Ask Grainne | How Do You Parent a Teen and Keep Your Sanity?

Need parenting advice that doesn’t read like you joined a new age cult? Ask Grainne for the unvarnished truth about modern Irish parenting.

Dear Grainne

Am I a bad parent if I bribe my kids with take-out and YouTube?

Last week one of the other Mums introduced me to the woman I going to call ‘perfect Mum’. It was Friday, or as my kids and I like to call it ‘take out Friday’. The evening where we all collapse on the couch in Pj’s as soon as we get home. AKA the one night per week where I don’t cook (bliss) and we order buggers & fries followed by a Netflix kids movie.

Midway through the small talk, perfect Mum asked my son about our plans for the evening. He ratted us out with his usual searing honesty leaving perfect Mum appalled. Her children only eat home grown organic food (nothing processed, or containing sugar, and, definitely nothing from the chipper). Screen time is also seemingly the worst thing ever for little minds. Perfect Mum prefers her boys to read and play with Lego only.

The TV at their house is only used for watching the news or some TG4 kids shows to improve their Irish. Needless to say, phone numbers were not swapped for a play date (my children would immediately corrupt her boys with PlayStation). The encounter has left me feeling guilty. Am I a bad parent because I feed my child take away food once a week? Is it so wrong to buy yourself an hour or two of ‘me time’ by giving them access to YouTube / Twitch?


Dublin mum of 2.


Dear Guilty Mum of 2,

Let me get this straight. Your perfect mum disagrees with intensive farming, but thinks intensive parenting is a good thing? The long term effects of said parenting on children has yet to be studied, but, I’d be fairly certain they will involve excessive alcohol, and copious amounts of meaningless sex (so not all bad).

You on the other hand are doing fine. I would increase the number of take-out nights. I’d also look at one of my own personal favourites “breakfast for dinner nights”. (The recipe is on the back of the cornflakes box).

Stop feeling guilty. You’re sending them off for an hour to watch gamers on YouTube – I was sent off to play with the number 19 bus when I was their age!

Dear Grainne

How do you parent a teen and keep your sanity?

Our eldest boy just turned the dreaded thirteen complete with hormones, grumpy voice, and smell. Whereas before we could have conversations now he just grunts and seems to be permanently attached to playing fornite online.

Despite never leaving his computer he also seems to have grown an appetite that is eroding our bank balance (his 12-egg omelette last weekend is a prime example and that was just a ‘breakfast snack’). We are facing 7 years of this. I am currently practicing daily telepathy to understand him and the grunts but it’s not working.

Please tell us you can offer some advice, I am at the end of my teether.

Mum of three, Waterford

Dear Mum of three,

How do you stay sane? Easy, you don’t. There is no parent on this earth who has a teen and is sane at the same time. You thought, as you struggled through the first 12 years of your child’s life, that they had found every possible button to push. They didn’t! There is a whole heap of them you were completely unaware of until the day after their 13th birthday.

I don’t want to frighten those who think it is tough with their prepubescent male offspring, but, the first button is – smell. Nothing will prepare you for it. The smell is not just the lack of washing, not the runners and football boots, not the socks left under the bed for a month. It is all the above mixed with lynx. I cannot describe the assault on your senses. You will find yourself searching out wet dogs to sniff to give your nostrils a break.

Second is the attitude, all the years when you wanted them to stop talking, just for maybe 10 seconds’ fade into the distance when they hit 13 and stop. Completely. They lose the power of speech and it is replaced with the odd grunt. If you are lucky you will hear the sweet sound of “what’s for dinner” every now and then, but other than that, all noises are indistinguishable.

Third, and I’m only going to go to the third or you will be reading this till next week, is the cost. And I’m not talking about the emotional cost, I’m talking cold hard cash. You know the way you walk into Penny’s and debate buying a sweatshirt for €13. Not them, they walk into the top sportswear shops and drop a mortgage payment on a pair of runners that look like miniature hovercrafts.

I wouldn’t mind if they lasted as long as my underwear (most of which is older than my children) but if their feet are growing you’d be lucky to get six months out of them. Normally not even that as the ridiculous bubble soles will burst anyway and then they will hover no more.

All I can say is, good luck, and, if you can start putting aside some funds every week now for a therapist it will all work out in the long run.

About Grainne: Proudly known as a bitch by her nearest and dearest. Surprisingly still married to the father of her three, only slightly dysfunctional children. Has opinions about everything.

*Disclaimer Grainne is not qualified in any way to answer your problems. She doesn’t do feedback but if you want you can leave a comment below or email her at [email protected] We can almost certainly guarantee you she will NOT get back to you, but, one of her cousins who helps her might. Alternatively, you can stalk them directly Twitter: @Triona_Campbell or @KearneyRoisin or both.