My Parenting Imperative

DJ, my 16 year old, has been driving me crazy lately.  I realize the source of this crazy is simply the fact she’s headed quickly towards adulthood, so she’s making up her mind about things in the world.  And while some of those things, I’m sitting back going “good! that’s what I like to see!”, there are other things that make me cringe – make me wonder what in her upbringing would make her go that direction.

These things manifest in different ways.  Sometimes it is in her retelling events from her school day, but other times it is how I see her treating people.  The fact she exudes, in person, her disgust in a person or her annoyance makes me want to drag her from the room and scold her for being so fucking rude and intolerant of others with their own ideas that may not 100% match her own.  And I hate that.

Last night on the way home from TKD, DJ commented something about a guy in one of her classes that annoys her to the point where he will actually look at him and ask him to go away.  Basically his crime is hitting on girls.  Oh, the shock!   After telling me about this, she comments about a guy who lives in our neighborhood – “He’s basically a good kid who says stupid things”.

Ah, an opening!!

“Do you remember when you first met that kid? You were like ‘he’s such a fucking asshole’.  You wouldn’t even get on the same train with him on your way home.  What changed?” I asked.

“We had a conversation one day – and I realized he was listening to what I was saying – and I was listening to what he was saying – and the time in class that pissed me off was not how he really is,” she answered.

And she’s taking the bait…..

“So you’d say you made a snap judgement based on a one time situation rather than looking for a way to connect with him in a different way.”

She agreed she had.

“What if you stepped back from the occasional stupid things anyone can do and looking instead for ways of connecting the person? Because, look, if you want to find reasons people are assholes, you can find them.  Most time it is better to look for what makes people good – because then when they say something that makes you raise and eyebrow, you raise the eyebrow because it doesn’t fit who they are instead of defining them by it.”

“True,” she conceded. I could see the wheels turning as she thought about my words.

“Plus, if you have a dialog with someone – when they do say something unexpected, you can give them feedback about it.  And it happens in a way that is seen as coming from a good place not a pissy one.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed that difference too.”

We talked more about my frustration with adults who expect perfection from everyone in their world, but people should cut them slack if they mess up.  She was surprised that I encountered that as much as I did.

“Look, as you get older, you are going to have to figure out how to coexist with people with different ideas than you.  You will be in classes with people who had different ideas.  You will work with people with different ideas.  You aren’t going to be able to just stay away from them.  So you will need to figure out how to coexist – how to create some sort of positive relationship with them just to get done what needs to be done.  You don’t have to be their best friends – you have to be decent though.  And that means not going into annoyance and rage as the first step. Don’t be that person.”

She agreed with me.  She was engaged which was great because it meant I wasn’t lecturing her – she was listening.

Now here is hoping she puts it into practice because the next conversation may be a bit more one-sided if it does not.  I cannot release a kid into adulthood doing and acting what she is doing now.

Call it my parenting imperative to not raise assholes.

What do you think?

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