into trouble. Punishment is therefore fair. When she exudes her usual teen attitude, the fair and respectful consequence is for us to nip that attitude in the bud. If you are fair and respectful, you will be treated fairly and with respect. Remember that.
She continues to insist that she is a young adult, common among adolescents. But she is physically, emotionally, and legally still a child — despite her own thought and ideals. If she was responsible, trustworthy, and capable of making appropriate decisions, then perhaps she could be considered by us to truly be a young adult in all respects except legally, but she has yet to demonstrate that level of maturity. She is making — forgive the expression — baby steps: a greater interest in school, a decreased interest in boys, an increased awareness in the importance of hygiene.
Simply put, our household would have greater peace if she just stepped up to the plate and assumed all of her responsibilities, not just the ones of her own choosing.
In the past, it has always been her choice either to perform or not to perform her required responsibilities (whether they be schoolwork or chores), and she has always known that. She has also always known that consequences for failing to perform those duties have always existed.
It will continue to be her choice for the rest of her life.
More information on children’s rights: