Dear Kid Whisperer,
I am the mother of a 17 year old boy. He has his license. I am totally uncomfortable with him driving with anyone else in the car. I just see how he acts with other people around him when he’s not driving. He’s not horribly irresponsible, but he’s (and I love him) goofy and immature. He whines and complains that I am not being reasonable. He says that I am the only parent who has this rule. I’m a single mom, so I don’t have anyone to bounce this one off of, and I’m thinking about changing my rule about this. Do you think I should? –Joan, Centerville, Ohio
How in the world should I know? There’s my answer. Maybe this surprises you. Here’s the deal: I am not a “parenting expert”. My daughter could tell you that. I can’t pick out outfits, I always forget to sign her agenda for school, and for the life of me, I cannot make a pony tail. I don’t even know what a “parenting expert” is. I suppose it would be someone who is really good at those things and feeds her kids Jif peanut butter (that’s what choosy moms do, apparently). All I do know about is how to calmly elicit positive behaviors from kids and how to show other adults to do this.
You may also be surprised to know that I don’t tell adults what kind values they should have or what kind of limits they should place on their kid. Why? Because it is absolutely none of my business.
The only expert in this situation is you, because you are the only expert when it comes to your kids. You can get input from your friends, but at the end of the day, it is your decision and you know your kids better than anyone. I take you at your word that your son is an immature goofball. That is really harmless and fine, as long as you put the right limits on him in order to keep him safe. It appears that this is exactly what you are doing.
Do you know who is definitely not an expert in parenting your kids?
Teenagers’ brains are not fully functional. They have wants for fun, excitement and adventure that are supercharged by hormones. These wants need to have limits put on them by you, the expert. I am proud of you for being the ultimate authority figure in their lives. You have raised a teenage boy on your own and he is still breathing, so that’s a point for Joan in my book.
Not that you asked, when your kid pulls the “You are the Only Parent in the World Who Has Rules” routine feel free to respond the way I would:
Kid: You are the only parent in the world who has rules!
Kid Whisperer: That is certainly possible.
Kid: It’s not fair.
Kid Whisperer: Probably so. I will allow you to drive the car as long as I have enough energy to worry about you while you are driving. This conversation is making me tired. Feel free to keep your car keys as long as I am not too tired for you to have your car keys. Thanks.