If you could give parents the choice between fixing the U.S. economy and dealing with a sullen teenager, many would gladly dust off their old copies of John Maynard Keynes. Do battle with the Tea Party? A piece of cake next to negotiating curfew.
Last week, President Barack Obama drew such parallels, saying he was prepping for the next potential crisis: Malia, his oldest daughter, becomes a teenager July 4. While by all indications his daughters are good kids and he and Michelle Obama are involved, loving parents, the stereotypes hang in the air: mood swings, parent defiance and wonky circadian rhythms.
"I'm not anticipating complete mayhem for the next four or five years, but I understand teenagehood is complicated," Mr. Obama told ABC News. He has also joked that running for a second term will be largely inspired by the perk of having Secret Service staff assigned to his daughters.
And Malia will be embarking on teendom in public. While she has wisely been forbidden to open a Facebook account, the media glare will be unforgiving. It can amplify bad behaviour, such as the underage drinking of former president George W. Bush's twin daughters. It can also invite personal attacks. Good girl Chelsea Clinton was the subject of various nasty attempts at humour about her looks.
Experts such as Calgary parenting educator Judy Arnall are sympathetic, saying Mr. Obama can prep Malia for what's ahead. "Teens do experiment with all kinds of things and it's a very normal stage," Ms. Arnall says. "Kids of famous parents are often held up to higher standards than the rest. So he'll need to have that talk with her."
If she stumbles along the way, Ms. Arnall, who is raising four teens, says Mr. Obama's reputation for calm negotiation will serve him well.
Grounding or confiscating cellphones will only engender more misbehaviour - and attitude - instead of correcting it, she says. Since teens are in the "home stretch to adulthood," she says, it's important to teach "the adult way of dealing with problems - discussion and negotiation." This approach shows teens you're listening, not micro-managing. "If they feel listened to, they don't have any reason to be snarky," she says.
Ms. Arnall says Mr. Obama's biggest challenge will likely be finding the time to sit down and talk with Malia on a regular basis. "They need you more, time-wise, than anything now - [but]on their schedule. They want to talk at 11 at night."