Parenting teens is an important job. I have been told many times by parents of teens that they seem to reject their parenting efforts. Don’ let them, I say, teens still need you. Don’t make the mistake of abandoning them at their first display of independence. Today, I am happy to have Leon Scott Baxter, the author of the newly released parenting book, Secrets of Safety-Net Parenting: Raising Happy and Successful Children – The Common Denominator (affiliate link below), and the founder of the website SafetyNetters.com share with us an article his personal experience raising a teen. Baxter understands that sometimes teens think they know it all… but really they don’t. He also demonstrates patience, trust, and keeping the door open for communications.
Parenting Teens: Seventeen Years Old and Already Knows It All
My seventeen-year old, Riley, is amazing, but she’s not unusual. Why? Because apparently she knows everything already…like every other seventeen-year old that walks, has walked, or will walk on this green earth. If you’ve got a seventeen-year old, you know what I’m talking about.
I can’t seem to teach, advise, or tell Riley anything…because she already knows. Best way to deal with her money? Already knows. Advice on studying for her history test? Doesn’t need it…already knows. Help on choosing a college? Nope, already knows how.
Of course she screws up her banking, doesn’t get the grade she wants in History, then comes to me and her mom for help choosing a college. But, then after we assist, she goes back to knowing it all. Apparently, she knows everything else but those three areas… that is, of course, until she realizes there’s something else she doesn’t know.
Well, this all came to a head recently one afternoon as the family headed off for Sunday afternoon ice cream cones. “Can I drive?” Riley asked.
Riley has her driver’s permit and needs fifty supervised hours before she can take her driving test for her license. So, we try to give her opportunities to practice… and, of course, she already knows it all…while using my van.
I used to be very tense and would constantly give her instructions: “You’re too close to the parked cars,” “Start slowing down earlier,” “Don’t take that turn so wide,” a “back seat driver” riding shotgun. And, Riley would just shrug it off, “I got this, Dad. Don’t worry.” She already knew all of this.
On this particular ice cream Sunday, Riley drove me, her mom, and her twelve-year old sister, Grace, downtown for our frozen treat. She took the freeway. Mom sat in the back with Grace. I sat in the passenger seat. I was very calm, and my wife, Mary, was impressed with how I spoke with our teen daughter. At one point I even whispered, “Start slowing down now.” I knew Grace was surprised when I overheard her talking to her mom, “You never whisper when Riley drives, Mom.”
“I know,” Mary replied. “I would have been yelling.”
Riley exited the freeway, but there was a road closure and a detour through a residential neighborhood. The streets were narrow. Cars were parked along the curb. And, there was more traffic than normal due to the detour.
As Riley drove down a particularly narrow road she had to veer right to avoid oncoming traffic, but a beige Toyota Corolla was parked alongside the road, not enough space for the Toyota, our van, and the oncoming car. So, I calmly tell her to stop. Riley slows, but the van continues creeping toward the parked car.
“Stop,” I tell her firmly.
Apparently, “stop” means “go slower” in teen language. We’re going to clip the corner of this parked car, because Riley “already knows.”
“Stop!” I yell.
Screech. The van pulls up mere inches from the Corolla. Everyone in our vehicle is frozen with fear: fear of the crash we’d avoided and fear of the change in my demeanor as well as voice level.
“Thank you,” I say calmly to Riley. “From now on, when you are driving my vehicle with me as a passenger, please do as I say.” Riley realized how close we were to taking out that innocent Corolla’s tail light.
Suddenly, she realized she still had room to grow, something to learn, and she was humbled. She drove to the strip mall and parked. As we walked to the ice cream shop, I put my arm around her shoulder, told her I loved her, and that she’s still learning.
I got my Cherries Jubilee and Riley lapped her Daiquiri Ice cone. “Do you want to drive home?” I asked.
“No, I think I’ll watch you and enjoy my ice cream.” I think that was Riley’s way of admitting she didn’t know it all. So, on our way home I decided to tell her stories about my teen driving mistakes: the time I backed into a car in my high school parking lot, the time I lost control of my car with my girlfriend inside because I was trying to impress my buddies in another car, and the time I rolled my car on my first trip home after a month away at college.
Riley thinks I’m a good driver, and hopefully these stories showed her that even though I thought I did, I really didn’t know it all when I was her age.
So, now she’s been put in her place with regard to driving, but what’s it going to take for History, a D-? Hopefully not.
What are your parenting best practices for teens that think they know it all? Any funny parenting teens stories to share?