Recently on Twitter I asked what parenting topics parents would like to see me cover here at Mom Maven. I received several answers. One was bullying which I covered in a series of posts last month. One topic was parenting teens, specifically teen boys. As the mom of two teen boys, and someone who has worked in youth ministry for 23 years, this should be easy. Well, it isn’t.
The most successful parents realize that parenting is a process that begins at birth and continues throughout life. The process changes as the child grows from infancy to childhood to teenager to adult but, the process continues. To address parenting teens out of the context of the process is difficult-but not impossible.
First, I need to state that every child is different. Just because Bob was able to handle certain things at age 15 doesn’t mean Steve can. You cannot cookie cutter parent and expect the same results with each child. Parenting takes work, dedication and communication. In its simplest form, parenting is about boundaries and freedoms. In a perfect world a toddler has a lot of boundaries and few freedoms while a 17 year old has fewer boundaries and more freedoms. That being said, one of the most often asked questions is “How much freedom and at what age?” There is no single right answer to that question. If there was parenting would be simple. You would get a list of ages and freedoms before you leave the hospital with your newborn and you would just check things off the list at each birthday.
What freedoms you give your teen need to be weighed against that child’s maturity-emotionally, physically, morally and spiritually. Just because the state you live in says your child can get his drivers license the day he turns 16 doesn’t mean he is ready for that responsibility. As old as the “But all my friends are doing it/I’m not the parent of all your friends.” argument has been around, parents have had to step up and make the tough decisions. Teens who are responsible in the small things get more freedom and responsibility.
We as parents need to remember that even though teens cry for freedoms they really long for boundaries. Boundaries keep us safe and protected. Boundaries can’t be arbitrary though. Teens understand reason and most teens respect their parents more when there is open communication and explanation about the why’s of rules and boundaries. I have always explained the why’s to my kids. They learn to appreciate your boundaries and eventually how to set their own boundaries when they understand why. One of the goals of parenting is to help our kids learn to create their own boundaries. When Bob goes to a friend’s house and the friend grabs a few beers from the fridge is Bob going to succumb to peer pressure, or his he going to know what to do because he has reached a boundary? If Bob is my son the goal here would be to say “No thank-you, you shouldn’t be doing that either.” If the friend persists then Bob will leave or call for a ride home.
Parenting isn’t about give and take, it is about training children to become responsible, productive citizens. It doesn’t happen overnight-it takes a lifetime. No kid is perfect-no parent is perfect. I don’t claim to have all the answers, I have spent many an hour on my knees praying for God to give me wisdom in raising my boys. I have also read books, taken classes and observed those around me. If this overview has sparked more specific questions please leave me a comment and ask that question. This topic could go in a million directions but I want my posts to be relevant to your life. If I don’t know how to answer you, I will find someone who does and let them help you. I look forward to hearing from you.