Parenting teens a tough job, as Angelina and Brad show

Don't be under any illusion – parenting is extremely challenging at the best of times but parenting teenagers is tougher yet, as sadly illustrated by the break-up of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pit over differences in their approaches, writes Leona O'Neill

Angelina Jolie with her daughter Zahara, and Brad Pitt, with Jolie's son Maddox, pictured in India some years ago

IT was perhaps one of the most stunning unions for millennia. Two of the world's most beautiful people fell in love, produced three children and adopted three more to create a gorgeous rainbow family who seemed to the outside world to be deliriously happy.

So when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie called it quits the world's heart broke a little with theirs. Rumours swirled that Brad had strayed. There was talk of supermodels and wild partying, drugs and alcohol. But it seems none of it was true. The pair split over something much more mundane. For sure they had their Hollywood issues that might cause problems – the millions in the bank, the big houses, the never-ending work available to them etc – but their fiercest rows were, apparently, over their very different parenting styles.

Last month Angelina filed for divorce demanding custody of the Jolie-Pitt kids amid claims she had become concerned over the actor’s strict parenting approach. Tabloid sources close to the actress claimed she "was extremely upset" with his parenting methods.

According to reports, Angelina had an altogether relaxed style to parenting their six children. She is said to be an easy-going, happy-go-lucky mother who loved showing her kids the world. Brad, on the other hand was a little stricter, shouted a bit more and tried to enforce things like bedtimes, homework, housework and manners.

Apparently it had all come to a head for Angie after an incident where Brad had a screaming row with their teenager on a private jet. First reports said that he had got physical with the child, but these rumours were proved to be untrue after CCTV from the plane showed him merely yelling.

Angie filed for divorce, stating it was for the health of the family. Through her lawyers she demanded full custody of their children and the media went wild.

The pages of newspapers and magazines throughout the world were filled with stories of how Angie dropped Brad after he shouted at the kids.

I thought to myself, the journalists writing those silly stories have obviously never parented a teen. For parents raise their voices at their teenagers every day of the week. Teenagers are irrational and impossible at times. They can be obnoxious and argumentative and push you to the brink of insanity.

None of us are perfect. We don't like it, it's not good for anyone and we would rather have a rational conversation any day of the week, but we are human and sometimes in the midst of all the madness raised voices are the only way to get through to the teenage brain.

Parenting is tough and parents often have differing views on how best to raise their offspring. We have four children in our house. I'm the easy-going parent – in so very many ways like Angelina, particularly in the looks and the bank account departments.

I'm not a fan of grounding or shouting and I don't like confrontation. I'm the walk-over and the one they go to when they want something that Dad has said no to. I talk to them, advise gently, appeal to their better natures, try and get them to work things out. I hate to say it but I'm their friend and not all that fabulous at discipline.

The husband is tougher. He polices homework and bedtimes, breaks up squabbles, enforces chores and manners. He's the one who is called on when things get manic. He's the one who helps them gain confidence in their own abilities. He's the one who has to shout to get attention in the madness and restore order. Because there are times when our house, with it's six humans and a dog, resembles a zoo, rather than a family home. I think this is something only parents with multiple children would understand.

Both of us always parent with love. We have a good cop, bad cop thing going on in our house and, although we sometimes differ in opinion on which way is ultimately best, we present strong, united, impenetrable front to the kids. Even if that means arguing about it out of their earshot. At the end of the day we realise that we need both methods to properly parent these kids and stay sane in the process.

Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world, it takes a lot of patience, hard work and sacrifice and, as our teenagers are there to remind us frequently, we often get it wrong. But we keep on going.

Whatever the issues, I hope Brad and Angie can work it out and bring normality and stability back into their kids' lives.


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