Today’s post is the follow up post to Sunday’s post where I shared four other tips for surviving and thriving during these tumultuous years of raising teens. It is a unique time in child rearing, but it can also be enjoyable. Hopefully these principles will encourage other parents of teens to keep up the good fight and finish well! Okay, so here’s the “final four”.
Ask LOTS of questions. About everything. Remember “Columbo”? “Just one more thing, Ma’am,” Forget observing their “privacy”. They don’t get privacy in your home. They only have a room of their own because you don’t want their junk in your living room. Friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. If you don’t know what those are, then you are not paying attention. Pick up their phones and see who they are texting and calling. You pay for it. It’s called accountability. When you ask questions, just be ready for the answers. And expect the truth. I tell my kids that it’s their responsibility to tell me the truth; it’s my deal how I choose to handle that truth. Lies strip them of freedom and trust and those things will have to be earned back over time.
Have LOTS of conversations. Talk to your kids. Don’t be afraid. After you ask all those questions, talk those issues to death. Those conversations can be painful at times, but in the end your kids will know you can be trusted with whatever it is they need to say. Be willing to talk when they want to, too. This may mean some late night rap sessions after they come in from an evening out, but so what. You can sleep after they’ve moved out.
Provide unity and consistency. There must be a public show of unity. If parents disagree on a course or decision, this must be worked out in private. One parent must submit to the other in situations where there is disagreement. Unity in private also is the goal, but sometimes this is just not possible. Disagreements in front of the kids over what should or should not be allowed makes for unclear boundaries and confused kids. There must also be consistency. What is allowed or not allowed should be the same today and tomorrow. Exceptions should be carefully made and discussed. Teens are still lost without clear boundaries. They do push those, but it is a test of your unity and your consistency. They really do want both.
Stay off their roller coasters. Teen years are fraught with emotional roller coasters. And parents of boys are not immune to emotional outbursts. Girls do not hold a corner on the emotional market. Do not climb onto those roller coasters with them… and help them get off when the ride comes into the station. Someone has to keep their head when they are going through those tough times, it should be you.
I can’t say that if you stick to these practices I can guarantee you will raise perfect kids. So far as I know, God is the only parent who ever managed to do that. Perfection is not really the goal anyway. We want to raise respectful kids with great character, love and passion, who will go out into the world and be salt and light. We want them to change the world.