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Teens and Marshmallows Make a Great Combo

You have lived longer, seen more and done more.  In fact, you have earned the right to say, “Been there, done that and got the t-shirt to prove it!”.  It is the right of parenthood to stand tall and be proud of what you have been through and survived so far.

And then your child transforms into a teenager and it abruptly and even rudely seems that all your knowledge and experience counts for squat or even less. This is a weary perception of many exhausted parents of teenagers.

Teenagers have their own perceptions about parents.  Many teenagers thinking themselves as older and wiser than the adults in their lives, view their parents as “marshmallows”.  You know those white ones. Very bland and very, very boring. And real pushovers.  Real marshmallows!

Some parents might be convinced of this all-knowing teen perspective.  After all, parenting has evolved and changed since your own childhood.  Parenting of the past was focussed on youth “showing respect” for their elders.

That kind of respect involved knowing when to shut up and be quiet; observing and timing when it might be best to ask for something and knowing the importance of responding with agreement even when feeling and believing the very opposite.  It was a kind of respect that was born more out of fear than inspired out of bonding and connection.  

Nowadays the practice of parenting is focussed on the connection and bonding between parents and their children.  It is the relationship that matters.  We want our children to feel close to us;  to care about each other and really try to get along.

As a result, we talk and explain and talk and explain and explain some more.  We want our children to really understand and so we explain and explain again and again. This pattern of effort does not end in the primary years but seems to increase tenfold when our children become teenagers.

In our earnest and unceasing efforts to connect and communicate, all our explaining is filtered through the teenage ear as just another lecture.  So with each explanation comes an assigned lecture number: like lecture #235 or lecture #456 or lecture #672 and so on and on and on.  These join the many stored on tape in the reference section of the teenage brain.

Therefore the appearance of listening by a teenager, despite his or her glazed, unblinking look of response, seems to be enough to at least initially satisfy the parents of today.  Is it any wonder than that teenagers see their parents as marshmallows?  And unfortunately, parents often reluctantly agree especially after another one of those episodes when the kid ‘listens’ and yet continues to act the same.

This is an appeal for parents of teens everywhere, to lay claim and exert their underestimated marshmallow qualities!  Marshmallows aren’t only white, the are brown, pink, green and yellow.  Not only are they colourful but full of flavour.  Just as parents are diverse and colourfully rich in life experience and wisdom.

Marshmallows have a firm outer layer and yet are tender and gooey inside.  Parents who offer their teens firm, reality-based boundaries and ground rules for living in the family household don’t need to be devoid of warmth.  Teens benefit greatly in the areas of self-esteem and self-love from parents who express what’s going on in the inside:  the love and affection they feel for their wanna-be adult, teen offspring.

The pressures of doing ‘24/7’ parenting often results in parents feeling squeezed at both ends by the many demands challenging them.  Yet, just like a marshmallow when squeezed, parents have the resiliency to bounce back.  This resiliency is the product of accumulative life skills learning. For example, learning when and how to ask for help to get your needs met. Role-modeling a balance of work and life responsibilities helps teens to better practise self-care including maintaining personal safety, like not riding with a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Marshmallows are a highly versatile food product.  They can be partnered easily with cereal, fruit, yams and salad or can stand on their own.  Parents who recognize that parenting is a lifelong marathon-like process make efforts to pace themselves with the help and support of others.  Sure they can handle stuff on their own but, when needed, will seek ‘partnerships’ with the school and other community resources to be effective in their roles. This teaches young people that others play a valuable role in their growth and achievement.  That being a part of the community is a necessary reality.  It encourages citizenship.

Finally, like marshmallows on a stick being roasted on an open fire, when parents are really ‘feeling the heat’ they demonstrate repeatedly the fortitude to hang in there and come out of it all the better. Just like those delicious charbroiled marshmallows. What better lesson could parents offer their teens than to become better people in the face of difficult and challenging circumstances?

Life is hard. And life is messy. And it takes a real marshmallow to show teenagers how to survive and thrive.


Intellectual Property of Kate McGoey-Smith and may not be re-produced without permission.

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