When parenting a teen, sometimes it’s ok to ‘let it rip’!

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To my regular readers, I know what you’re thinking when you saw the title of this post. What? Another post on parenting teens? Why? A cursory search on my blog shows I’ve already posted several thoughts on parenting teens.

Plus the smorgasbord of parenting tips that are a mere online search engine or ChatGPT click away!

So what’s there left to say?

Well, despite all the parenting tips already out there, neither I nor any parent on this earth (past, present, or future) can lay claim to any single definitive way to bring up kids. To claim so would be outright hubris and a colossal embarrassment (take that, Amy Chua!).

Newsflash: there is no perfect way to parent teens!

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Truth is, just as each human on God’s green earth is unique, each teenager and his/her parent is too. So why would we assume a one-size-fits-all way to parent teens? There is none.

General principles? Sure.

Best practices? Perhaps.

“Spot-on-works-100%-every-time” solutions? Forget it!

Yet this doesn’t seem to be common knowledge. Not when you see the non-stop tidal wave of parenting advice that continuously flood the internet with “guaranteed tips/tricks” to “tackle” teens. And the nervous parents who lap them up!

Let’s face it.

Haven’t we already heard enough from purportedly well-meaning (some less so) colleagues, friends, and relatives? Those ever-ready to offer their patented seven-step guide to super parenting? Or 12 ways to raise an Einstein?

Whether you want them to or not doesn’t matter. Cos they’re gonna give it to you anyway.

So if you’re a sucker for punishment and want the same here, I’m gonna disappoint you. Or try my hardest to.

Cos all I ever post is my clumsy and inadequate attempts to survive this insane safari that is parenting!

But perhaps it is precisely within these unique imperfect moments that I have (and every other parent too), that we might yet draw new hope and inspiration to go on.

So with that in mind, here’s my latest unique imperfect moment.

The moment a parent “erupts” before their teens

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This happened five days ago.

We had sat down to dinner as a family sans my wife, who was late making her way home from work.

While munching away, I asked my usual question of my sons: “How was your day in school?”

And as usual, there was no immediate reply. So I repeated myself, this time varying the question: “What happened in school today guys?”

This time, and without missing a beat, my 14-year-old answered: “Lessons.”

Looking back now, I’m pretty sure I know why I responded the way I did. But at that moment, I had no idea. All I know is that I erupted like a dormant volcano that suddenly awoke! I literally “let it rip” on him and even his brother. They were stunned into abject silence. And if I’m being honest, I think I was too.

Stunned I mean. Cos I was by no means silent!

But feeling stunned didn’t stop me from letting them have it. This “fury express” had definitely left the station!

I scolded them for being non-communicative. I scolded them for making me repeat my questions. For appearing to ignore me. And for giving such lame answers as “lessons.”

Sometimes a parent just has to “let it rip”!

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Now please understand. I pride myself on being a ‘woke’ parent.

Despite what I said earlier, I too have given in to helpful advice from all quarters. I’ve read the books. Listened to “well-meaning” folks. Attended parenting workshops to learn what I can do better to parent teens.

In short, I’ve been a conscientious dad who should know more parenting tips than most by now.

And one of the top tips that are repeated ad nauseam is this “well-meaning” tip: as parents, we must never lose our cool, especially in front of teens. It would only alienate them further and create rifts in the parent-child relationship.

Well, I beg to differ.

You see, that dinner scenario was no isolated incident. It’s happened multiple times!

Each time I tried my best to stay cool; to try the soft approach. Gently, persistently prodding with open-ended questions in order to get the dinner conversation to flow around the table. No ruffled feathers. No fluster.

My wife’s even better. In fact, credit goes to her for always initiating these meal chats. She never gave up but would plod on stoically to get our tight-lipped kids to recount their school day.

But she wasn’t there that day.

And I had just about had enough!

Now my teen knows how upset daddy can get!

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I would love to tell you I was able to quickly pull back after the initial eruption. That I was able to return to being a zen dad. To restore the dinner atmosphere to one of calm and tranquility.

But no.

In fact, even after the dinner was done, I continued to let my eldest know how his one-word answer had set off so many angry thoughts in me.

In short, I defied all conventional wisdom that says parents can be angry but can’t show anger.

In that moment, I held nothing back.

After some 15 minutes of my running tirade, even my son’s default poker face started to fall apart.

That’s when I suspected he finally knew how upset I was. And that perhaps my message had finally hit home.

And what was my message?

  • Ignoring or giving lame and lazy answers to parents is a sign of rudeness and disrespect in our household.
  • Having been there all these years for their big and small moments, meeting their every need, and loving them unconditionally, the least they could do is respond appropriately when we talk to them nicely.
  • No one in our family is more important than the other, nor is any single one the center of everyone else’s universe. So mutual respect and honor must be the rule.
  • Parents are also humans, capable of losing their cool when things get unbearable in the ongoing journey to raise kids well.

Parenting is a marathon with speed bumps

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I’ve always likened the journey of a parent to a marathon.

You’ve got to train for a good amount of time beforehand. You need to study the terrain, the climate, and the distance judiciously. And throughout the journey, you must endure pain and discomfort, and deal with the unexpected speed bumps.

All the while keeping the end goal locked in your mind.

For marathoners, that would be the ticker tape at the finish line. For parents, that would be the raising and releasing of a fully-grown, decent human being into society.

But getting there, well, that’s the speed bump challenge. And I certainly met mine that night.

Looking back, would I have done it differently? For sure.

Be calmer and not let my anger get the better of me? Definitely.

Yet I can’t help feeling it was exactly what I needed then. To blow off some steam. To let my son know his response affects me, and it matters to me.

And it needs to matter to him too.

That evening, it seemed that it finally did.

An hour or so after the dinner incident (my wife had returned by then and was updated on what happened), my teen came to us and apologized, He realized he had indeed been disrespectful to us on many occasions. He then promised to do better next time.

While things have been better these few days, it’s still early yet to know if what happened, and the message I was trying to send has sunk in and taken root.

I’m just quietly hoping that, though I lost my cool that day and “let it rip”, our relationship will weather this storm and others that I know are still to come.

2 thoughts on “When parenting a teen, sometimes it’s ok to ‘let it rip’!

  1. I used to take my parents for granted. I remember they always used to tell me, “One day you’ll understand when you have kids of your own.” And reading your stories actually gives me so much insight into the life of a parent. Can’t imagine myself going through the same things. Maybe we’ll find out one day, lol. Thanks for this post!

    1. I’m sure you will. And when you do, remember my parenting journey and take heart. Things will work out…cos they have to! Thanks again for dropping by.

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