In 1988, poet and renowned wordsmith, Willard “Will” Smith penned the words to one of the most prolific songs to ever grace the waves on MTV, “Parents Just Don’t Understand”. And since then, this very plight has plagued the minds of tweens, teens, and 20-somthings alike. What has created such a divide between parents and their kids, where everything is lost in translation and talking to each other is like trying to fish in the Serengeti? At one point or another, they all hit those aforementioned mile stones and yet, once they hit parental status it seems that they have completely forgotten the angst, acne, misdirection, self discovery and downright civil disobedience that once guided their youth. Fear not my misunderstood subjects. I, as a 20-something and current sufferer of this epidemic, am here to give some much needed advice and direction to the parental units. I have complied a list of 10 tips that are sure to bridge the gap and bring peace into your households:
1. Listen. It’s that simple. Just listen to what your child has to say. If you can wade through the slang and broken English, you’d be surprised to find out that we have opinions on most things. And sometimes…every blue moon, they are valid.
2. Don’t Criticize. This is a hard one for most parents because they, the majority of the time, wish for us to do things the way they would do them. Here’s a tip: WE ARE NOT YOU. And most things wont be the way you would do them. But picking our decisions and actions apart wont do anything but shut you out even further and make us alienate you even more.
3. We are in the age of crappy music. Just deal with it. Nine times out of ten you will never understand what that rap artist is talking about and you know what? That’s probably for the best. Having to explain “make it rain” to my mother was a painful experience that still haunts me. She used it in reference to giving an offering at church and I almost met my maker. Besides…I highly doubt that Jimi Hendrix, Whitesnake and Poison were on your parents list of approved, musical talent. Pick your battles.
4. Trust us. Even when it seems like we are totally ignoring you and would rather be piercing our eyelids with nails, we hear you. I promise we hear you. And this is how you know we hear you. Every time we come back home in one piece, we have taken and utilized something you have told us. We have used our heads for more than just a hat rack (my mother’s favorite), We have recognized the bad birds of the same feather and have come to the conclusion that we don’t want to flock with them. We never leave the house with our heads uncovered in the winter and for us 21 and ups, we always know that liquor before beer, leaves us in the clear. Trust that you’ve done a good job and have taught us well.
5. Leave our clothes ALONE! Now this one is a little tricky due to the fact that some of you have adolescents in your home that depend on you and probably are forced to wear whatever you buy them. I’ll get back to you all in number 6. But those of us who purchase our own clothes, catch a bad rap sometimes. Look at it this way My skinny jeans are your bell bottoms or platforms. Of course your parents would prefer you wore that crew sweater and slacks, but due to that uncontrollable urge you had to be an individual, you went against the grain. We are literally doing the same thing…just recognize it when you see it.
6. Being a “friend” can cause more harm than good. Now please don’t misunderstand the purpose of this article. My point is not to create a free for all in your home, but to encourage balance so everyone will get along. Part of that balance is being a present parent to your kid more, than a buddy or homie. I didn’t become friends with my mom until I was an adult. Yes we had a very open relationship and she made sure I understood and was comfortable talking to her about anything. But I never lost sight of the fact that she was my mother. She was the boss and if she said it, that sealed it. If she and I didn’t agree with clothing selections I picked out, we didn’t get it. If she felt like that top was not age appropriate, the answer was no. We had to come to a compromise…a meeting of the minds, if you will. We didn’t pull a Robin Thicke…there were no blurred lines in our relationship. And now, at 25, she’s my best friend and I respect her more than ever as an adult who is slowly understanding the methods to her then, madness.
7. Sheltering is very closely related to stifling. You cant shield us from the world…its just not possible. You aren’t with us 24 hours a day. We are going to get exposed to things you would probably prefer we weren’t. The best thing to do is tell/explain to us what we want to know and have an open dialog about it. Today, it isn’t unusual for your child’s classmate to have two mommies or daddies…seriously, just be upfront and honest about it. When you make up stories, then later on we are ambushed with the truth, it taints the trust. Teach us to be citizens of the world and that will teach us tolerance of others
8. Don’t drink with your kids. Self Explanatory.
9. Be genuinly interested. Easy peezy, lemon squeezy. When your kid feels comfortable enough to share with you period, open your ears, not your mouth and engage. Don’t treat them like the teacher from Charlie Brown. Offer feedback when they ask for it or just be an active listener, if venting is the goal.
10. Lastly, your path, is not our path. Give us the opportunity to figure some things out. Yes we realize you have been there and done that. And you were once 16, 20, 25 etc. and you have life experience…blah blah blah. But this is our first go around. Let us have it. We are going to fall a million and one times, but that’s our right. And if we didn’t fall, how else would we learn to get back up? A deer will watch her calf struggle, and fall one hundred times, but wont move to help because she knows that calf has to gain some strength in those legs and learn how to stand on its own.
I hope these tips were helpful and thought provoking. These are things that I know work, because they have worked for me. Its not hard to understand each other, you just have to invest the time and the energy. Until next time…