There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one. (Sue Atkins).
How we parent our young children is much different than how we parent our teenagers. Let’s look at an example. We often tell our young two year olds to find their shoes. We often say it more than once or make it a game. Why do we do that? Well, the short answer may be that we do not want to find the shoes even though we know where they are. The long answer is that we are teaching our two year old to look for something. To learn to put the shoes where they know they will be for them next time. It is teaching the early version of responsibility and accountability for themselves and getting ready in the morning. It is amazing how little things are teaching our young children a number of skills. Fast forward, how many of us say to our sixteen year old, go find your shoes, where are your shoes, did you find your shoes yet. None of us say that, because at sixteen your teenager knows that they need their shoes to leave the house and mosto the time they know where their shoes are, or have a good idea where to look for their shoes. It is the effort that we put in early that our teenageris gaining the independence that they need as they transition to young adulthood and eventually that of an independent adult. Let’s be honest if we kept asking our teen to find their shoes it would be nagging, or that is what our teen would call it. No parent wants to be the nagging parent and therefore our communication skills change as our children grow up. We focus on developing our teens’ communication skills by having them talk to their teacher about a bad grade. Often parent teacher conferences include the teenager, the reason being is that it is a way for the teen to be involved in their education and to take responsibility and accountability for their grades. It is a great way for them to use and develop communication skills and critical thinking skills.
As a parent we are less likely to manage our teens’ lives and choices. We are more likely to engage in conversations that focus on what choices they should make based on their values, goals and personal mission statement. It is not always easy to work through a process with our teen when we as a parent have a solid plan that would work. The importance of allowing your teen to work on developing their skills is what builds their self esteem, self worth and self confidence. It helps to encourage their growth to become adults that will create success in their world. We will still be the authoritative parent but know we are much more intentional with our desire to listen with curiosity and to encourage our teen to develop the life skills that will help them to achieve their goals.
Many parents ask what this might look like. So an example is helpful. Your young tween probably had a curfew or a time that they had to be home. Let’s be honest that time often focused around our needs as a parent because as a tween a parent usually had to drive or pick up your tweens. Well now your teen can drive. I know that there are laws that are enforced on what time a young driver has to be home, but once you move past that, what are the rules of driving your car? What time do they have to be home, are there areas that they are not allowed to drive to, who and how many people are allowed in the car. These are all conversations that parents and teen driver’s have. It is about discussing safety issues and expectations. Along with this discussion should also be the consequences if something is not done. It could be what to do if your teen is going to be late coming home. What is the expectation of your teen and what are the agreed upon consequences if the “rules” are not followed. It is easier to have consequences prior to an event/mishap happening than “dictating” a consequence in the heat of the moment. It is about further developing your teens personal responsibility and accountability for their choices. I know you are thinking it was easier to have a two year old chasing around the house trying to find their shoes than having a teen driving on the road.