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Listening to My Parents?
Q&A for Teens

Listening to My Parents?

School is hard. I want to take a day off. But my parents say I shouldn’t.

by

Dear Lauren,

This year school is really hard, my teacher is very tough, and I finally just felt like skipping school and taking a whole day off. I mentioned this to my father who is usually pretty understanding, and he told me he thought that was a really bad idea and that I'm just running away. Instead I should just toughen up and go to school.

I'm torn.... Is it really so bad to just take off a day for some needed R &R? Should I do it anyway and just not let my parents know?

Lauren Roth

Lauren Roth's Answer

It’s an interesting thing about parents: if they’re loving, normal, and healthy (those are big IF’s), they usually know what’s best for us.

I just sat with a family yesterday where the daughter wants to marry her boyfriend. The young woman’s father wants her to finish law school first. That’s why the mother, father, and daughter came to talk to me. To work out their disagreement on this matter. What came out from our discussion was that the father is really not sure this boyfriend is the right young man for his daughter to marry – the law school issue was just a red herring.

I didn’t tell the daughter whether she should or should not marry her boyfriend. That’s her decision, and her prerogative, only. Same with your decisions in your life. They are, ultimately, your prerogative, only. But I did tell this young woman – and I’m passing on the message to you, too – that loving, normal, healthy parents often have objectively good advice that can be very wise.

It’s a good idea to listen to what your parents have to say, weigh their thoughts, and decide what you want to do.

It’s a good idea to listen to what your parents have to say, weigh their thoughts, and decide what you want to do – realizing that they are older than you, wiser than you, and also objective. Also realize that your parents (if they’re healthy and normal) care about you a tremendous amount and (if they’re healthy and normal) want what they perceive as best for you.

Sometimes people have unhealthy parents. Narcissistic parents who think of themselves and their own needs before the needs of their children. Or parents who don’t connect properly emotionally to their children and cannot understand their children’s feelings, wants, needs, dreams, and desires. If you have a parent like that, it’s important to find surrogate parents who can help guide you. No child of any age can navigate life alone, without the objective sounding board and guidance of older, wiser, loving, caring parental figures.

I was just at a weekend gathering of good friends, and one particularly successful person demonstrated this quality. His mother and father are both deceased. Even before they passed away, his parents were not emotionally or intellectually capable of (a) understanding him, and (b) guiding him. So he adopted many surrogate parents. Wise rabbis, insightful older women, smart friends who are good people. He himself is a very intelligent and capable person – and even so, he didn’t go it alone. He enlisted the assistance of similarly insightful and capable individuals to help him on his journey of life. And that is what contributed to his success.

Sometimes skipping school or other responsibilities is necessary for optimal functioning. But usually we have to just put our nose to the grindstone and do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, until the job is completely done. I make sure to take time for myself to relax, even with my very intense schedule. But I also don’t shirk responsibilities, because that’s my job as a reliable human being. I think part of school and its demanding schedule is learning how to be tenacious even when it’s tough. And I also think you should build into your school and homework schedule some nice downtime. After school, go skating, biking, hang out with friends, go to a ball game, whatever it is that gives you the “R & R” we all need. I’m not convinced you have to skip school to get that break.

Of course, there’s always my favorite option: talking to your parents. “Mentioning” it to your father doesn’t count as really talking to them about how you feel. I would say something like this:

“Dad, Mom. I’m working really hard in school, and I know the value of hard work and tenacity. I also think I need some fun time, down time, relaxation time. I propose taking off one day next week to go skiing. Can we discuss this?”

Your parents might totally disagree with the concept of skipping school. Or they might ask you how you plan to make up the notes and the work you’ll miss. They might end up offering to go skiing with you! Or they might suggest that you all go skiing together on your next official vacation from school.

Your prerogative is to make your own choices in your life. But making your own choices should be informed by older, wiser, objective people who understand you and care about you. One thing remains: whatever choices you make, you are the one who will endure the consequences, whether they be positive or negative.

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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Avi, January 18, 2017 5:21 AM

Older and wiser.. but objective?

Parents can be an invaluable resource for advice. The article twice refers to parents as older, wiser, and objective. Parents are, of course, always older and generally have more life experience. Related, parents are often wiser. However, isn't true objectivity rare even (especially?) in a healthy parent-child relationship?

(2) Anonymous, January 8, 2017 3:35 PM

Why is the issue of finding school hard not addressed?

As a parent I would be concerned to know why the girl is finding school so hard this year. Her request to take a day off may be a way of introducing her difficulty with school. My children found it hard to go to school because of disconnects with the style of teaching and their learning. This child may need empathy and support from her parents.

(1) Anonymous, January 8, 2017 12:20 PM

How I wish I had known you when I was an adolescent!

Dear Lauren Roth--
When I was the same age as that letter writer, I was surrounded by unsupportive people everywhere I turned. :-( It's interesting that you mentioned a client who is in law school. I was too afraid to even think about law school when I was young. I took the LSAT when I was much older, but by then there were just too many distractions in my life and I could not really concentrate. I really like the advice you gave and I hope the letter writer is able to get some peace of mind.

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