Feeling unhinged by your teenager’s strops? Lorraine Candy has an extreme solution
My husband believes I have “gone too far this time”. He favours a less punitive parental style when it comes to disciplining our girls, aged 13 and 14. But then he always wants to be the good guy. I do too, but I go to all the school parenting talks, absorb all the surveys and read all the books on the teenage brain, which somehow makes me feel more responsible for moulding these human beings than he does. It’s the biggest thing on my to-do list.
Last week, Mr Candy was horrified when I threatened to remove the 13-year-old’s bedroom door after one of those “tidy your room” rows that saw her slam it so hard, I suspect pictures fell off walls in Australia.
The “teenage slam” infuriates me. It’s a terrible way to draw an argument to a close. It drives me to the outer edge of maternal madness and makes me growl like Marge Simpson. It has to stop, and at one of the aforementioned school talks I picked up a nugget of advice that I hadn’t thought of before: temporarily taking the door off its hinges. Experts advise you set a time limit on this and give clear guidelines on the good behaviour you expect to see. It’s risky if you ask me, but braver parents than I have done it.
164 – The number of door slams in the year of an average teenage girl (Lil-lets 2013)
Teenage girls are so private that losing their bedroom door is as cruel as making them go outside dressed in one of your nighties. It’s ironic really, because having children means our bedroom door is always open, our privacy reluctantly suspended until we are so old that we have no idea whose bedroom we’re in anyway. Until the age of 12, kids are terrified of a closed bedroom door, then at 13 it is forcefully shut, you only have visitors’ rights and must knock before entering. The precious days of access all areas, when you knew the names of every toy you lovingly rearranged on the bed, are suddenly gone, brutally cutting you out of their domestic life.
This rejection is awful at first, but it gradually moves through an emotional curve of worry (“What the hell is going on in there?”) to fury (“For God’s sake tidy this mess up or someone’s going to be buried alive”). It is especially hard for an organised mum who finds the lack of control terrifying.
My girls were predictably horrified by this new threat. For a rare moment there was silence while the 13-year-old assessed the seriousness of my suggestion. It was a tense stand-off, like that scene from Dirty Harry where Clint Eastwood points a gun that may or may not have one last round in it at the baddie and asks if he’s feeling lucky. “Well, do ya, punk?”
In all honesty, even I’d rather not take such a strong disciplinary tack. Perhaps the threat of it is enough to reform teen behaviour? There has certainly been no arguing since. Truth is, I’m not “feeling lucky”, so door wars can wait, I will defer to their dad on this one, who reminds me that the revenge of a teenager scorned is an altogether more frightening prospect than a door slamming.
Would you reach for the screwdriver? Follow Lorraine on Twitter or Instagram @SundayTimesLorraine and let her know your thoughts
Parenting Hacks: How to deal with teen tantrums
It’s tempting to resolve fights immediately, but taking time to cool off can give both parties vital perspective. Agree on a time to resume the dispute and stick to it.
Root it out
Forget trying to win the discussion, get to the root of the distress. Why are they upset now? How can you change that? Reframe “fighting” as problem-solving.
Sit down during a “peace” and establish limits: fights are part of all parent/child relationships, but physical aggression, causing damage and name-calling should not be.
Pick your battles
A dispute between mum and daughter can be like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Have the self- discipline to walk away. It’s not always worth it.