Belfast Telegraph

What teens can teach us about the boy in room No.3

The trouble is there are many teenagers who are content to live in filth and squalor, and their rooms become magnets for mice and rats, thereby endangering the health of the rest of the family. My wife's two from her previous marriage were like that.

That's the comments of one angst-ridden father on reading a review of a new parenting guide on how to raise adolescents written by, no less, two 17-year-old schoolgirls.

Now, we parents all know that teenagers are notorious know-it-alls, like when I was 17 and I thought mine knew nothing and by the time I was 20 I was amazed how much they had learnt in just three years. But when it comes to what's going on in their own heads, they really are the resident experts.

Megan Lovegrove and Louise Bedwell are playing on their insider knowledge, having penned Teenagers Explained: A Manual For Parents By Teenagers (Admin, £9.99), published this week, and, naturally, based on their own experiences as well as interviews with 100 of their peers.

The book contains 200 pages of advice for parents on how best to handle teenagers, on topics from sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, to tidying up their bedroom.

On this often contentious issue, the pair suggest giving children three hours to clean their room and not to check until the time is up.

My youngest 'child', now 24 and finally back at university, is residing in Bedroom No 3 at the familial home, having turned his own boudoir and that of his departed brother into proverbial Chinese laundries, and God knows what bodies from long-ago teenage parties you might find under the debris. Strange thing is, he is meticulous about his own appearance and, when his girlfriend is staying over, Room No 3 gets a thorough going-over. In short, long-discarded socks and jocks and empty deodorant sprays get stuffed under the Kingsize bed which he bought from some guy down the road for the princely sum of one hundred quid 'cos he needs his space, man, if you get my drift

Our budding authors say that giving them those vital three hours - to shove everything under the bed and spray the fetid room with deodorant - is likely to pay off for parents because, get this, teenagers feel they are being trusted. Oh, and here's a helpful hint: to lure reluctant adolescents out of their room, for the annual spring-clean, the book recommends straightforward bribery.

Parents are also told how they can stop their homes being wrecked by house-party gatecrashers: by ensuring that when their teenager organises the event through Facebook, details are only visible to friends and the full address is not disclosed. Another practical piece of advice is to reduce your teens' phone bills, by encouraging them to use smartphone 'apps' - ask them - for free messaging. However, this may entail helping them buy such a device first, so be wary.

Other tips for despairing parents include: Do not fuss too much over your own appearance as this can rub off on your teenager and make them sensitive about their looks.

'Scare tactics' can work to keep your child off drugs: saying how they can ruin your hair and skin would discourage many girls, they tell us.

Louise says: "We had to analyse our own behaviour when writing the book, and that has certainly helped us recognise how at times we may have annoyed our parents, such as when going out without telling them where." (Where are you off to? Out... Out where? Just out ....)

Megan says: "But we've also learnt a lot more about how adults think, so we also know how to keep the upper hand.''

Now, that's a clever teen.

I don't recall any readily-available manuals when I was helping raise three teens. I played it by ear and, while I'd be the first to admit I was in no way the perfect parent, I think I did okay by them.

I wanted to be their parent back then, not their friend. Now I like to think we are friends.

Mind you, the other week my daughter said to me that had I not been tough on her and her eldest brother, regarding curfew and tidiness, and the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll bit, she would not have turned out the balanced and bright young woman she is.

In the same breath she said that her younger brother got away with blue-murder.

Personally, she said, I blame mam for the way he is. It was meant in the kindest possible way.

And it got me off the hook.

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