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Taming the Teen Drama Queen

By Lisa Robinson

Many of us are well into the treadmill of school, errands and more activities that we can count. But those of us with teens—especially teenaged daughters—are not hearing school bells.

It’s more like, “Oh My God! Oh My God! Oh My God!”

That’s the line they repeat after every phrase, word or sentence. After talking to my peers with teenaged daughters, I’ve come to realize that we all have the same instant-messaging, cell phone-using, I-Pod-listening daughters living in our homes.

At one point near the end of last school year, the Oh-My-Gs got so out of hand while I was driving a group of girls, I had to sharply order them to stop. Once we got to our destination, the chorus started again.

I simply told them, “Good-bye. It’s time to get out of the car.”

I couldn’t take it anymore.

Last year, as I struggled to get through ninth grade with my 14-year-old, my mantra became, “Four more years! Four more years!”

No, I wasn’t singing the praises of our president. It was a reminder of how much longer I would have to deal with all of the drama before she goes off to college.

So, with the help of friends and experts, I’ve come up with a 10-step program to get me through this year. A lot of it I’ve devised from the advice of parents who’ve been there and are now walking around the world in bliss because their teens are off on their own and actually doing pretty well. I also called on Dr. Mamood Jahromi, a child and adolescent psychiatrist of St Joseph’s Medical Center, for a few helpful tips.

Diluting the Drama

Here’s my plan… maybe it will work for all of us looking for ways to cope during these dramatic times.

  1. Accept that “Oh My God!” is a phrase here to stay until the next fashionable one appears on the scene.
  2. Don’t laugh at anything she says unless she is laughing too. Even the simplest things that come out of your teen daughter’s mouth that you think are funny may not be to her. Wait for a sign that says you can laugh. Otherwise, you are hurting feelings and the drama will definitely last all day.
  3. Accept that you will be an unpaid chauffeur until your daughter learns to drive and you give in to letting her use your car… or you buy her one. I must add, however, that I have considered charging my own daughter at least a dollar each way for trips to and from all activities outside of school or sports, but I’ve since come to my senses and realize I’d be taking from myself.
  4. I’d like to say “no” to all activities outside of school or sports. But Jahromi says we can’t do that because it’s a teenager’s job to learn how to manage the social skills she’ll need as a responsible adult. Instead, Jahromi says, “Don’t become a ‘yes parent.’ Don’t become a ‘no parent.’”

He suggests having a dialogue with your daughter about what is expected. Know the details about events. Ask what she will be doing. What is the adult supervision? Is there a special boy you like who’s going to be there?

  1. Listen! Listen! Listen! Jahromi says that, when getting the answers to those questions, try to be neutral.

“Take the assumptions out of the tone of your voice and lose the evil eye,” he warns, adding that your teen will see and hear that you don’t trust her.

  1. Try to not sweat the small stuff—such as the piles of clothes, books, make-up, used towels, shoes and who-knows-what-else in her room. I try to just close the door. After all, it does get a bit cleaned up when she wants to do something and I bring up the room issue.
  2. Ignore the hysterics if it’s about little things. This is especially important if you are both in a hormonal time of the month. You know the drill: bad hair, nothing to wear, I have a lot of homework, the cereal is all gone. “Whatever!”
  3. Don’t take the backtalk personally. This is one of my favorites because it is so hard to do. Jahromi says it’s more about her than fighting with you or a sign of defiance.

“It’s all about your teenager developing her identity and standing her ground as a teenager,” he explains. He adds that very often this is a good thing because it shows you’ve taught her to stand up for herself.

  1. Rejoice when a teacher or coach tells you, “You have such a lovely young lady. She really is a great leader, respectful, and we love having her here.”

Do not look surprised—it’s a sign that you’re doing a good job.

  1. Finally, remember that it’s only for a few more years. The other night while driving to work at 3 a.m., I got a little sad and said to myself, “Oh My God! She’s leaving in three years—I’m going to miss her. Oh My God! Oh My God! Oh My God!”

Baltimore’s Child Nov., 2006

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