I started to write this months and months ago. Then I got busy with a very sick teen. Then I got busy writing my other blog. Well, you get the picture. Parenting teens, what does it mean? Well, I’m definitely NOT an expert. In fact, I saw this picture the other day, and just laughed, because I thought this is exactly how I feel half the time:
Isn’t this exactly what we parents of teens are thinking to ourselves 9 days out of the week? Let’s just survive their teenhood and when it’s all said and done, if they haven’t completely destroyed their lives, we’ve done OK. That panicked feeling in the pit of our stomachs? So familiar.
I don’t believe we should feel this way. That’s not what God intended for us. First of all, I think we need to understand what the teen years are for. I believe the teen years are for a gradual letting go of control. It’s their practice years for adulthood. I believe there are two kinds of screwed up parents:
- The Control Freaks.
Some people call these parents Helicopter Parents. Another type of Control Freak is the Judge and Jury Parent, as I call them. Helicopter Parents fix everything. The life of their teen is managed so that their child has nothing go wrong. They have the perfect life and never learn to manage a difficult situation because mom or dad will always come to the rescue. The Judge and Jury Parent has so many rules the child usually rebels and there is constant conflict in the home. The child never learns to make their own decisions on what is truly the right decision on his/her own, because the parent makes the decisions for them on what is the right decision. Teenager’s instincts to grow up and become an adult are starting to kick in, so they are wanting to learn how to chose what is right or wrong. In a Judge and Jury home, the child fights against the parent, instead of what is truly wrong, often times making all the wrong choices, simply because the parent won’t let them make their own decisions.
- The Lackadaisical Parent
The lazy parent feels that they can’t do anything to help their teen. They have thrown their hands up in the air and say, God help them. They let them do what ever they want and the teen says, “My parent doesn’t dare tell me what to do.” Or worse yet, the Lackadaisical Parent has joined ranks with the teen and become their “friend” in some kind of midlife crisis. This is where the mom or dad starts wearing teenaged-styled clothes, listens to teenaged style songs, tries to talk like a teenager, buddy up to their teenager, give their teenager condoms, and basically be to their teenager what their peers are to them. No, just no.
Parents have a longing in their hearts for respect from their children, and children have a longing in their hearts to have boundaries put around them. Boundaries from parents help children and teens feel loved. However, boundaries need to be age appropriate and, as they grow older need to be enforced by the now-adult, not the parent. If the child is in college and can’t figure out how to apply for her own classes with out the parents stepping in, then the parent has made some drastic mistakes in parenting. That is on you, Mom and Dad, not on your child. Deal with your big bad life-long need for to be needed and help your child, who desperately needs to learn how to stand on her own two feet. The way you help her is to not help her. She’s an adult, she can figure it out. Praise her afterward for the job well done.
In our home we have done several things:
First, We have expect from each of our children respect from them for both of us. We also will stand up for each other, even if we feel like the other one might have deserved the flack they got from the disrespectful child. No parent deserves disrespect. This may actually demand from you, the parents, the need to do some marriage counseling and/or soul searching in regards to your own respect for each other. If you’re not showing respect to each other as an example to your kids, then why do you expect your kids to show respect to you?
It’s important for a child to learn how to speak respectfully, so they can learn to assert themselves on the job without getting fired. Always, as you’re parenting, think of them in a job situation, or at college with their professor. How do you want them to treat those people? The way they treat you will be the way they treat them.
Secondly, each of our children has been allowed to choose their consequences. These are three things that we will take from them if they are disrespectful to us. Having said this, we don’t always stick to this. As far as consequences go, every privilege they have is on the table except that which is absolutely needed for their well-being: food, warmth, love, a bed, clothes, shoes, and school. Apart from that, until they choose to leave my house (even if they are over 18) I can take every other privilege away. What if they bought it themselves? (For instance their car) Is it parked in YOUR driveway? Then it is yours to take away. That is how much I believe in respect.
Thirdly, apart from disrespect, the only other things my kids get consequences for is not showing up at their job/school, not doing the things needed to sustain their school/job, and not completing their three (3) daily contributions to the family. We have a Chore Chart that I update weekly so that the kids don’t have to do the same contributions every week. I have to explain the contribution like I’m talking to a toddler. (This is because the hormones coursing through a teen turns them into huge toddlers. lol.) You can see a sample of our chore chart here: ChoreChart.
I have a rule for myself. I do not nag. The kids have to do these things for themselves. This is them learning to be an adult. I’m giving them the expectations that perhaps they would get at work, or by a college professor. Instead of getting fired, or getting kicked out of college, they’re getting their phone taken away or something a little less innocuous than something that will ruin their life. Training within the confines of the boundaries of my love. Those boundaries they will then learn to keep around themselves as an adult.
One final thing: We have established a Atomic Bomb Consequence for each kid. This is the consequence we will give them absolutely only and I mean only if we’ve tried everything else to get their attention. We’ve already discussed this consequence with each of the kids and they helped us make the decision on what that Atomic Bomb Consequence was. For instance, if you have an 18 year old teen, you may choose to set him up in his own apartment with one month’s rent and a good job and let him know that he’s welcome to come visit home, but he’s no longer allowed to live at home. That’s what an Atomic Bomb Consequence is. I hope I never have to get to this level with any of my kids, but disrespect, doing your job/school, and your three (3) contributions a day for your family a paramount to keeping yourself free from that consequence.
I’ve learned a lot from Mayo Clinic Pain Teen Clinic Rehab Program and also from Love and Logic. I hope these tips will help you, too. Above all else, just have fun with your teens. Life is short. Your teens will be gone soon. Don’t regret rushing around a letting their lives slip by while you’re too busy. Show them you care by spending that quality time with them that says, “I love you.” Let go of the snarky comments. Remember the good times. Laugh. Love. Breath.