I was doing some research recently for an article I am writing, and came across this article from a New York Times;"Calling Mr. mom". I am paraphrasing and winnowing this down to the essentials, but basically, though women now make up 50% of the work force, keeping the home fires burning is still essentially woman's work. Here's another interesting statistic. Even though many companies now offer family flex time, only 26% of men take advantage of it, 76% of woman do. OK so this is not really new news, but it still puzzles me.
Several times a week I give my seminar: Adolescent Psychology-The Parent Version. Whether I have 300 people or 30 people in the audience, 95% of them are women. "I wish my husband had been here to hear this" is a mantra that I hear repeatedly from the moms in the room. Last week at one of my seminars, I noticed a couple seated not far from where I was talking and pacing. Yay a dad!!!!!! Except that while the woman took copious notes, the man I assumed was her husband spent the entire 2 hours (no break) playing on his Iphone. Maybe he too was taking notes, but the fact that he never once looked up at the slides or seemed to be listening at all seemed pretty clear. Several rows away, another couple sat, again the woman/mom was hanging on my every word, and the man seated next to her was sound asleep.
So here is my message. Parenting teens is a challenge. It does take a new set up skills to maintain this changing relationship. The balance of power is shifting, and "because I said so" falls mostly on deaf ears with your teens. They are interested in challenging, analyzing, discussing, and arguing. Believe it or not this is a great thing! This means that you teen is "thinking for themselves", and as their world and decisions get more complex they will have the skills to make sense of it. This is all normal and desirable behavior. But if it only gets interpreted as disrespectful, teens may feel that thinking things through with you is a waste of time, and instead, sneak, lie and generally avoid conversation and confrontation.
Many dads I work with especially have alot of trouble with this new adjustment in power and control. They felt much more comfortable with the "I am the grown-up, here are the rules" style that works so well with younger children. Men and woman do often parent differently, but both genders have to make adjustments as their kids get older. When I survey my college students on who they felt closer and talked to more during middle and high school, they almost unanimously say their moms.
Dads, your kids want to talk to you, they just aren't sure that you want to talk to them. They love you and need your input. So take advantage of that flex time, pick them up early from school and take them for coffee, and a movie, invite them to come in and have dinner with you at the office, volunteer for a field trip, take them in the middle of the day to their orthodontist appointment. This time with them is as important as sitting with them and helping with their homework, probably more. The conversations and relationship building that occurs during these incidental moments of life are priceless, don't miss out!!