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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 07/06/2011

A new teen in the White House

One of the best parenting lines of all time came from inside the White House. Of his teenage daughter, Theodore Roosevelt told a visiting dignitary: “I can do one of two things. I can be President of the United States or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.”
First lady Michelle Obama and her 13-year-old daughter Malia. (Sergio Moraes - Reuters)

As of this past Monday, the nation has another White House containing a teenager. President Obama’s eldest, Malia, turned 13. Yes, those two little girls who put J.Crew Kids on the map at their dad’s inauguration are growing up. Younger sister Sasha is 10.

Now well-mannered Malia is no Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth. At least not yet. Alice was said to have smoked on the White House roof (this was 100 years ago, remember), was nicknamed Princess Alice for her imperial attitude and generally terrorized those who tried to rein her in.

Still, teenager-hood is a creature unto itself. There are bookshelves, therapy practices and even a Harvard project dedicated to raising them.

Raising them publicly? Not a task for the weak-hearted.

The White House has hosted its share of teens. The Johnson girls, the Ford children, Amy Carter, Chelsea Clinton and the Bush twins are some recent residents.

Some of the issues those other first families faced are universal — the drive for independence, experimentation, developing political opinions, romantic relationships. (The President recently joked to ABC News of his daughters’ Secret Service protection: “... I have men with guns that surround them often, and a great incentive for running for reelection is that it means they never get in the car with a boy who had a beer, and that’s a pretty good thing.”)

Other modern challenges are new and unique to this generation; the dangers of social media and texting come to mind.

The Obamas have been skilled at guarding their girls’ privacy and keeping them seemingly well-grounded. At the same time they’ve been public about some of the harder calls in parenting.

Michelle Obama, for example, this year talked openly about not allowing her daughters to have Facebook accounts — a question for most parents of tweens and one that will surely come up again for the First Family now that Malia is of age for a legal Facebook account.

If Obama were to win a second term, and thus have two teens under that white roof? Well, the issues that arise might get more complex. And, maybe, we might get one or two memorable one-liners.

Do you have advice for the Obamas on how to approach the teen years? Tell us using #adviceforobama and check the conversation below.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 07/06/2011

 
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