Dad Doesn’t Rate with Teens

Dad, as your son or daughter heads into the teenage years, you’ll want to keep tight control. My best piece of advice is this: “Don’t even try.”

Several years ago there was a survey of teen-agers in Texas. The researchers asked them to “Name the top 10 people who have improved the world.”

Now before I tell you the results, remember, they’re teen-agers. They’re going through some of the most profound changes in their entire lives.

Well, this survey definitely confirms that. These kids were asked to name the top 10 people who have improved the world, and here are some of the results:

Dan Quayle tied with New Kids on the Block.

George Bush tied with Mom.

Madonna tied with God and Adolph Hitler.

Santa Clause edged out Saddam Hussein by just one position.

And Mark Twain tied with Samuel Clemens.

What’s missing, Dad? You are! Actually, you finished 25th on the list, behind teachers, rock stars, and William Shakespeare. You may not even be surprised. Our research shows that a man with teenage children experiences his lowest level of satisfaction as a father.

One reason for this is that your children are finally big enough and smart enough to put your system of values to the test. They’re making decisions about who they are and what they truly believe. Will they follow your path or try something else? It’s only natural that the distance between you grows to some degree. All the fun things you used to do together are now embarrassing either to you or your child, and it can get mighty frustrating. You feel like you’ve lost control because . . . well, you have.

To counter that, some fathers try to exert more control over their teenager and drive them away. Instead, we need to focus on controlling ourselves and make adjustments in our fathering skills. You can’t hug your daughter in public anymore, but what can you do to nurture her? Your active son doesn’t fit into your schedule anymore. Well maybe, for now, you need to fit into his!

Adolescence is a confusing time for teens and for fathers. Many times it would be easy to just give up. But don’t do it. Right now your teen-ager needs your love and acceptance more than ever before.

Ken Canfield

©2001 National Center for Fathering