Texting With Our Kids: It’s Not All Pretty

It’s no secret that our kids can be annoying. That’s just a big chunk of the kid personality and the innate button-pushing tendency that’s hard-wired into every child at birth. And even though most kids tend to age out of the immature, grating stuff they do when they’re young—like whine when we don’t give them an extra ten minutes on their laptop or pick a fight with their sister six minutes into a three-hour car ride—a lot of that irritating little-kid behavior just gets replaced by slightly-more-mature-but-no-less-annoying big-kid stuff.

How parents can teach teens texting etiquitte

Like, when our teenagers have actual, visceral reactions to being separated from their phones at the dinner table. Or when they vomit all their friend drama all over us for ninety minutes but can’t stomach a sixty-second conversation about our crappy day at work. So annoying.

It’s all just part of the whole parent-child dynamic, though. We were annoying to our parents, therefore, on some level, our kids are annoying to us. And so on, and so on. I guess you could say it’s every kid’s birthright—something that’s embedded in the genetic code.

[More on Communicating With our Teens.]

Still, there’s one thing that both of my girls do that’s been driving me clinically insane for a while. And I just can’t keep it to myself anymore. I’ve finally hit my intolerance threshold and I’ve got to let it out.

Plus, I’ve had so many unsolicited conversations lately with other parents who are wrestling with the exact same challenge. So I figure, together, maybe we can end the hypocrisy.

Yes, I’m talking about the flagrant double standard that kids have with texting etiquette as it applies to their parents. It seems like most kids have this twisted expectation that we’re supposed to respond to their texts instantaneously, while they’re under little or no obligation to respond to ours. Not ok.

Like, how they expect us to drop everything to acknowledge them when they have a question, regardless of where we are, who we’re with, or what we might be doing; but, that has zero bearing on how quickly they reply to us. Not ok.

Or, how they can incessantly send us one-word texts, one after another, after another, in rapid fire, just to get our attention. Yet, if we send them more than two texts within a three-hour period, we’re annoying them. So not ok.

But (and this kills me), if a text comes through from one of their friends, they’ll drop everything to respond.

Now I had high hopes that my girls’ transition to adulthood would squelch this annoying, egocentric penchant to be hypocritical texters. But, sadly, it hasn’t. As far as my kids are concerned, I spend the majority of my day sitting in a small plastic bubble, segregated from all human contact, watching my phone in anticipation of when one of them might text me. Or at least I should, in their opinion.

Now, I really do try to see the humor in all of this. Because it is absurd the way today’s kids need instant gratification or acknowledgement or they implode. It’s almost comical. Like when we’re actually busy doing something else—like, say, our jobs—and can’t reply and they throw a hissy. Sad, but funny at the same time. So funny, that a friend and I started sending each other screen shots of the insane text threads we were getting from our kids. We’re writing a book.

[More on Social Media and How It Has Changed Parenting.]

Here’s a classic daughter-to-mother exchange…
DAUGHTER (11:03am): Mom.
DAUGHTER (11:04am): Mom!
DAUGHTER (11:05am): MOMMMMMMMMM!
DAUGHTER (11:06am): MOTHERRRRRRRRRR!
DAUGHTER (11:07am): OMG! SERIOUSLY!! MOM!!!!! WHERE R U?!?!
MOM (11:13am): I’m in a meeting… just stepped out… what’s wrong!?!?
DAUGHTER (11:15am): Been trying to reach you. I’m in study hall and I think I have a migraine. Need caffeine!!! Can you drop a cappuccino off at the main office before my next class?
MOM (11:16am): R u serious?! NO! And I’m turning off your cell service!
DAUGHTER (11:17am): You can’t leave me here like this!
MOM (11:18am): Oh, but I can.

Now let’s flip it around and look at an average mother-to-daughter thread…
MOM (Fri 3:08pm): Hey sweetie. Quick question. Text me back. Ok?
MOM (Fri 8:47pm): Uh, hello? I need to ask you something…
MOM (Sat 10:14am): Been trying to reach you… PLEASE call/text me.
MOM (Sat: 1:57pm): Hellooooooooooooo?????????
MOM (Sat 6:20pm): Dad and I are buying you a car…what color do you want??
DAUGHTER (Sat 6:20:06pm): OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!! I love you guys!!!!! Black. I want black!
MOM (Sat 3:22pm): Yeah, there’s no car. Just needed to know you were getting my texts. Call me or I’m shutting off your cell service.

So my kids have left me with no choice but to follow the advice of yet another friend who was even more fed up than I was. She came up with a brilliant idea that I’m officially stealing. And I’m paying it forward to you. What did my genius friend do? She started prioritizing her kid’s texts into two categories: the ones she likes and the ones she doesn’t like. Needless to say, she replies to the ones in the Like column and ignores all the rest. Hey, all’s fair in love and parenthood.

Related:

Why it’s Wrong to Be a Texting (Only) Family

A Note to My Teens: It’s Not That I Don’t Trust You…

A Mom Decides to be Quiet: Talk Less and Listen More

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns on The Lisa Sugarman on Facebook.  She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and select Whole Foods Market stores.

About Lisa Sugarman

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. She writes the nationally syndicated opinion column It Is What It Is and is the author of How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids and Be Ok with It--Real Tips & Strategies for Parents of Today's Gen Z KidsUntying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free, and LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores everywhere. Read and discuss all her columns and books at lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on GrownAndFlown, Thrive Global, Hot Moms Club, LittleThings, MommingHubb, More Content Now, Wickedlocal, This Mama Wines, and Care(dot)com. She's also the founder and moderator of The Vomit Booth, the popular Facebook Group where parents can go to bond, share, and connect over the madness of raising kids in today's world.

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