How can I parent a teen in a less antagonizing way?
April 11, 2007 5:05 PM Subscribe
How can I make my household more functional and less antagonistic this summer? Tons
of details inside.
posted by k8t to Human Relations (34 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My boyfriend and I live together and have a happy household. We have invited/allowed a 20-year-old young woman to stay with us, for free, for the summer. My relationship with this young woman is complicated, but briefly, she is from a very poor former Soviet country and I knew her family in her home country. She came to the U.S. on a scam and I helped her out of it and got her enrolled in college. I give her some financial support and a lot of emotional support. We are pretty much all she has for support in the U.S. and her parents aren't easily contactable.
She has lived with us on and off during school breaks over the past few years, but during the last winter break things were tougher than they had been in the past. We argued a lot and my boyfriend and I were quite frustrated with her (as will be detailed below).
We were more tolerant of her irresponsible behavior when she was 17, 18... but she has been in college for for over 2 years now and isn't showing any signs of growing more responsible. Examples: she was feeding the neighbor's cat, had their spare key and a borrowed book and although she has been asked by the neighbor and myself once a week via e-mail or phone since January, has yet to put the key or book in the mail; I had to REALLY nag her to send me her tax documentation - took her until last week to send 2 pieces of paper to me; she misplaces important documents, wallet often; she is bad at keeping a budget; when scholarships require transcripts and letters of recommendation she just won't get them; she chooses to eat candy all day long (fine - let your own teeth rot out); she won't take advice on wearing a sweater when it is chilly outside, goes out in shorts and tank top instead. I could go on. (She isn't disorganized per se and procrastinates like any college student.) In my opinion this is beyond 20-year-old college junior behavior. Maybe it is more normal than I suspect...
My boyfriend and I told her in the winter that we wanted to see improve responsible behavior from her - mainly in her budgeting. We set specific tasks (send a monthly budget update, send your tax documents, take classes this semester that actually count toward your major so you can finish on time) which were not met. We told her that we felt more comfortable with her staying with us all summer if she was being productive, namely had a steady babysitting job, enrolled in 1 or 2 classes that she needs to take for her major, and take a GRE prep course (as opposed to the hanging around the house that she tried to do all winter break). This is all taken care of, but I want to know what I can do to make things less antagonistic in our household. I don't know how to "raise" a teenager.
What I've been doing for the past few years:
- Let her make all her own choices, a la roommate style, I don't cook for her, clean up after her. If she leaves dishes out or something, I ask her to clean it up in the same way I would a roommate.
- If she walks out the door in inappropriate clothes for the weather, I say to her "it may be a little chilly once the sun sets." Or if she starts going for a run at 7pm, I'll say "the sun is probably going to set in 25 minutes, you may want to take a flashlight." (Should I stop doing this and let her "make her own choices"?)
- If I notice that her homework isn't done (ex. bookbag hasn't moved from table), I ask her if she got her homework done. (Should I stop this?)
- When she tells me about parties or drinking, I really suggest to her (very petite) to drink responsibly.
As you can imagine, these "helpful" requests create a level of stress in our household that isn't usually there between the 2 adults. I could stop trying to be helpful, but then silently stress about her doing her homework, getting bad grades, freezing her ass off, getting drunk. She doesn't like being told what to do, natch. How do parents of teens do this sort of "helping" without being a nag and creating this stress for all of us?