Any parent of a Taylor Swift-loving teen knows there's just one thing they can do right now to look like the ultimate hero: come through in the clutch with tickets to the pop star's blockbuster "Eras" tour. But as any Swiftie knows all too well (pun intended), the astronomical prices of tickets are setting the stage for frustrations and conflicts galore. A mom from the Boston, Mass. area recently experienced this conundrum firsthand after dropping $4,500 on two tickets for her teen and, she had assumed, herself.
Appearing on Country 102.5’s AM show, Country Mornings with Ayla Brown, a mom referred to only by her first name, Susan, explained that she bought the tickets for her daughter’s 19th birthday. “I really wanted to go big,” Susan told Brown. “I mean, she’s turning 19. Like we’re getting closer as friends, not just mother daughter. So I gave them to her. … She’s so excited. We’re both screaming, having a great time. You know, I thought I was going to go. I thought she was going to invite me. But she ended up inviting her best friend [Casey]. They’ve known each other since they were little in elementary school. And they have loved Taylor their whole lives. I mean, God, I was so hurt. I was so hurt.”
In the six days since Susan shared her predicament — compounded by her daughter's anger at having to take an Uber to the show, instead of getting a ride from her mom, who is now considering asking for her $4,500 back — more than 600 people have commented on the drama on Facebook. While Brown, the woman identified as Susan and representatives for Country 102.5 could not be reached for comment, parenting experts spoke to Yahoo Life about the family dynamics at play.
While many parents only wish they could afford splurge-y concert tickets, miscommunication and the fear of spoiling a child are all relatable conundrums when it comes to raising a teen. Here's how experts say the situation should have been handled.
Gauging the teen’s reaction would have preempted trouble.
Sure, surprises can be fun, but they do come with the risk of not knowing exactly how a teen will respond, notes Dan Peters, host of The Parent Footprint with Dr. Dan.
Surprise or not, when it comes to a big ticket purchase, it may be wise for parents to at least float the idea by their child, so they’ll get a sense of whether it’s the best move. In this case, before purchasing the tickets, Peters says it may have been beneficial for the mom to say something along the lines of, “I was thinking it would be fun for us to go to the Taylor Swift concert together. Tickets are really expensive, so I wanted to see what you think.”
Initial conversations like this can also offer a parent insight into whether or not a teen is being spoiled. Peters encourages parents to ask themselves questions like:
Do they expect to get what they want?
Are they grateful or unappreciative?
Are you buying them big-ticket items for affection and attention?
“If teens generally get what they want regardless of price, they come to expect it and not appreciate it,” he notes. “What’s the remedy? Be selective about what you get your teen so gifts and surprises feel special and not expected, and find ways for them to earn purchases so they understand the value.”
More communication could have set clearer expectations.
Though no one wants to shell out $4,500 to learn how valuable communication is, this situation was “a very expensive teaching moment,” Barbara Greenberg, a Connecticut-based teen and adolescent psychologist, tells Yahoo Life.
“The mother was very generous in purchasing the tickets, but she made an assumption that she'd go with the daughter,” says Greenberg. “I understand her hurt feelings, but she didn't clarify that she expected to go, and she didn't clarify her feelings and her daughter really couldn't read her mind.”
The lesson here, according to Greenberg: “Never make assumptions, and speak about what your expectations are.”
Peters says this situation is a reminder of how important it is for parents to be direct in their communication with teens. “Teens assume we understand what they think and feel, and parents often expect teens to read their minds as well,” he says. “Parents may consciously or unconsciously avoid direct communication in order to reduce the possibility for conflict, but in the end, without direct communication, misunderstandings and conflict are often the result.”
In fact, it was possible for the mom to be direct and clarify her expectations even after the daughter said she was going to take her friend to the show, points out Niro Feliciano, a psychotherapist and author of This Book Won't Make You Happy: Eight Keys to Finding True Contentment. “She could have said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, but these tickets were really expensive, and I got them for the two of us. I would love to experience this with you,’” she tells Yahoo Life. “If that caused some conflict, they then could have discussed, and Mom could make a decision after hearing how her daughter felt.”
It’s preferable to process and express emotions vs. use punishment.
The combination of a pricey gift and hurt feelings can spur big emotions and even tempt a parent to seek out a punishment, even when the situation doesn’t call for it. But leaning on anger or retribution can backfire, according to Greenberg, who notes that "people don't really learn that way."
What would be preferable: taking a pause when emotions are running high, says Greenberg. “Don't act on extreme emotion,” she recommends. “Always sleep on it, take a day or two until you're calm before you make a major decision.”
After that, Greenberg recommends expressing disappointment and hoping that, in the future, both parties communicate their feelings upfront. In this particular situation, she advises Susan say something like, “I hope you enjoyed the concert. I was OK with paying the money. But I was hopeful that it would be a bonding moment between us. I really wanted to go with you.”
Not only will a statement like this clear the air but allow the mom to model healthy emotional awareness for her teen. While most people find it difficult to articulate challenging feelings, says Greenberg, there’s merit in expressing one's needs and disappointment. She adds, “Learning how to do that calmly is a very big deal in life.”
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