Complicit Rebellion

As Emily learns how to deal with her daughter's burgeoning teenage behaviour, she's realised it can be useful to be part of her rebellion.

As my daughter is only 12, I realise we are only at the beginning of this journey but I'm already on a steep learning curve.

Top learnings so far include the need to take a deep breath over exasperating behaviours and not necessarily say the thing that's in my head, the moment it's in my head, but rather just move the discussion onto something else and revert to the issue at a better, less highly charged moment.

I've also consciously become more vocally appreciative of the good things my daughter does, when she does them and I try to give her more kisses on the head, quick cuddles or kindly hands on her back or shoulder at impromptu moments - little moments of affection to remind her how loved she is without turning my actions into a love-sick-boyfriend style of needy parenting.

But other than being more affectionate and biting my tongue, I've also learned to be complicit in some of her rebellions - a step on from that classic piece of parenting advice about picking one's battles. I'm not talking big rebellions like missing school or late-night parties (which thank goodness she's not yet into), but I do like to take her by surprise with the little things.

With some issues I put up a little bit of blustery objection, knowing full well that I will back down and that this will let her feel she's got a 'freedom-win' - this covers things like letting her walk round Westfield with her friends, chai lattes, a few homework fails and tech access issues.

Some rebellions I go further and am deliberately complicit in helping her. I try to choose these in a way that will surprise her, remind her that I'm on her side, that I do understand the challenges of being a teen and am not just a miserable mummy naysayer and the familial-fun-sucker.

These currently include the forbidden wearing of make-up to school. I took her shopping for some subtle blusher and a concealer for her spots, as well as a mascara and an eye-liner 'for weekends' that she illicitly uses during the week.

Another is helping to roll the skirt up to a semi-objectionable level - just enough to feel rebellious, but not quite enough to get hauled into the year head's office for a telling off. 

The deal between us is that I'm fine with her wearing the makeup until she - inevitably - gets told not to, at which point she needs to make her own decision whether to continue. With the skirt, I helped her roll it up properly so it didn't look ridiculously lumpy, while informing her that there's multi-generational history on this particular rebellion and that, not only I, but also her grandma, were caught and admonished for the same practice in our time.

And just when I felt I was so close to being helpful and aligned with my teen's rebellion, I inadvertently throw myself back into the role of fun-sucker. There's not much that's less-cool than copying your mum, but copying your grandma will probably do it.