Teenagers are Like Two Year Old and We Must Remind the Parents of Our Grandchildren to Treat Them As Such

Don't blame adolescent social behavior on hormonesOftentimes, in my twenty years as a family court judge, I found divorcing parents fighting over time with their teenagers.  I was always confused.  Why fight over time with children who want nothing to do with you, want to only be with their friends, have no judgment, no conscience, no fear, and need constant supervision?  Knowing how hard it is for a parent to survive a child’s teenage years, I expected each parent to offer the most time to the other parent, “no, you take them.” I handed out so many articles about the developing teenage brain, the sleep requirements of teenagers, the supervision requirements of teenagers.  Divorcing parents are going through their own angst, and teenagers are all about themselves.  Teenagers could care less about their parents’ needs.  All they care about are their own needs.  They cared about who would be around to give them money, who would pay for a car, who would pay for college.  They tended to want to live more of the time with the parent who gave them more money, more freedom and less rules, at a time when clear boundaries and structure were what they needed most, and would rebel most against.

I always thought that so much of adolescent behavior, a crisis period in development, where there are so many cognitive, social, emotional changes in teenagers, was because of hormones raging and changing.  Not so.  A new study, “Don’t blame adolescent social behavior on hormones,” published by the University of Buffalo, March 19, 2019, addresses adolescence and distinguishes it from puberty.

So many of us grandparents are now reaching our own stage of being grandparents of teenagers.  Our roles with our grandchildren change. . . .and do not.  Yes, we no longer have the “hands on”addressing of physical  needs, and neither do the parents.  However, having already gone through one round of teenagers, the parents of our grandchildren, we are experienced and wise.  We can use that wisdom to be mentors to our grandchildren.  Where the grandchildren will not listen to their parents, and not think their parents know anything until the grandchildren are in their twenties, they will listen to us.  They will still confide in us if we maintain the relationship of unconditional love and no judgment about their mistakes and foibles.  This understanding that our teenage grandchildren are like two year old will help keep them safe.

I try to share with parents of teenagers that they have finished instilling values to their children and now is the time to see the test of their previous parenting.  I tell them that their job during their children’s teenage years is to keep the children safe, safe from the children’s lack of judgment, lack of fear, lack of experience and lack of understanding.   As a professional, I wanted the parents of the teenagers to pay attention, pay attention as if the teenagers were two years old again.  As a grandparent, I want the parents of my teenage grandchildren to pay attention, pay attention as if the grandchildren were two years old again.

Sometimes the divorcing parents would want to share time equally with the teenagers.  Studies show that teenagers do not like equal time sharing at all.  Why?  They are concerned that their friends know where they are, and they want a home base.  Teenagers do not want to spend time with their parents; however, teenagers still want to spend time with their grandparents.

The best time sharing with teenagers is chauffeuring them around with their friends.  As a working mother, I always volunteered to chauffeur, knowing it would afford me time with my teenagers and their friends.  The hardest part of chauffeuring was keeping quiet, acting as if I were mute and the car was driving itself, so I could learn what was really going on.  Teenagers will naturally lie to serve their own interests, and by chauffeuring, I would learn many truths.  I always recommend to divorcing parents to volunteer to chauffeur their teenagers and the teenager’s friends, as this is true quality time.

As grandparents, we have the freedom of time.  We can assist the parents, hopefully in intact families, but also in divorcing families, by offering the chauffeur the grandchildren with their friends to their activities and offering to chauffeur them and their friends whenever we can.  However, now, in this day and age, it is hard for me to get the grandchildren off their electronics when they are alone in the car with me.  I hate those earphones I bought them as a present.

Yes, bribing still works as it did when they were two years old.  They may now be taller than me, but some things never change.











  1. Audrey Johnson says:

    This is such a truthful article. Our teenagers are just like two year old children. Those parents who caved to their two year old acting selfish throwing a tantrum in a store will be the same parents whose teenager goes off in anger at the mall.
    Boundaries that we set with our two year old will help some with the teenager. Grandparents have the ability to hold children to their expectations no matter their age. Thank you for sharing.

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