For the last couple weeks there has been an idea for an article rattling around in my head. But I have been having a hard time trying to nail down the specifics, so I’m hoping that this makes sense. And for the record my oldest daughter is now thirteen, so I have limited experience with teenagers, except of course for the time that I was a teenager myself, of course.
Our children come into this world crying and in desperate need of us. Then they slowly begin the circle of life, in which they steadily draw away from us. To where at the teenage years, they seem to be the farthest away from us. Now of none this should worry us, especially since this is a completely natural cycle. But as any parent, of any teenager, can attest, this can be a trying time. We are struggling to be parents and retain control (because that’s what we are supposed to be doing, right?) while our children are struggling to break free and become their own person.
So what can we do this make this transition easier? For me it started very early. As I have said for many years, it is not my job to raise kids. Instead I am tasked with creating adults. Because isn’t that the goal of a successful parent? To turn our children into adults? And if this is our goal then why do we struggle to hold on so tightly to our teenagers? To stop them from being adults and making their own mistakes.
Now the age for this ‘letting go’ will vary from child to child. In my house we talk about tribal council, the adults, and the time when the children will be old enough to be privy to the decisions and budgeting and adult conversations that any relationship must have in the running a household. And when they will be old enough and able to begin to help make those decisions. This will teach them about budgeting and simple things like filling out an envelope. And of course this will most likely be different for each of my daughters.
Yet you also have to look at the legal responsibilities that we have as adults. We can’t let our children be complete adults, so throwing out curfew and school requirements are a no go. But if you approach them like adults and engage them in an adult conversation and explain the restrictions that you, as adults, have on you, then it is likely that the conversation will go better then just laying down ultimatums.
A few years ago, I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. And if there is one thing that I took away from this book (and I took many things from it), is a question that he would ask the parents of teenagers. “How do you see your son/daughter?” And many people continued to see them as little kids. The same kids that they would lay down rules and punish with groundings and timeouts. It was when they began to see their children as teenagers, that the relationship between parent and child began to change.
In other words if you realize your child is now a teenager (a proto-adult) and begin to interact with them on this level, from one adult to another, then your relationship with them can begin to blossom.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this.