Picking your battles: the core of parenting a teen

Parenting teens can be a nightmare. Figuring out what is worth fighting over, is one way to reduce your headaches, and lessen the conflicts with your teen.

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 Mikhail's middle school prom 

Parenting a teenager is a constant battle. Like childbirth and labor, no one can prepare you for it! My firstborn, Mikhail is a very amicable and cooperative child by nature. I really thought parenting through his teen years would be a breeze. Oh my was I wrong! While Mikhail is generally obedient and non-combative, I was not prepared for my sweet natured son to become this surly, moody person that at times drives me crazy. I have had to develop a coping mechanism. Picking my battles literally became my mantra. I was forced to decide what was worth fighting over and what wasn’t.

So, for survival’s sake, and my sanity, I developed my ‘fight or flight’ list. Things on my ‘fight’ list were areas where I drew the line. There was no compromise, no room for argument. The ‘flight’ list contained scenarios that I found irritating as hell, but ultimately were not detrimental to his growth and existence.

The ‘Flight’ List

1. His hair – Mikhail sports a flat top. His hair is grown way longer than I would like. At first the hairstyle had me grinding my teeth. I prefer a low cut. But in the grand scheme of things, the assertion of some individuality through hairstyle is the least of my problems. Every teen needs room to develop into themselves, honing their individual strengths and personalities.

2. An impeccable room – My brother’s room as a teen was spotless. To this day he’s a terror. So, I know it’s possible for a boy to be neat and tidy. Mikhail isn’t a slob, but oh boy there just seems to ALWAYS be stuff lying around. Again, no biggie. I mind my own business.

3. Eating times – My teen son doesn’t eat breakfast, claims his tummy hurts if he eats too early. My initial response, “No one leaves my house without eating.” This resulted in him being late every morning because he had to stop somewhere to use the bathroom before getting to school. The lesson, he knows his body best.

The ‘Fight’ List

1. Respect for others – No matter how he feels, or what he thinks, Mikhail MUST be respectful of his teachers and peers. There is zero tolerance for cruel remarks and off-color jokes.

2. His grades – With no exceptions, all grades must be 85% and above. This is a ‘no excuses’ zone. So, homework and classwork need to be done, and he needs to negotiate with his teachers when necessary to stay behind to complete or make up outstanding work.

3. His curfew – Mikhail is to be inside the house at 5 pm every afternoon. If there is a problem, I need to be notified at least 30 minutes prior, no exceptions.

As we progress, I expect both lists will get longer. In a perfect world, everything would go according to plan, that includes parenting. Of course, s#it happens. We have to learn to cope. We do it in every other area of life, why not parenting? I have found that by communicating to Mikhail the ‘fight’ list, we knock heads less, as he knows my red lines. Develop your own ‘fight’ and ‘flight’ list. Best case scenario is that clear expectations will be set with your teen, and you will be able to hold them accountable. Worst case, you’ll retain your sanity. It’s a win – win!

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