Being Mean to Teenagers or Young Adults

Much has been written about teenagers or young adults being mean to other teenagers or young adults. However, it’s time to write about parents being mean as such.

What do these three events have in common?

– A friend of mine is getting married this weekend
– I paused the movie “The Mysterious Island” to write this post
– A t-girl is packing up her stuff to come stay with me for a while

All three of these involve a parent being mean to teenagers or young adults. And the only effect this had was to diminish the parent’s credibility. Their offspring continued to do whatever made the most sense to them. If anything good came out of the parent being mean, it was that their child (whether teenager or adult) asserted their own independence more.

I don’t see how browbeating anyone is ever a good idea … whereas reasoning with them is. Ironically, young people are often the most luminously rational people around and so too often the parent’s inability to “make their child see reason” is because the parent’s position really doesn’t stand up to logical scrutiny.

And no, I’m not opining this from an ivory tower. I was the step-mom to what might just be the most wonderful stepdaughter from the time she was 12. Her mom, my spouse at the time, was an exemplary mother. Reason governed the household, and it governed well. Her two moms encouraged the teenage girl to be independent and to thrive. That she did. Such success stories are far too rare, and though perhaps sometimes good parents really do have the “child from hell” very often the problems can be traced back to bad parenting.

Now, to connect the dots:

– My friend, who is getting married this weekend, chose a truly wonderful lady with whom to share his life. They have been been living together unmarried for some years now, and doing so has no doubt given them both a rich perspective on each other, so their decision to get married is no doubt a well-informed decision. Yet, when my friend announced his then-new living arrangement to his very conservatively religious father, the latter disapproved and made that clear.
– When I take breaks during the day, I watch snippets of movies. It might take me many days to watch one movie but I’m OK with that. I’m currently watching “The Mysterious Island” based on the book by Jules Verne. In the movie, there’s a dilemma and a teenage girl comes up with a suggestion that carries some risk to her safety but given the available data it’s probably the best decision, including for her own safety. Her mother flat-out forbids her to carry out the plan. But, as soon as the mother is asleep, the girl gets up and is no doubt planning to go execute her plan anyway.
– I’m mentoring a wonderful t-girl, a young adult, who is still staying with her parents, and she’s packing up her stuff to come stay with me for a while. I hope she’ll like it here for a long while but time will tell. Problem is, that instead of getting a “safe travels, we love you and will miss you” message from her mom she’s getting mean-spirited animosity, and this in a very stressful week of her life when she needs her mom’s love and support most.

Often the biggest source of unpleasantness for a young t-girl is her own parents. Even not-so-young t-girls struggle with that. That includes me. My mom has come around and we’re now very close, but the first steps of my independence as a t-girl were very fiercely opposed and for a while the relationship was very strained. One of the nicest t-girls I know is a not-yet-out lady in her late 50s or her 60s, who dares not come out because she’s concerned about how her 80-year-old might react.

Being reasonable (which includes being benevolent) is the best approach I can advise for the parents of a t-girl. Being mean has a long track record of failure.

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