Home » Doing Drugs with Paul Dillon » Can I? Can I? Can I? When do teens believe the best time is to try to wear you down and get the answer they want?

Can I? Can I? Can I? When do teens believe the best time is to try to wear you down and get the answer they want?

As I wrote about in a recent post, I have been collecting information throughout the year on a range of issues around parties and gatherings and alcohol from young people via a short questionnaire I ask them to fill out after the talks I present at schools. I now have over 500 completed surveys from Year 10 and 11 students across all three systems – public, Independent and Catholic – and over the next couple of months leading up to the Christmas holidays I thought I would share some of the results with readers of my blog – some of them are really fascinating …

It needs to be made clear that this is not a rigorous piece of scientific research and I can’t submit any of my ‘findings’ to a journal for publication, but the results provide a rough snapshot of what is happening across the country in this area. As much as I wanted to know about their drinking behaviour, that can be a dangerous area to get into (particularly around ‘duty of care’) so I tried to focus more on how the students are being parented in this area (or at least how they perceive they are being parented). The questionnaire has changed over the year – I’ve removed some questions and added others as issues have popped up – but no question has less than a sample size of 200 students having answered it, so that’s pretty reasonable and gives me something to work with. It’s important to remember that all the information provided is ‘self-report’ and there is no way of knowing what they are telling me about what is happening in their lives in this area is the truth, but in my experience I believe most teens are fairly honest when completing this type of survey.

There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Bart and Lisa want to go to the amusement park, Krustyworld and when Marge says ‘no’, you then see the two children beating their mother down in the next 4 or 5 scenes in a range of situations by asking “Can we go?”, “Can we go?” “Can we go?”, until finally she just gives up and says ‘yes’! Many of you would have found yourself in a similar situation over the years and it’s with that in mind that I included the following question in the survey:

“When do you think is the best time to ask your parents for permission to go to a party or gathering that you think they may not want you to go to?”

This followed another that asked whether or not they had actually ever been refused permission to attend a party they had been invited to and if they had, why were they told permission was not given? I’ll report on the findings of that question later … but for now, when do teens believe the best time is to ask their parents for something and get their desired outcome? I don’t think the answers were particularly surprising but they certainly show you how smart our teens can be and how well they know their parents! Here is an example of one Year 11 female’s response that pretty well summarises what the survey found …

“The only time I ever ask my Mum whether I can go out on the weekend is when she is on the phone, particularly if she is talking to one of her best friends. I wait until she has been speaking for a while and then tell her that I need an urgent answer and then she usually says ‘yes’ to whatever I ask her. It’s really easy …”

Yes, the number one response to when do teens believe the best time to ask for something and get the response they wanted was when their parents were on the phone! As I said, no real surprises there. Most didn’t give more detail than simply – ‘on the phone’ – but those that did seemed to know their parents incredibly well, identifying particular people that their parents spoke to as being important, and, of course, work-related phone calls being particularly useful when wanting to get the desired outcome, particularly where their fathers were concerned.
  • “When Dad is on a business call I can usually get what I want pretty quickly. He just says ‘yes’ and sends me away” (Year 10 male)
  • “If I know Mum is on a call to her sister I will always ask because I know the call goes forever and she’ll say ‘yes’ to anything” (Year 10 female)

The two other times that appeared to be popular were while the parent was shopping (variations on the theme like bringing the shopping in from the car or unpacking the groceries were also reported) or when they were watching a television program they regularly watched (this seemed to be a particular favourite with the young men who completed the survey and was almost always used with their mothers – I’m not quite sure what that was about!). Here are some of the responses provided by students in these areas – I think the final one is priceless:

  • “When Mum is food shopping is the best. She doesn’t always let me go but this is the best time as she seems to be distracted and doesn’t always hear everything I say” (Year 10 female)
  • “When I help Mum with bringing in the shopping from the car I can ask her almost anything and she will let me do it. Sometimes she asks me about the party but other times I just get what I want” (Year 10 male)
  • “When one of Mum’s TV shows is on and she doesn’t want to be disturbed is the best time. She will tell me to be quiet when I ask her, I tell her it’s urgent and then she usually says ‘yes'” (Year 11 female)
  • “When Mum is watching ‘Bold and the Beautiful’ I can ask her for anything” (Year 10 male)

Teens certainly work out very quickly the best time to approach their parents to ensure they get the things they want. As you can see by their responses – they choose a time when you’re distracted and more likely to say ‘yes’ just to get rid of them!

No parent should be making decisions about what their child is or isn’t allowed to do on Saturday night ‘on the run’. Saying ‘yes’ to something when you’re distracted and being ‘bullied’ into something because it’s supposedly urgent and they need an immediate response is not the best way to go and if something was to go wrong I can guarantee you would never forgive yourself.

This is why it is so important that you try to allocate a set period every week for your teen to sit down with you and your partner, together, so that they can discuss with you what they are doing in their life, what they may want to do on the weekend and anything else that is important. In a ‘time-poor’ world this can be extremely difficult for families to do but it is vital that you provide an opportunity for your teen to ask you for permission to attend parties, go places over the weekend, invite friends over and the like. Many parents I speak to say that the best time for them is the dinner table – to try to ensure that at least once a week the whole family sits down, no TV and no other electronic devices, and actually talks about the week that has been and the week and weekend to come. This way if they ask you for something and you don’t feel comfortable about saying ‘yes’, you have the opportunity to talk it through, let them tell you why you shouldn’t be worried and then a thoughtful, considered response can be given. Of course, it’s never that easy and some teens do little more than grunt when you ask them anything about their life … but being cornered by a teen while you’re on the phone and then simply saying ‘yes’ to them just to get them off your back is not the way to go!

Looking for information or support services on alcohol or drugs?

If you or a friend or family member needs assistance in this area, Alcohol and Drug Information Services (ADIS) are available in every state and territory. Each of these are each staffed by trained professionals who can help with your query and provide confidential advice or refer you to an appropriate service in your area.

Scroll to Top