Retrain a teenager? Don’t waste your time

Allergy season – and tissue-eating dogs – in full swing

OK, show of hands. Who knows what the word


means? And who thinks it means something different if you are
not an adult?
Yeah, me too.
“One pound of learning requires 10 pounds of common sense to apply it.” – Persian Proverb

OK, show of hands. Who knows what the word “now” means? And who thinks it means something different if you are not an adult?

Yeah, me too.

Look, if you’re a parent or even a remotely responsible adult, you probably understand the word “now” as meaning “right away.” In fact the dictionary defines it as “without delay or hesitation.” I like the dictionary’s definition, but frankly, it’s very clear that the writers of that dictionary didn’t have children. I know this because I have never yet met a child on the planet that understands that “now” means “without delay or hesitation.”

Seriously. Find me a parent who hasn’t issued a command of some sort and added the word “now” at the end. Now tell me, after that word is said, have you ever seen a child look up and say “Holy cow! Mom added now at the end! She must need me to do this without delay or hesitation!”

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way.

Trust me, I speak from experience. I’ve said “now” a billion – no, a trillion quadrillion zillion – times and never have I had Junior stop what he is doing and snap to attention. Sure, some of you may think of this as a massive parenting fail on my part. But I have a scapegoat and I’m not afraid to use it.

I blame all those stupid parenting books I devoured when Junior was young. I read a billion – or possibly a trillion quadrillion zillion – of them. I read some of them twice. One I read three times, but only because it came with a money back guarantee that I’d be free from teenage smart mouth disease if I followed its instructions. In case you were wondering, it didn’t work. And the money back guarantee? Yeah, that didn’t work either.

Anyway, I listened when the experts said to give kids extra time to transition from one activity to the next. So when Junior was a toddler, I practiced the art of counting to three. When I wanted Junior to do something, I’d say, “Do it now.” And when he didn’t, I’d cheerfully (and sometimes not-so-cheerfully) say, “One, two … and … three.”

Thus, Junior learned that “now” meant “after Mommy counts to three really slowly.”

Now flash forward to Junior as a teenager. I no longer count to three (well I do, but only in my head because when your child becomes a teenager that’s the only way to keep your brain from exploding). Anyway, because I counted to three in the past, my son still acts like “now” means “after I count to three.”

Which it so doesn’t. Not to me anyway.

And the result of all this is that when I call my son and say, “Come home for dinner now” what I’m really saying is, “Come home for dinner this instant or I will ground you until you are 50 or until you move out of your room, whichever comes first.”

Sadly, that’s not what Junior hears. Thanks to my scapegoat – um, I mean, all those stupid parenting books – what Junior hears is, “Oh, hello, young man. Do me the favor of coming home whenever you please and be sure to take the long way and stop at your friends’ homes to discuss some stupid new movie, play a quick round of ‘Call of Duty,’ or do some bicycle jumps at the end of the street because your father and I find such joy in waiting for you at the dinner table while the dogs circle us, waiting for the slightest signs of weakness so they can pounce on the table and eat our food.”

So you can see that this is something of an issue in our house.

Of course, once I realized my massive parenting fail, I tried to retrain Junior. Yeah, that turned out to be a really bad idea. Seriously, have you ever tried to retrain a teenager? It doesn’t work. Ever. Frankly, if they don’t understand the word “now” by the time they hit puberty, you’re done. Teenagers are like old dogs; very rarely do they learn new tricks, unless the new tricks involve sneaking something forbidden past their parents.

And all this means is that I have a child who can solve algebra problems, but doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “now.” And that probably means that I’m just another parent of a teenager. Lucky me.

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