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Playing Dumb: A Mother's Smart Move

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News flash: the quickest way to kill a moment when your daughter is talking to you like a girlfriend is to respond to her like a mother.

mother talking to daughter

Beth Falkenstein: Seems obvious, but if you're like me, then you've sometimes got forest/tree blindness. Seriously, if you love it when your kids tell you secrets and gossip from school, the best thing to do is play dumb to keep the ball rolling.

For example, when one of my daughters confided to me her resentment toward a show-off in one of her classes, I eagerly tried to turn it into a teachable moment by explaining how the girl was probably overcompensating for low self-esteem and could benefit from an understanding of Abraham Maslow's pyramid of self-actualization. I was confused at first by the sound of chirping crickets that followed, but now I understand that had my response been something along the lines of "That's so, like, ugh!," she would have countered with an "I know, right?," and that scintillating conversation could have continued on into the evening.

Then there was the time when my other daughter told me about a secret crush, and I made the mistake of relating that to my girlhood feelings for Paul McCartney. I don't know if you've seen any pictures of Paul lately, but my daughter has. The look on her face as she walked away told me I should have simply giggled and commented on how I loved the way her crush's pants magically stayed up even though they were belted inches below his Jockeys.

Yes, as mothers we have oodles of experience and perspective to share with our impressionable children. But that experience and perspective doesn't always trump a vulnerable moment of trust. Of course, if they're telling you about the stash of condoms Joe Jock has in his locker, then Super Mom should appear. But if they're simply revealing insecurity about a recent haircut, then it's often best to channel a character from "Clueless."

I know it's not easy to stifle such a deeply ingrained instinct to instruct, but the secret is as simple as reciting the alphabet. "OMG," "WTF," and "ROTFL" are some good staples to memorize. And if you can keep your responses to one syllable, that is good, too. "Fail" is apparently a complete sentence.

So good luck, and remember: stooping to their level is not stupid, it's strategy. (And by the way, I believe this technique works with husbands, too.)

Oh, and one more thing: Paul, if you're reading this, in my heart you'll always be hot.

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous January 5, 2010, 11:56 AM

score :) (in our words - good article)

pchanner January 6, 2010, 1:12 AM

I know!!!

tennmom January 6, 2010, 3:59 PM

It can be a fine line between being Mom and friend.
It is especially hard with my 12 year old (“old” for her age, always has been) and her friends.

pharmacy tech January 8, 2010, 9:45 AM

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

Victoria February 14, 2010, 10:27 PM

Hello, I’m here to give advice from the teenage point of view *I’m fourteen* I’m pretty sure I’d be weirded out if my mom responded to me by saying “omg! rofl!” Madres, don’t comment with something overly momish, but don’t try too hard to use “teenage” lingo. Just find the middle ground; I’m sure your daughters would appreciate the middle ground more than either extremes.

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Ten Tees January 9, 2011, 1:38 PM

Great info. Nice to read. I have one observation to submit about shirts.

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