teens

"Accept that bad days happen." Daisy Turnbull shares her Five Golden Rules for parenting.

Mamamia's Five Golden Rules series takes a pervy look into the lives of Australian families. From parents of toddlers to parents of teenagers, the series asks parents to share their golden parenting rules, including the rules for their kids, and rules to just get through each day.

This week, author of new release, 50 Questions to Ask Your Teens: A Guide to Fostering Communication and Confidence in Young Adults, Daisy Turnbull, shares her Five Golden Rules for parenting teenagers, based on her experience teaching teenagers over the last decade.

Being asked to turn a list of 50 (which at one point in the writing process was a list of 63) to five is pretty difficult, but here goes. 

After over a decade of teaching teenagers, and three years volunteering at Lifeline, here are my Five Golden Rules for parenting teenagers

Watch: Parents of teenagers, translated. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

1. The whole point is they go.

Teenagers are one day meant to leave home and start their own grown up lives and families. 

It is pretty crucial to the continuation of the species. This is why the teenage years for parents can be really difficult because you can see where they are heading, but may not like it. And also, at many moments, it will be quite clear to you that they aren’t entirely ready for fully fledged adulthood. But really, who is?

But if you keep in mind the goal that they are good, responsible, and kind adults (or whatever combination of values you prefer), then the tiny steps that get them there will all be part of it. 

Remember, good teenage years mean they will want to hang out with you when they themselves are adults. 

So as your teenager starts to individuate, and look to their peers for advice more than you, remember that it is all part of the process, and part of being human. 

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I mean, you call your friends first right? 

2. Awkward conversations keep you on the front foot.

"Controlling the message" is something often said by political types - if you start the conversation, you get to control it. 

Like how someone started the phrase that a vaccine rollout was about being "at the front of the queue" but then it "wasn’t a race", for example. 

So too it is for parenting. 

Now as a parent, much like a politician, you will inevitably be on the defence or back foot (how the hell am I in a sporting analogy right now, I hate sport?) when you catch your teen doing something or find something in their room (the ethics of finding things in kids rooms, by the way, is a great chat to have with them...), or they out of nowhere ask you when they can go on the pill. 

You can’t be on top of everything, but you can go through some awkward (and not so awkward) topics beforehand. Doing this will mean your teen: 

  1. Knows your views on it, even if they disagree.
  2. Got it from a reliable source - or at least, one that you agree with, yourself.
  3. Knows you’ll talk to them about these issues.

And really that's the best you can hope for. Take porn for example, most kids have seen it by the time they are 11. 

Now taking that statistic, you can therefore be almost certain that even if your teen has never seen porn, they sure as hell know what it is. 

So why not have the convo? What's the worst that can happen? They decide after their mum and dad have talked to them about how porn isn’t real and degrading to women they’re going to jump on Pornhub for hours on end? 

These conversations do not have to go on forever, but if you’re not having them with your own kids, then who is? 

Now schools will cover some (a lot) of this content, which is great. But again, the best person to start the chats is you, even if it's awkward. 

3. Gratitude is great but have you tried matching rights to responsibilities?

You get a car. Woo! But you also get car registrations, CTP, insurance, parking tickets, demerit points and random breath testing. 

Rights (the good stuff) comes with responsibilities (the less fun stuff). Getting these out of sync can lead to a lot of entitlement and being a really crap flatmate one day. 

So before you even start thinking about curfews, mobile phones, or first cars, what can your teen actually do? Can they cook a meal a week? Do they? Why not? Or if they do, why not make two?

This can be as simple and practical as writing down a list of all the things that need to be done in your home (also just an excellent exercise if you’re trying to explain the concept of the 'mental load' to your teen). 

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Once you've got the list written down, you can do a bit of an audit into what your kids do. How fair is it? How gendered is it? How will it step up as they get older? 

Remember, at 18 they should be able to do almost everything, because that's what adulthood is, doing the things.

When people understand what goes into the great machinery of a family running, they are more grateful for it, and appreciate the contribution everyone makes. 

Unless your home has its own house elves, I guess. 

Listen: Yumi Stynes chats to Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo about her Five Golden Rules for parenting on Mamamia's podcast This Glorious Mess. Post continues below. 


4. "Other people matter."

Whether it is friendships, romantic relationships, siblings or colleagues, the other people in our lives are the most important parts of it.

Above stuff, above money, above experiences. Harvard’s longitudinal study which has been going for over 80 years has proven it. The biggest factor in a good and happy life is strong relationships.

With teens it is not so much about forcing those relationships or saying if you do/don’t like Susie from down the road, but about letting your teen experience them.

It is as teenagers that their peers will usurp parents as their advisors, and it's in knowing and accepting that, rather than fighting it, that your relationship with your teens stays healthy. 

But a stat to think about when your teen does start dating is that the demographic group with the highest risk for being victims of coercive control is teenage girls aged 16 to 25. 

So talk to your teens (boys and girls) about what a healthy relationship looks like, what control looks like, and how to spot red flags. 

A girlfriend once told me "fast in, fast out." 

Talk about love bombing, and the importance of maintaining their friendships when in a relationship. Talk about other peoples' perspectives, kindness, and the kind of relationship you want to have as they become adults. 

5. We are all messy and imperfect and we’re having cheese on toast for dinner tonight.

Tough times lay ahead. 

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Tough times sure as hell lie behind too. While we should never expect our kids to shoulder our stresses, it’s difficult to sell the idea that things don’t always turn out okay to a teen if you’ve never let them know you have hard days too. 

This is all to say that toxic positivity in parenting is bullocks and doesn't help anyone or anything. "It’ll be okay", "It's not that bad", and "So what?" are the best way to shut down conversations with your teens and very clearly say, "You won’t get what you need when you come to me. Wrong way, go back."

So be prepared to role model being a bit off one day, talk to your teen about mental health. When we accept that bad days happen, and that the only way out of an uncomfortable emotion is through, we raise adults who listen to their guts. 

So, that's my Five Golden Rules for parenting teenagers, but really, I have 50 questions you can ask your teenagers, out this month.

50 Questions to Ask Your Teens: A Guide to Fostering Communication and Confidence in Young Adults by Daisy Turnbull, published by Hardie Grant Books, RRP $24.99, is available in-stores nationally on Wednesday February 2.

Image: Supplied.

Feature Image: Instagram / @ms_dzt.

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