Long before I had teenagers, I watched a parenting video by Barbara Coloroso. At the time I was struggling with three year old tantrums on a daily basis. He would throw screaming fits after school every day if he didn’t get what he wanted immediately. He wanted to eat his dinner and to play with his friend across the hall. I had to cook dinner before he could eat and we had to eat before he could visit his friend. It was a daily drama that I didn’t enjoy. I was at my wit’s end when I sat down to watch the video.
Barbara had a lot of excellent advice, some of which worked with my son and some that didn’t. The same has held true over the years with my other children. Some things worked with one child and not with another. She did provide me with a helpful response to my son’s requests to play with his friend. Instead of saying “no” to him, I would say “Yes, later”. I was shocked at how well this worked!
Advice for Teens
I still remember some of the advice she offered to parents of teens. She spoke about making decisions for your teenagers and when to say “yes” or “no”. She gave three main points to consider when your child wants to do something:
- Is it life threatening?
- Is it morally threatening?
- Is it permanent?
For example, how do you handle a child’s request to dye his hair? While we may not want our kids to have purple hair, there really is no reason to interfere. It isn’t life or morally threatening and it isn’t permanent.
There are other times the request could be life threatening or permanent, but the answer doesn’t have to be no. For example, if your child asks if she can learn to ride a dirt bike, it could be life threatening. However, there are safety precautions that can be taken.
The answer is ‘No’
If the child’s request is one that is permanent, like a piercing, it is reasonable to deny the request. However, there may be alternatives. Encourage your child to be patient and see if they still want it in a week, month or year. Henna or temporary tattoos can aid in decision making.
These three questions go through my mind often as a parent of teens. While “morally threatening” will vary from person to person, the reminder that some things are not life threatening or permanent has helped me pick my battles over the years.