Friday, November 23, 2007

RM column October 26th - Not all advice is welcome

RM column October 26th - Not all advice is welcome

All parents will be familiar with advice, sometimes good but often unwanted and certainly not asked for. Advice from someone who is clueless can be an absolute pain in the arse.
I get it all the time regarding my teenager, sometimes from people who are not parents at all and at other times from parents with young children/babies who generally haven’t a bloody clue how to work with teenagers.

It has been my experience the best advice I have received has come from those parents who are enviously laid back with regard to their parenting, or who appear to be. They generally have an amazing relationship with their child that is based on nurturing and supporting and who do not throw their hands up in horror at the scrapes teenagers can get themselves into.

One of my favourite pieces of bad advice was from a woman in her twenties who has no children. We were talking about teenagers and drinking and I was saying how the Young Wan asked me about alcopops.

Explaining the high alcohol content and the sweetness of the drinks I told the Young Wan they are a dreadful way to drink and can lead to all sorts of nonsense, not to mention dodgy situations.

The Young woman I recalled this to said ‘surely you should just tell her not to drink’.
Ahem quite, like that is going to work. I would much prefer to start a conversation with her about alcohol that doesn’t begin with a weighted lecture, surely that is making alcohol into forbidden fruit?

I am reluctant to say it in case by doing so I change everything, but my own experience with the Young Wan has backed this up, she has absolutely no interest in going out and getting pissed like many of her peers. I am not stupid or blinkered enough to think this will always be the case but for now it is and I am happy with that.

There was the time recently when another person was aghast that at 15 years old the Young Wan isn’t already a cordon bleu chef, okay that’s a slight exaggeration but they did think the Young Wan should be able to cook many different dinners.

Maybe she should and while she can do some things, mainly in the food preparation area, ie ‘Young Wan, will you peel some potatoes?’ as well as cooking chicken curry I do not expect her to be able to whip up a tasty dinner from the contents of our fridge.

So this person was absolutely astonished that the Young Wan doesn’t make dinner every night. Sometimes when this happens I start to mumble excuses and feel like a failure, this particular moment I just looked at him and said ‘it is easy to see you have young kids’.

Maybe his kids will grow up and will have dinner waiting on the table for him when he gets home, somehow I seriously doubt it. And I don’t mean to paint a picture of the Young Wan incapable of preparing something for herself, she is not but I am not willing to risk a burnt and inedible dinner just to prove a point to some eejit who has mad notions about a child should or shouldn’t be able to do.

Not all kids are the same and neither are parents, some advice which has made sense and works for one family doesn’t for the other. So just because I don’t take someone’s advice on board doesn’t necessarily mean I think it is rubbish (though I did in the instances I spoke about above) it just means that I think it probably won’t work for whatever reason in our house.

Like others I need to learn when to give advice and when to listen. All parents have to find their way and have to learn what works and what doesn’t. And being lectured to by other parents doesn’t really help it just frustrates and annoys, advice is welcome but only when it is asked for.

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