Monthly Archives: January 2014

Response to Dear Abby on parenting teens

This Dear Abby letter and response inspired me to write my own response–see below

DEAR ABBY: Our 13-year-old is addicted to her phone. She stays on it for hours, and it’s affecting the time she goes to bed. She’s now starting to oversleep the alarm in the morning before school.

She’s spoiled, and I’m afraid that removing or limiting phone privileges will lead to major problems with her protesting it. I don’t want truant officers or social workers coming to my house because my wife and I can’t discipline our kid. How do you handle a spoiled brat without involving outside agencies? She’s nice to people in school, but is lazy at home and totally self-centered. — FRUSTRATED, EXHAUSTED DAD


DEAR DAD: You and your wife created this “monster,” and now it’s your job to make things right. Of course your daughter won’t like it when you set rules, but you must establish some for her before your lack of parenting causes even more serious problems.

Set the rules and stick with them. If she won’t follow them, there should be penalties for not doing so. Try this: Start with homework. When it’s done, she can have her phone for a period of time. Inform her that if she oversleeps because she was up too late on her phone, you will take it at bedtime. And then follow through.

My response:

Dear Frustrated Exhausted Dad,

There are many resources available to parents of teenagers. Parenting education can help you deal with this typical, teenage behavior and lessen your frustration. One place to start might be your daughter’s school—if they don’t already offer classes for parents, suggest that they start doing so. Other resources: your county extension service, community college, university, or health care services. Your local librarian can steer you to books on parenting teens. Some churches offer classes. There are also parenting coaches who can work with you individually. And there are online classes available.

Just as in any other field, the quality and philosophy of parenting education varies widely. Things to consider: What is the curriculum based on? Is it research-based? Has it been shown to be effective? Who is presenting or facilitating the class? Some states certify parent educators, the National Council on Family Relations certifies Family Life Educators.

For my own suggestions: Start by changing the way you think about your daughter: would you want to cooperate with someone who sees you as a lazy, self-centered, spoiled brat? Treat her with respect. She is in the process of learning how to become an adult and make responsible decisions about how she spends her time and takes care of her body. Your job is to protect her from serious dangers that her immaturity might lead her into, but it is also your job to help her learn how to take care of herself—which includes respecting herself. Rather than simply imposing rules, you can express your concerns about her health and well-being—focus on the issue of oversleeping and why you see that as a problem. Give her the opportunity to come up with a solution that you both can agree to try and then evaluate. This process may take time—just as it took time for your daughter to learn to walk, talk, and feed herself. Involving her in this process will help her see the connection between her behavior and consequences. It puts her in the position of deciding how to meet her needs for socialization and sleep.