Life On the Other Side

How to Deal With Everyone Else’s Parents


The teen years are when we most often hear about what everyone else’s parents do. Everyone else’s parents let them stay out until 2 am. Everyone else’s parents are letting them spend an unsupervised weekend at the shore. Everyone else’s parents bought them the newest iPhone and iPad (or other expensive gadget).

Guess what? Everyone else’s parents are hearing the same thing. Is your teen lying to you? Maybe. Or maybe not. Many teens stretch the truth, or honestly believe that their parents will have no issue with them being more independent. Some are living in such a bubble that they have no concept of money or value of things. Pushing limits is normal at this age. After all, isn’t that what the teenage years are for?

Sometimes I have just listened to events being planned without giving a definitive answer. Many times, these plans simply fizzled out. Often the idea was presented by someone who had not thought out all the details, and likely had not run it past Mom and Dad. Waiting it out is often the easiest and less stressful option.

Those 2 am nights out? Not likely to happen. I live in a state that has a curfew for new drivers. They have what the kids call a “Cinderella license.” Simply put, they are not allowed to be driving after midnight, with very few exceptions. I do know some parents who do not enforce this, but most do and if not, they are taking the chance that the state may. In addition, I know very few parents who are willing to go out to pick up their child at 2 am (after all, at our age, we are dozing off at 9 or 10 pm), so how exactly will this work? Short answer: It won’t, at least not without a special occasion that would warrant such an exception.

Those unsupervised beach weekends? Also not likely to happen. Few places are willing to rent for a weekend, preferring to rent by the week. Even fewer will rent to a group of teenagers. Many rentals require an adult to sign a lease agreement and will limit the number of underage guests. This is a fact sometimes best learned by teens themselves. It also eliminates hostility toward what is seen as overbearing parents. Though I am fine with being “the bad guy,” sometimes it is nice that someone else bears the brunt of that anger.

Sometimes the plans change and become more realistic. Maybe the weekend is not fully unsupervised. Maybe one family has a beach house and the parents are willing to allow their child to bring friends for a weekend, while they are also there. If an adult will be on the premises, even if not with them at all times, I am generally fine with the idea. (I do prefer a parent over an older sibling, though.) I have had to explain many times to my children that it is not that I don’t trust them, or even their friends, but that there are sometimes circumstances that they are simply not equipped to handle. There are some emergencies, or even relatively minor mishaps, that could occur that they would need an adult to help guide them through.

Other times, the plans keep evolving into an elaborate trip where the cost climbs beyond what is reasonable. In these cases, I may give a conditional yes, but point out that they will have to find a way to pay for it. Sometimes this has put a stop to the plans (when they either can’t or won’t find the money to pay for it); other times it has been the push to get them to work toward a goal. If there is not enough time to save, they have then learned a lesson: to plan in advance. This also gives them the chance to work with their friends to establish a budget and work within it.

Expensive gadgets have become the “toys” of the teen world. Technology is improving at such a rate that things such as computers and cell phones are becoming almost disposable commodities. Since most teens have few, if any, essential expenses, they just don’t see the cost of these items, unless and until they are forced to. Cell phones have become common in our world, with even elementary aged children sometimes carrying them around. When new models are released, news coverage shows long lines of people waiting for the privilege to own one. It is no wonder, then, that teens are clamoring for them. But that doesn’t mean they are necessarily getting them.

This can be a good lesson in delayed gratification (have them earn the money to pay for it) or in resisting peer pressure (just because someone else has something doesn’t mean you have to). It might also be a good time to point out the relative value of items (a new iPhone costs more than a semester-long class at our community college). As with everything else, you need to make decisions based on what is right for your family, not Everyone Else’s. It is likely that Everyone Else’s parents are having these same conversations at their homes.

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