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Be firm and decisive with your scheming teen and you won't be forced to take their bait ANTHONY E. WOLF "No, Sondra, you cannot go to Death Metal Fest VI." "But Mom, this is so unfair. I never get to do anything that's fun. You just can't stand it that I might have fun. It's not my fault you have some kind of problem about it because you had such a sucky adolescence. This is so unfair." "Oh, right, I should let a 14-year-old go to a concert when the last one had the police come and some kids got injured." "No, you just don't want me having fun." "Sondra, that is such bull and you know it." "No, you're just jealous because you never did anything as a teen, and it makes you sick to see me actually have a good time." Much of what teenagers say can seem to be - and often is - manipulative, even disrespectful nonsense. It's hard to respond without giving it back in kind. "Lawrence, I asked you to empty the dishwasher before I got home and you've done nothing." "It's not my fault. I was about to do it, but then I wasn't sure if I was going to do it right because I thought you had said that you maybe were going to change where stuff goes. And anyway, if I did do it you'd probably just change it back because you're such a perfectionist, so what's the point?" "Lawrence, do you think I'm stupid? Why do you even think that I'm ever going to believe the stupid crap that you give me all the time? Do you think there's nothing in my head? Duh." Many teenage responses scream out for some kind of comeback with at least a bit of an edge to it. If they are going to talk like an idiot - especially if it is purely in the service of them trying to get their way or to slime their way out of responsibility - doesn't their nonsense deserve some kind of retort? Are you supposed take everything they say seriously? "You make an interesting point, Sondra. I have to look into myself a little more. My adolescence wasn't so bad. But maybe I am bitter." "Yeah, you're bitter and jealous. So does that mean I can go to the show?" But the problem is that as absurd as her response may be, your teen probably doesn't see it that way. If we were to ask Sondra if she really believes that her mother doesn't want her to have a good time, she'd probably respond, "Yes, she hates it if I'm going to have a good time. She gets jealous." "You really believe that it's not that she thinks that an all-night rock fest that last time ended with considerable violence is maybe too dangerous and inappropriate for a 14-year-old girl?" "No, she's jealous, that's why." And were we to hook Sondra up to a lie detector, it would show that she's telling the truth. But if she gets to hear what it's like being on the receiving end of a little backtalk for a change, maybe she'll learn that way, right? Unfortunately, that's not how it works. "Listen to how my mother talks to me. That's not the way a parent should speak to their child. How can she expect me to talk nice to her if she talks so rude to me?" "That's the way you talk to her." "Yeah, but I'm a kid. Besides, what am I supposed to do if she is being so unreasonable and unfair?" This is how a teen often thinks. As hard as it may be to stomach, it really is better to deal with your kids in as mature a manner as you can. It does set a good example, just as in the same way the opposite sets a bad example. Sondra's mom can remain firm, and not let her go to the show. But she can do so in a way that doesn't belittle her daughter. She listens to her - she just doesn't buy it. "No, I am sorry, Sondra, but I just am not comfortable with it. No, you cannot go to the rock fest." "You're not comfortable with it? Why is that my problem? You're not comfortable with it? I'm not comfortable with not going." And at this point, because Sondra will always have more to say, Sondra's mother having stated her position, can disengage. "You're not listening to anything I say. Mom!" What does Sondra learn? That her mother is not going to be swayed by her ranting, but also that her mother will not attack her for saying her piece - no matter how silly that piece may be. You're not a bad parent if you respond at their level. If you are the parent of a teenager and you're also human, this is going to happen. But there is another way. Clinical psychologist Anthony E. Wolf is the author of six parenting books, including Get out of my life, but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall?: A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager. source: Toronto Globe and Mail