A friend of mine told me a great parenting line the other day, something her parents used to say when their grown children blamed them for “raising them wrong”: “Well, somebody’s got to help keep the therapists in business.” If only I’d heard that a few days earlier. My teenager, after getting very upset that I was spending my Saturday getting the house ready for company instead of driving her to Toni & Guy for a haircut, left me speechless with a tirade about how all her problems with anger management were my fault. “You raised me wrong!” she screamed as I attempted to clean the kitchen. I held my ground, and reminded her that she’s had issues with anger all her life. “Remember when you were three or four,” I said, “and one morning you demanded that you be served candy for breakfast, and when I said no you went nuts?”
“See?” she said. “That’s what I’m talking about. If you’d just give me what I want instead of saying no all the time, I wouldn’t have to be angry!”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or throw my scrubber sponge at her.
“But that’s not how life is,” I said. “You can’t possibly get everything you want, for a lot of reasons, and you’ve got to learn to deal with that. People who get their way all the time turn out to be spoiled brats.”
She reminded me of several people who get whatever they want, whenever they want it, and that they’ve turned out to be very nice people. I didn’t know what to say.
But not for long. I went on to tell her that everyone usually blames their parents for all their faults at some point in their life and then hopefully someday wakes up and realizes that they are their own person, that they are free to be, do, and act however they choose and that if they don’t like something about themselves, they have the power to change it. (Yeah, I was on a roll!) I reminded her of several ways her dad and I have guided her life in positive ways but that her temperament was pretty much set at birth. I thought maybe for once I’d left her speechless. “Well, ” she said, “then you probably did something bad when you were pregnant with me.”
Oy vey! But don’t worry– no guilt-ridden parent here. If there’s anything I’m guilty of, it’s that I don’t always remember another great parenting line: “Never argue with a kid.”