Updated: Jul 10, 2019
The Teenage Lawyer. Every parent has dealt with one. Every child becomes one when they need to negotiate themselves out of punishment or into a privilege. Some kids are good at it, some are bad, and some are so good at being bad at it you just want to give them what they want to end the madness.
The Teenage Lawyer is an extremely motivated defense attorney. They will question all logic, counter any offer, debate all points, and fight tooth and nail to get what they want for their client. Them.
Interacting with one is exhausting. This is why I have three laws you can follow for parenting a Teenage Lawyer that will make the exchange a whole lot easier:
Law 1: Control Your Emotions
Law 2: Never Use Hyperbole
Law 3: Be Consistent
Laws and Flaws
Just like civil laws exist because of human flaws (we have a “don’t murder” law because some humans can’t control their temper or greed), the three laws for parenting a Teenage Lawyer are attached to three teenage flaws.
Flaw 1: Teens are Emotional
Flaw 2: Teens are Illogical
Flaw 3: Teens are Data Reliant
In order to understand why three three laws are effective and necessary, we will approach them via the flaw they are attached to.
Law and Flaw I
Teenagers are emotional. And that’s okay. During an argument, they are emotional for a few reasons. Mainly, they are over-invested. Losing this argument could mean losing access to video games, friends, phone, etc.
However, they also get emotional during an argument because emotions are a really useful argumentative tool. Emotions can skew or override the facts of a case, help bring a greater understanding to their choices, and they are a great red herring.
For example, when your daughter gets home past curfew for the 47th time and you explode at her in an angry eruption of emotion-laden yelling, scolding, and punishments, she won’t focus on the fact that she did indeed walked through the door fifteen minutes past curfew. Instead, she will focus solely on how you are reacting and how that makes anything you say and any rule you try to enforce null and void.
Whether they are aware of it or not, Teenage Lawyers use emotions to try and get the case thrown out.
This is the reason for Law 1: Control Your Emotions.
In order to be in compliance with Law 1, all that is required is simply the absence of negative emotion on the part of the parent. Remain calm. Keep your cool. Process your negative emotions so you can choose a more positive, useful emotion.
A teenager coming home after curfew has the potential to meet the same parent in two different emotional states: one is a red-in-the-face bundle of frustration that is utterly confused why their child can’t tell time; the other is a calm, cool parent that is aware that this behavior is typical of teenagers no matter who is raising them.
The parent in either emotional state can have the same message, “You broke a house rule and you will have to face the consequences” but both emotional states will get a different reaction from the Teenage Lawyer.
In the first case, the case of the angry parent, the Teenage Lawyer has a lot more to focus their arguments on instead of the facts. They can shift the debate to your relationship and what you do to damage it in these moments. They can make the case all about your attitude and demeanor. They can, and will, use your behavior to justify their poor choice. They would rather talk about your imperfections than theirs.
In the second case, the case of the calm parent, the Teenage Lawyer can only focus on two things: their own actions or the fairness of the attached consequences. It is difficult to win their case by using the first position, so they will likely choose the second. That can be anything from “legitimate” excuses of why they were late that make your imposed consequences not applicable in this case (in their minds), to the size of the punishment not fitting the “crime.”
The tactics a teen uses against the calm parent are much easier to defend and keep the litigation focused on what it should be, the teen’s actions. This, of course, doesn’t mean the teen will always follow the logical course. They’re still teenagers, after all.
Which leads us to the second law of parenting a Teenager Lawyer: Never Use Hyperbole.