On Parenting Teenagers (Part 1 of 4)
Recently, I had a lively discussion with some buddies whose kids are slightly younger than my own (16- and 18-year-olds). We shared our woes of raising children who seem suddenly disrespectful and disobedient.
It is always therapeutic to find out that you are not the only one facing such life challenges, that in the grand scheme of things, your exasperating situation is normal—and actually far better than it might have been. Occasionally, someone else has a solution or at least an alternative strategy to try out. Hence, it seemed like a good idea to organize and share some of my conclusions.
You will find links to books and articles that my wife and I have found beneficial.
I do not expect these to be my final words on this subject. If you have a different perspective or something interesting to add, please comment below.
Reset Your Expectations
The teenage years are a transition between childhood and adulthood. This may seem obvious, but it is easy to forget the implications of this transition.
Children begin their lives entirely dependent upon their parents. Parents take on the difficult responsibilities of meeting their every little need. This can easily weigh on new parents and may even seem overwhelming. Parents naturally expect that, as children grow into adults, they will finally become free of these responsibilities. We are impatient to enjoy all the benefits of dealing with independent adults. Especially when your children have been reasonable and obedient, it is easy to take for granted that your expectations will be met. Teenagers, though, seem to confront us with all the difficulties of dealing with independent adults and none of the benefits of obedient children. Your child's teenage years can seem like one disappointment after the other.
As usual, the reality lies between the two extremes. Your teenager remains unexpectedly dependent on you to meet various needs in various situations, yet unexpectedly exerts his or her independence in other situations. (Hence the title of the book, Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall.) When you take a step back from your own disappointment, anger, and exasperation, you will see that this unexpected dependence and independence is inevitable.
Conclusion #1: Set your expectations in accordance with this reality. "Expect the unexpected." Every disappointment should trigger a review—and a likely reset—of your own expectations so that they better accord with reality. This simple habit will help you deal with the disappointments. It will help you enjoy the times when your child remains obedient. Better yet, it will help you savor the times when your child achieves the result you desired in an unexpected way.