Life Out Loud: Say what? Parenting in the teen years


I knew this day would come.

There are milestones in every child’s life. Birth, roll over, sit up, walk, talk and the “whatever” eye rolls.

My son gave me the eye-roll the other day. His mistake was accompanying it with a “talk to the hand” gesture. At which point I removed said hand from his arm and beat him with it. No, just kidding, that’s what MY mom would have done.

My mom said I was insufferable from about 13-15. That said, she also didn’t just write it off as “oh, teen girls!” She corrected and stood up to that nonsense.

One of the delights of my life was reconnecting with a former “best friend forever” from high school. It was wonderful to meet up with her for dinner a few years ago and catch up.

In the course of our trip down memory lane, she asked me, laughing, “Do you remember that time you got sassy with your mom and she slapped you right across the mouth in front of all of us?”

Me: “Yes!”

Her: “Man, you really DESERVED that.”

I don’t recall what I said when I was full of vim and vinegar at 13, but I can guarantee you this: I never said it again.

‘Teen’ standards

I do not believe in the notion of “teenagers.”

Of course I BELIEVE in them, they aren’t mythical theories like, say, “easy weight loss” or “unicorns” (with the latter being more likely). I just don’t believe that being one gives you a pass to behave like big jerk with added dramatic sighs and hair flips all the time.

Did you know the whole notion of “teenage behavior” didn’t exist 100 years ago? People didn’t roll their eyes and think it was cute that their 13-year-old was mouthing off. Granted, their 13-year-old may have been married and/or heading off to war, but still, they had STANDARDS.

I do think there are SOME natural hormonal issues and testing of boundaries that occur in the teen years. I also think it’s my job to make sure they know that you don’t get to be a jerk to your family and those closest to you just because you’ve reached a certain age.

Grumpy? Exasperated? Fine. I’m a proponent of “you have a right to your opinion and to vent frustration — privately.”

I don’t allow tantrums and nastiness to have an audience but you can go (quietly) to your room and plot total world domination there.

In public, we have a saying around here: “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

Venting is healthy. You do not, however, get to visit your bad mood on everyone else.

Say what?

Last year my 13-year-old, right on cue, developed a habit of mumbling as he was walking away from whatever chore or discussion he had come out on the wrong end of.

I can only assume that my precious was mumbling, “why, I’m sure my mother is right, and I will surely thank her someday.” That’s got to be it, right?

Still, you just never can tell. Vowing to be sure, I would say “What?” to his retreating mumbles.

To which he would reply: “Nothing.”

I figure if you care enough to say it, you should want to share it. Thus my new rule: If you do not enunciate, it will be assumed you said something rude and you will be disciplined accordingly.

I am all about breaking bad habits and I cannot think of a single solitary point in life where mumbling as a habit will come in handy. It’s amazing how quickly my son found his big boy words when every last unintelligible comment ended in trouble.

Won’t ‘grow’ out of it.

Granted, I’m sure they’ll come up with something else to challenge me. I figure it’s just like the toddler years. They do something inappropriate, we correct and re-socialize them. We don’t say “Oh, it’s just the age. They’ll grow out of it.”

When my 2-year-old started biting everyone in sight, I didn’t shrug and say “Toddlers!” with a little laugh to show how futile any parenting effort might be. I corrected her early — and often.

Mr. Wonderful and I are well aware that ANY child, no matter how well raised, could go off the rails. Our goal is to prevent that as much as possible. Moreover, if the unthinkable happens and our kids go rogue, we at least have the comfort of knowing that people are “Just So Shocked!” rather than thinking, “eh, anyone could see THAT coming from a mile away.”

So it is with the teen years. I may not win, I get that, but I’m fighting the good fight and going down swinging!

If necessary, revisiting the bite cure of the toddler years, at this age, I just may bite back.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt believes in the power of public humiliation in parenting. She welcomes comments c/o; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or


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  1. Kymberly, Great column per usual! I taught my kids early on to end every comment they uttered to me with, “And thank you for giving birth to me.” I want them to live a life of gratitude. Proactive parenting at its best.

  2. I really enjoyed your column…our oldest is a teenager and has begun with the “silent treatment” and attitude. I’ve repeatedly told him…you can be silent, but you have NO right to be rude!!

  3. Amen Kym! I hope there are more parents like you. I am one of them and I hope more people share your view point. We need to really make a change in the mores of our society of just what is and what is not acceptable behavior!

  4. In case anyone thinks she’s exaggerating, she’s NOT! All true…although I am glad the arms were re-attachable after the floggings. I believe in “spare the rod, spoil the child” – it didn’t become a cliche by chance. But I wish I’d had a great phrase like “suck it up Buttercup” back in the day.

  5. When my daughter was a teen we were THOSE parents. The ones that disciplined. I always thought her friends felt sorry for her but now, as an adult, she said they were all jealous and wished they had such parents. Interesting, huh?


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