Many parents have lost the right, the opportunity to lead their teens because they spent too much time negotiating with their children when they were young.
As they came in through the front door, mom whispered, “No honey, not right now.” Within minutes, they were on their way right back out the door. Mom frazzled frustrated, yelling almost screaming, “No honey, not right now. I told you that when we came in.” Her child in tears, herself in tears, this mother had not accomplished what she came for, she had been derailed by a child determined to get their own way. Haven’t we all faced that moment? Haven’t we all cajoled our child to be patient while we finish this one grown up task or assignment, only to find their demand to be more than we can bare? Finally, we give in and resign to finish our work later, without them “under foot”.
This acrostic will help parents to speak and act as parents and not just their child’s bestie.
1. R = Relevant
I remember my step father saying to me “Do something, even if it’s wrong.” That puzzled me then, now I must admit, I am still baffled. That was not then and is not now a clear instruction. Children need clear instructions. Be concise. Be clear. Be certain that the actions instructed can be taken simply and within their scope of ability and understanding. If I were to ask my son to drive to the store and pick me up some socks, the instructions seem clear to me. He might need more clarity as to which store? What kind of socks? and by the way Dad, what should I drive since I am 12 and the store is three miles away…. It seems silly to imagine asking our children to do what we know they can’t do. It is just as silly to expect them to adhere to rules and requests far beyond their years and maturity. Make your requests relevant for their age.
2. O = Ownership
I once had a boss who was known for being a “tough leader.” He would hold high demands and expectations for anyone who worked for him. He once gave me a project and a deadline to complete it. I took my instructions and set out to accomplish them. Before long, i realized I was way in over my head, I went back to him to get more information and perhaps a demonstration of what I should do next. He looked at me in frustration and huffed, “I don’t know how to do it, figure it out. If it’s not right when your done, do it again.” As parents, we should have gained understanding not only of the proper way to accomplish a task, but the best results, the best outcome and the ability to demonstrate and define what success will look like in this endeavor. “Clean your room” may seem like a clear instruction, but might need some modeling the first few times.
3. A = Authority
Nothing weakens parenting like negotiating with the will of a three year old who has no desire to follow instructions. It is not the role of a parent to sweet talk a toddler to do as they are told. It is the role of a parent to be a parent. Speak with authority. Here’s a little secret for you, if you don’t believe you are in charge, your children will not believe it either. I am not saying you need to be rude, loud, unreasonably demanding, but you also need not bend over backwards to solicit agreement from your children. Be clear about your request, instructions and expectations, speak to them confidently and stand firm in your role of their well being. “Will you do mommy a favor and clean your room up please? We will have cookies after you are done. Can you do that for mommy?” will not garner respect or favor with your child, it simply allows them to see you as a beggar and them in the position of authority. You might try this: “I expect your room to be cleaned as best you can do. I will be in to look at it in 20 minutes. If you have done your best, we will have cookies before we leave. If not, you will have to keep working on your room after we get back from the library.” Instruct them with authority because you love them.
4. R = Responsible
Maya Angelou said, “People will soon forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Even when being direct, clear, and authoritative with your children, remember that the marks and scars which last the longest will not come from a paddle, but from the tongue. Speaking with authority does not allow cause or room for verbal abuse. Screaming, yelling, cursing at your children has no place in parenting. You will know you are “doing it wrong” because they will return it to you. If you do not treat your children with respect, your teens will not treat you with respect. Speak to them with love that is responsible to the way they feel about you and the way they feel about themselves.
Parenting teenagers is not for light weights. Parents who learn to set boundaries and clearly instruct their children will build lifelong relationships of respect, compliance and teamwork. These will benefit your family, your children and your community greatly. Parents of teenagers must learn to R.O.A.R. or they will lose the opportunity to parent sooner than they expect.
Blog contributor: J Loren Norris – Loren has been married to Karin for more than 20 years. Together they have raised four children. Two are now grown and parents of preschoolers. Two are teenaged boys still at home. Loren is a conference speaker, author, mentor and Certified Leadership Coach.