Two Crucial Tools for Parenting Teens

Untitled design-2If you are parenting a teenager, I sympathize. I also have advice for you: make sure you get both a dog and a cat.

Why you need a cat

You need a cat to learn how to interact with your teen. Sometimes, cats are friendly and loving and want affection. My cat, Trouble, wakes up in the morning and comes to stand by me with pure adoration in his eyes, waiting for his morning head rub.

Except when he doesn’t.

Leave me alone! Can’t you see I’m busy?

Sometimes, cats just want to be left alone, and at those times, no amount of “here kitty” sweet talk is going to make them come your way. They’re busy sleeping! Or looking out the window. Or knocking things over. Any interruption is taken by them as a hostile act and treated accordingly.

Confusingly, sometimes a cat starts out one way and ends up another. Sometimes, my cat welcomes affection and then suddenly attacks, all teeth and claws, on an inner timetable understood only by him. 

The parallels with teens are obvious. When my daughter feels standoffish, there’s no good outcome to seeking interaction. Best to leave her alone, like a cat curled up by the fire. But sometimes, inexplicably, I find her close by my side, ready to talk or hang out. I’m learning to look at those moments like my cat’s morning friendliness–something to be thankful for but to hold loosely. You never know when a desperate struggle for freedom and independence will break out.

Porter After
I don’t understand, Mom, but I’m trying hard and I love you anyway!

Why you need a dog

You need a dog for the unconditional love you used to get from your child. My little dog greets me at the door, panting with joy. He’s always thrilled to jump into my lap or snuggle up beside me. Every word I say is listened to with puzzled delight, since he is one of those head-cocking little white dogs that seems to always be trying to understand human speech. 

Why you need both

Sometimes, when my daughter and I are having one of those awful, prideful fights in which she is NOT obeying the biblical injunction to honor her mother, and I am NOT obeying the biblical warning not to provoke my child, the only cure is a pet. Our animals are comical and adorable and frequently do amusing things that can make us both laugh, even when we’re really annoyed with one another. And they’re amenable to being grabbed by one of us and taken into a room in which the door is about to be slammed. That’s why it’s good to have two pets: one to comfort each of you.


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Parenting teens is not for sissies. In one of my favorite books, Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall, Dr. Anthony Wolf sums it up well: 

“What is it to be the parent of a teenager? It is to do what you think best–when really you have no idea what is best. It is to ride out the storms and be back again the next day. It is to give love to a child who does not seem to want it, to a child who five minutes ago seemed to deserve a punch more than anything else.”

In other words, it’s not easy. But as in many other challenging parts of life, our four footed friends can help. 

What’s your best tip for parenting teenagers? We have to stick together! I, for one, need all the help I can get!



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3 Comments on "Two Crucial Tools for Parenting Teens"

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Shirley Anne Crowder
Shirley Anne Crowder

I have been reading Ms. McClain’s books for awhile and I find her stories so good. She fleshes out her people until you know them and can feel their hopes and dreams. I have laughed and cried with them in the lives they live. I can only recommend her work to everyone who reads

Patti H

I love this. It is so true. I have 2 teens left at home, a dog, 6 cats, and other assorted farm animals. And yes, the hardest part is the teen daughter. Luckily, she only becomes unbearable on very rare occasions. I survived the others, I will survive her too.