Are we really parenting our teens?
Ellen, gave her mom a dismissive look when mom suggested she put down her cell phone and listen to what the counselor was saying. Mom was a single mom, working several jobs to make ends meet. Because she felt sorry that dad had walked out on them, she worked two jobs to be able to give her teens all the “toys” that she felt would make them happy. Needless to say she was not at home very often. She in effect was replacing parenting with gifts. Ultimately she realized that her teens felt neglected and unloved. They had no structure and were acting out, seeking her attention.
Are we really parenting our teens?
This is a question I often ask myself. Are we trading family time for gadgets in the hopes of making our teens happy? Are we teaching our children how to love and respect us and each other and teaching them our family values, and how to live in society as decent human beings?
1. Parents must learn to parent again.
My kids always tell me, “Mom don’t forget that contract you signed when you decided to become a mom.” We always laugh at this but they are right. In reality, a lot of us parents are afraid to actually discipline our children. We don’t want to offend them. It starts from when children are toddlers and we make excuses for their bad behavior. Be firm. Be disciplined. Children thrive with structure. They then know what to expect and know the consequences of breaking the rules. Imagine starting a new job with no expectations. You are basically taken to your cubicle and expected to perform with no guidance, no rules or expectations. How many of us would thrive in such an environment? We would never perform at our highest potential. Unfortunately, many homes are like this. Children are not taught any values. They have no structure and there is no discipline. Ultimately this comes back to haunt the parents. We must learn to parent again. If necessary we must seek help on how to parent our teens effectively.
2. Don’t hide your head in the sand.
Be sincere with yourself, when you notice a drastic change in your child’s attitude. If your child was always an A or B student and is suddenly not attending class or failing in school, don’t make excuses and blame the teacher. Be honest with yourself and try to find out what is going on. Teens do go through periods of depression, or they may be feeling rejected or they could be using drugs or even engaging in prostitution. There are families living in lovely neighborhoods who refuse to accept that their teens are in trouble until it’s virtually too late. Remember you are the parent. Feel free to visit your teen’s room sometimes. I’m not advocating spying on your teens but you should have an open door policy with your teens and be able to go into their bedroom. It may open your eyes to what is really going on in your teen’s life. You must discuss cell phone use with your teens and decide whether or not you want to monitor the messages they are sending out or receiving. Your teen could be experiencing cyber bullying, or he could be the bully themselves. Pay attention and don’t miss the cues and therefore the opportunity to make a difference in your teen’s life. I’m not advocating spying. I’m talking about effective parenting and honest, upfront discussion so everyone is on the same page.
3. Deal with problems when they arise
There really should be no pacts between one parent and the kids, thereby excluding the other parent. One mom caught her young son smoking marijuana. He begged her not to tell dad and that he would never do it again. She agreed. Right at this point the breakdown in parenting begins. Deal with the problem. Tell the teen, I’m sorry, dad and I love you and want to help you through this and we’ll work through this together as a family. The teen right away knows the parents are united and parenting is more effective this way. I know situations in which one partner maybe so stern that the other parent feels like they need to protect their children but this is truly not healthy. If necessary, the family needs to seek counseling together to learn better communication skills. Yes, parents will always have their differences about how to raise their children. We all come from different backgrounds after all, but we must learn to keep a united front when disciplining our children or dealing with problems. Teens are very smart and quickly figure out “the weak link” in the family so to speak and use that to their advantage. Ultimately we do our teens a great disservice when we don’t hold them accountable and deal appropriately with problems when they arise.
Parenting is one of the most significant “jobs” we are blessed. Just think about it. You have the ability to literally change the world by how you discipline and parent your child. All the great men and women had parents or guardians or mentors who stood by them and raised them right. Disciplining your child means you love them enough to teach them to make right choices in life, so they will eventually be able to survive without you. It means teaching them respect of God, self and others and teaching them to guard and use wisely the gifts they’ve been blessed with. This is an awesome and inspiring responsibility, one that should be taken very seriously.
Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.