It’s 9:48pm, you’re snuggled up on the couch, in your pajamas, with a bowl of ice cream, and you’re watching the final scene of an exciting mystery, when in bursts your teenager, demanding a ride to the drug store right this minute for magic markers for a school project that must be finished tonight.
At first, you’re just irritated that they’re interrupting the last 10 minutes of your movie, but in a few seconds, you go right to incredulous, and then on to furious. Can’t they see that you are not dressed to go out? Don’t they understand that ice cream melts? Have they forgotten how to tell time? They’ve known about the project all evening, probably all week, and somehow it’s your problem? They’ve got to be kidding, right?
Nope, they’re not kidding. You see, in a teen’s mind, it is often all about them. They may take no notice of what you’re wearing, what you’re doing, what you’ve been doing, what you have planned to do, or what you want to do. Parents may find this very frustrating, but if you can accept how the teenager’s mind works, rather than just being angry about the way it works, you can keep your cool instead of yelling, arguing, wasting half the evening, and making everyone upset. There are much better uses of the time – things that will actually teach, rather than just upset or punish.
Let’s replay the scene… When your teen bursts in, demanding a ride, realize right then and there that you simply are not going to see the last 10 minutes of that movie. Remind yourself that there’s a movie rental store on every corner and that you can rent it tomorrow and watch the ending, but let go of the movie for now. If it won’t harm any pets, leave the ice cream on the coffee table and let go of it as well.
Join your child in the emergency and act as if it’s really a crisis. Jump right up and grab the car keys and run out of the house like it’s on fire, encouraging them to hurry up and get in the car before it’s too late. This plan, of course, entails you staying barefoot, in your pajamas, and not grabbing your wallet.
Some teens will be so embarrassed that you’d even think of going out in your pajamas that they will slow themselves down and have you go back in the house and get some clothes. Others won’t, though, so be prepared to be driving, and possibly shopping, in your p.j.’s. Likewise, some kids will notice you don’t have your wallet. Others won’t. No problem. Leave the house without money if you can.
When you get to the store, park the car, but leave it running, like you’re going to wait in the car for them to get the markers. If they go in and pay for the markers themselves, then hurry back home and resume relaxing. You didn’t have to get dressed, it didn’t cost you anything, you’ll still be able to salvage the ice cream, and the only bad part was that you missed the end of your movie. No biggie. They’ve got their markers and no one is really upset. Inconvenienced, yes, but screaming and yelling, no.
However, if they don’t have any money, you’re still in emergency mode. Ask them where you are going to get money from as if you don’t know. If they expect to get it from you, apologize that you don’t have any and go back home. Grab a credit card, then go back to the store.
When you get back to the store, park and prepare to go into the store. If they, at that point, object to you being in your pajamas, let them know that you’ve got a credit card and that you’ll have to go in to sign for the purchase. Then, either go into the store in your pajamas – talking to as many people as possible will enhance the embarrassment factor – and get the markers and go back home.
If they refuse to go into the store with you, go in by yourself and stay in the store for 10 or 15 minutes (if it’s a store with T.V.’s, go watch the end of your movie), then come out without any markers, very distressed, and tell them you didn’t know which kind to buy and let them know they’ll have to come in with you. If they still won’t go in, then apologize again and drive back home and put some clothes on and then go back to the store and purchase the markers with your credit card, stopping for gas, first, if needed.
When the whole trip is over, make sure to deduct, from their next allowance or paycheck, the cost of the markers, of having to rent the movie whose ending you missed, of the melted ice cream, and of the gas or anything else you had to pay for along the way.
You cannot make them think about you and your needs and you cannot make them use good planning, but you can easily illustrate what happens when they don’t, and those lessons are not soon forgotten.