Jon Acuff

Being a teenager is not easy.

There’s peer pressure like they’ve never experienced before.

Suddenly, sitting at the right table at lunch is a big deal.

You have to deal with mean girls.

Cliques are rampant.

Applying for college is always at a low-grade boil of anxiety.

You might get cut from a sports team.

On top of all of these situations and a thousand others, you have a tsunami of hormones surging through you at any given moment.

I can’t make adolescence easy for my two daughters, but I can say one surprising thing that helps certain situations.

“Throw me under the bus.”

That’s a weird sentence so let me unpack it a bit.

For years, I’ve told them, “If you’re ever in a social situation and you feel pressure to do something you don’t want to do, make me the bad guy.”

If they’re at a party and someone offers them beer, I want them to know they can say, “My dad’s really strict. If he catches me doing that, I’d be in so much trouble.”

If someone offers them a Juul, I want them to know they can say, “You don’t know my dad. He’s got a real nose for mango. I better not.”

If they’re at a sleepover and a gang of friends suggest they sneak out, I want them to know they can say, “I would, but my dad would ground me forever.”

Do I want them to be the kind of kids that take a principled stand in those moments and quote something from the book of Joel? Sure, that would be amazing. But in a pinch, I also want them to know they can throw me under the bus.

That’s why I tell my kids, “Don’t be afraid to pull the, ‘My dad is a jerk’ ripcord to escape a tense situation.”

I’d love to be the bad guy in that moment.

Is that approach a little out of the ordinary? It is. But who said anything about wanting to raise ordinary kids?

I want to raise extraordinary kids who know their dad will go to extraordinary lengths to help them navigate adolescence.

Tell your kid to throw you under the bus.

It’s one more tool for a toolbox that can’t have enough in it.

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