Mommie Fearest

Dear Dr. Darcy: 

My 16-year old daughter is not doing well in school and currently has a solid B average. She is constantly studying hours every day but she is doing so badly! We have tried everything from tutoring to grounding her. She knows our expectations are to do engineering, pre-med, or business but her math marks are not good and I am afraid she will have no future. What can I do to help her?

ANSWER: 

The toughest part of this question is my choice of tone in the answer. I can lean in, give it to you straight and hard, which will entertain my followers but which will likely result in you shutting down and failing to learn anything…or I can spoon feed you an answer that will be more likely to resonate with you but which will surely result in viewers falling asleep before they hit the end. This is my dilemma. And I’m not sure which way to go.

As a parent, it behooves you to view your daughter through a lens of curiosity – which is the exact opposite of having expectations that you impose upon her. Ideally you’d be curious about what she likes, what she exceeds at, where her strengths lie. Instead, you’ve chosen to ignore the very obvious data - which I find odd given your affinity for math (or is it just your daughter who needs to excel at math?) - and you’re pushing her into a narrow choice of fields which require a skillset that doesn't appear to come easily to her. Do you know how it feels to spend your life trying to master an aptitude that doesn’t come naturally? It would be like me expecting you to work in my field, to utilize emotional intelligence on a daily basis.

If you choose to stay on this course, your child will continue to attempt to meet your highly unreasonable expectations, which will destroy her self-esteem and undermine her sense of self, the combination of which is the strongest indicator of life happiness or misery. THIS, not her choice of career, will result in a lifetime handicap, impacting every aspect of her world.  So you see, you have a decision to make: Let her live her life or force her to fail at yours.

Your daughter is doing very well, despite your parenting. The people who run this world and who make 7-figures tend to be the B and C students. Those are the people who become entrepreneurs, who create products, cures, and mathematical equations that change the world. Stop trying to bang a square peg into a round hole, and be grateful that you haven’t provoked an adolescent rebellion to rival our definition thereof.

In the final analysis, I’m not sure which tone I chose. Hopefully one that resonates with you – for your daughter’s sake.

  

Father Doesn’t Know Best

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Dear Dr. Darcy:

My father has no concept of my privacy. I’m 14 years old and he refuses to wait for me to say come in when he knocks on the [bedroom] door. He knocks and opens it at the same time. This is a big problem for me when I just come out of the shower and I’m changing in my room. He still thinks I’m a child but I’m not ok with him seeing me naked or in my bra and underwear. How do I tell my father that I’m a teenager and I deserve privacy?

ANSWER

You are absolutely right. As a teenager, you deserve to have a few seconds notice before someone comes into your room, and the knock-push (as I call it), is frustrating because it gives the illusion of respect without the follow through.

Sometimes parents have a hard time accepting that their children are growing up. It doesn’t make it right – it’s just to put his behavior in context.  But it’s imperative that you learn that it’s OK to set boundaries. Because the boundaries you set today will turn into the boundaries you set when you’re dating – and we want you to be able to express when something doesn’t feel right (You hear this, parents? A submissive child turns into a submissive adult).

I don’t know what your family is made up of, but if you have a second parent, that would be my first step towards fixing this. Presuming you do (and if you don’t, please let me know and I’ll repost a new answer), I’d speak to that parent and tell them exactly what you’ve told me. In particular, I’d emphasize the just-out-of-the-shower moment. It’s a hard scenario to argue with – even for a parent who’s in denial that his daughter is morphing into a young woman.

Writer’s Stats: Female, Straight.

Tips For A Teen Who Just Came Out

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Hi Dr.Darcy. I am a teen who recently came out and I am having a hard time making sure it doesn't make people think differently of me or interfere with family life. I don't want to be asked a million questions by my parents about my sexual orientation because frankly I'm still not so comfortable about talking about it. Do you have any tips? Thank you so much! 

ANSWER

Congratulations on coming out! Now that you’ve made the declaration, you’re learning that coming out involves more than one conversation. It’s often a period of adjustment for both you and those in your life, and having questions fired at rapid speed often comes with the territory.

Generally speaking, parents suck at this part (even the amazing ones). There’s no manual for parents to follow, and often what works for one parent won’t work for another. If they didn’t ask questions or make reference to your sexual orientation, you (or a different teen) might feel invalidated or like they hadn’t heard (or believed) you when you came out. They’re sort of in a lose-lose situation. I’m telling you this because I want you to tap into some compassion for them. They’re simply clueless – which puts the burden on you to guide them.

You have to tell them what you want and don’t want. You might consider sending them this post for starters. The bottom line is that they’re not mind readers and you’re going to have to give them feedback (and set some boundaries) around what you are and aren’t comfortable discussing. Send them to PFLAG (linked to here) for some support and education. And let them know that you’ll initiate conversations when you’re ready.

As far as making sure that people don’t think of you differently, that’s a tough one – made tougher because we have no control over how people think. People will form whatever opinions they’re going to form – with or without your approval. And since you have no control over this, I suggest you focus on yourself. Connect with other LGBT youths. Make sure you’re getting the support that you need to adjust to being gay. And again, congratulations on taking this huge step. It’s an amazing time in history to be gay.

Writer’s Stats: Male, Gay.