Teens often say harsh things to their parents.
I get my feelings hurt, but I have to push that aside and realize that teens are learning how to be people, just as I am still learning how to be people.
Teens are sorting their identity and trying on new personalities and clothing and seeing how words taste in their mouths.
Most of what teens say in the heat of a moment, they don’t really mean in their hearts.
I hate you! You’re controlling! This is abuse!
Teens haven’t developed self-control, achieved maturity, or discovered the ability to critically think about consequences to their words and actions.
Essentially, teens are just big toddlers who eat a lot of chips and ask for the keys to the car.
While I have made many mistakes and did my own share of discovering who I was as a person and parent, I will not apologize for how I raised my kids.
I did my best until I knew better, then I did better.
My mental load as a parent is off the charts high. I consider everything and try to be proactive with our four kids.
I examine our faith ideals, military life, homeschool education, value systems, health, and investments to provide the best start in life that I can for my kids.
It’s a constant battle with our culture, media, peers, teachers, even my spouse at times.
In our society, it’s the norm to push our kids out the door as babies and toddlers in daycare with underpaid and undermanned teachers, then as preschoolers, elementary kids, middle schoolers, high schoolers off to overcrowded school buildings with frazzled teachers as they’re corralled into same age groups.
We wonder why teens don’t respect us or value our opinions.
Teens (and even some kids and tweens) are more attached to their peers than to adults. It’s the blind leading the blind. We can’t parent teens like we parent small kids who literally need us as parents for survival.
Many of us go against our instincts and better judgment and listen to the “experts” who tell us to let our kids be independent, unattached, cry it out.
Parenthood is above all a relationship, not a skill to be acquired. Attachment is not a behavior to be learned but a connection to be sought.Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld
There’s a line drawn between adults and kids. There’s a bitter battle in western society between adults and kids, and especially teens. Our society teaches that parents are adversaries and kids should rebel. Childism is a real thing as they’re constantly told they’re powerless and voiceless but to hurry up and grow up and be compliant and responsible.
Parenting Teens is Tough
I wasn’t raised in church, so I was a blank slate. I wanted my kids to grow up in church. My husband was Presbyterian, so we tried that in the beginning.
I remember friends doing youth group and hanging out on Sunday and Wednesday nights with their parents and lots of church friends. That sounded so desirable to me.
I wanted my family to have church culture.
Then we moved.
And we moved.
Then we moved again.
I researched and found Independent Baptist, not realizing how fundamentalist it was. We left that after a few years of utter brainwashing.
We tried an inclusive Lutheran church, but when that church got a new LCMS pastor, we left.
When we moved again, we went back to Presbyterian. It was so lukewarm that we left for good.
I’m tired of not fitting in, fighting leadership in pew-warming established cliquey white suburban conservative churches, being transient in new communities.
I don’t value youth groups because it’s not about vertical culture, being taught by mature adults to impressionable youth. It’s more about horizontal culture, peer attachment, and socializing. There is value in that, but kids get more than enough. The church really doesn’t have to mimic society.
Many churches pride themselves of separating families by age groups at the door, and even gender in some places. Babies go to nursery, and kids get corralled to same age classes. Adults are often divided into groups by demographic, interest, or family dynamic. While many think this is great and it’s a sign of the church’s power and affluence to have that much space and the numbers to provide it, but it’s just destroying family values and parent attachment by perpetuating the culture of childism and separation.
My vision of religious culture is different now.
My kids have a faith foundation because we do much reading and working as a family to learn more about love, hope, and church history.
For now, our family has unanimously decided to take a break from church attendance.
We tried homeschooling back in 2005, planning to eventually go back to “normal” but that just never happened.
Homeschooling afforded us so much freedom to travel, explore, learn in new and exciting ways.
Sure, we had some flops with curriculum and co-op, but we learned from it.
As I look back over all the fun experiences we’ve had over the years – in several U.S. states and in Europe, I am amazed.
We were challenged and learned about things we never would have in schools.
If the kids had attended school – public, private, church, DoD, we couldn’t have accomplished so much or been together.
Sometimes, they balk and wish they attended school and fear they’re missing out, but we slog through those difficult feelings.
It’s very difficult to be undermined by “experts” who think fitting into society by attending government school is the only answer to socialization.
The power to parent does not arise from techniques, no matter how well meant, but from the attachment relationship.Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld
I struggle sometimes with providing all the resources for their often fleeting interests and passions. I don’t push hard and sometimes they wish I did and sometimes they wish for me to be even more laidback. It’s never a win-win.
Today, it might be art. Tomorrow it might be guitar. Next week, it’s French.
It’s been really hard moving around every few years.
We have few friends, and often only for short periods of time. Family is far away and we don’t even know them anymore.
Incessant transplanting has rendered us anonymous, creating the antithesis to the attachment village.Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld
This is my biggest regret, but I wouldn’t trade it for permanence in a mediocre place.
We’ve had so many wonderful opportunities we could never have afforded without the military sending us to live in Hawaii and Europe. Even Texas, Utah, and Ohio gave us interesting options. And I accept the bad with the good.
I know as kids get older, they look at other lifestyles and wonder and even sometimes wish for what they could have had. Comparison is hard.
But this life has offered them resilience and many other life skills.
We’re getting tired though.
I knew I wanted to raise my kids differently than I was raised.
The fundamentalist evangelical Christian church encourages hitting children to control their behavior and break their “sinful” wills. This is one of the reasons we left church.
We knew there were better ways to parent and we researched and read and realized we had no real role models.
I wish I had known gentle parenting from the beginning, but we live in a Puritanical shaming society that teaches, encourages, and uses abuse in church, school, and home to control children. This is the norm. Anything different gets side-eye from other parents. The mom wars, the judgment.
I have few rules. I expect kindness above all, and that pretty much solves most of the issues that arise in our home. We discuss boundaries and reasons, cause and effect, consequences.
There’s so much more to parenting than controlling screen time, rewards, punishments, tracking teens’ whereabouts through GPS devices, and complaining about their messy rooms.
We’re so often disappointed by others who aren’t kind and don’t understand gentleness and love – other kids, parents, leaders, teachers. It makes us sad.
I’ve made many mistakes as a parent and I am constantly evolving.
Teen brains are still developing. They don’t know how to make the connections between rules and consequences during emergencies. They still need lots of grace and guidance.
Parenting tweens and teens isn’t so much about letting go, as it is about hanging on for the roller coaster ride.
I try really hard not to take things personally. I try to read their mood and not react. I try to remain silent and not offer unsolicited advice.
It hurts when they tell me they don’t appreciate me or my jokes or my history or my reasons.
I’ve learned to accept and think about what they say rather than just waiting to reply.
All parenting is about connection. Attachment.
It’s important to address teen health issues – both physical and mental.
Teens are under so much stress that can affect their health.
Vitamin deficiencies can become prevalent with poor teen or college diet. Fast food and energy drinks are popular, cheaper, and easier than meals.
Physical health issues can mimic many mental health disorders. It’s important to keep up with annual physicals and labs to monitor health.
Girls seem so much more prone to being low in iron, B, and D.
Mental health should be addressed as easily or even more than physical health.
Teens are learning to navigate relationships and it’s often very taxing on their emotions when friendships are troubled or just end.
Depression and anxiety seem to be much more common and should be addressed. Proper coping mechanisms need to be learned.
Professionals can offer resources or even short term meds to help teens and young adults deal with the stress of high school, college, exams, relationships, and identity issues.
Outside and nature time is important. Free play, privacy, and quiet time are important – even for teens. Too many tweens and teens get so busy that they’re indoors all day, every day and it’s not healthy.
While I don’t limit screen time, I do realize social media is a poor replacement for real connection. So I talk to my teens about my concerns and how dangerous the Internet and social media can be. We discuss comparisons and the unreality of the Instamodels and their curated perfection.
We have ongoing age-appropriate discussions about sexuality. This cannot just be a one-time talk about what goes where, and please don’t do it until you’re over 30.
I don’t talk to others about my kids without their permission, and this includes siblings. I don’t post pictures or information about them online without their permission. I don’t go through their rooms or personal items without permission. They are people and have rights to their privacy. (There are times when I would break this rule to protect them and others.)
Trust is important.
I do want them to be able to talk to me about anything, even if it makes me very uncomfortable.
We have family dinners every night. We take evening walks almost every night. We play cards and tabletop games. We read together. We create together. I think balance is key.
I’m a coach, modeling to my kids how to live their best life. They learn to make wise decisions by making mistakes. Failure and natural consequences are the best teachers.
When children reach the age of 18, they are considered legal adults and can vote, register for the draft, join the military, drive a car at any time, purchase tobacco products and sex toys.
Kids who are 18 can’t rent a car or hotel room. Some apartments won’t rent to anyone under age 21. Vehicle insurance is exorbitant until the late-20s. Few can be approved for an auto loan at a good rate.
Our society is confusing in that most 18 year olds are still in their last year of high school, having to request permission to use a toilet, but they’re expected to be mature, functioning adult members of society. They’re criticized for everything they do and say and monitored in stores as potential shoplifters, even more so if they’re not white. It’s assumed they can’t function without their faces aglow from the social media apps on their smartphones.
Expectations don’t meet the reality of the stresses teens and young adults face.
Even working full-time at an entry-level job, it is very difficult for young adults to achieve financial independence from parents.
College loans and credit cards are financial traps for young adults.
Without higher education from a technical or trade school, college or university, or apprenticeship, most employers aren’t interested.
It’s frustrating that most jobs my peers and I held as a teen – babysitting, pet sitting, household chores, yard work…aren’t available to teens as many adults vie for these flexible positions and many parents want to hire more qualified and certified adults to watch their children and pets and do their undesirable chores (but not with equal pay).
We invested in 529 plans for each of our children for higher education. We expect them to work part time jobs to make up any differences or to supplement their wants. We encourage them to apply for scholarships and work study programs to offset costs for higher learning. And all this builds character.
As a parent of teens, I must help my children navigate this tumultuous transition into adulthood.
There are so many ups and downs. Our society assumes that arguments and strife is normal, but it doesn’t have to be. Relationships evolve over time. I am still a mother and I still have children, though they’re older, hopefully wiser, and have more freedoms. And I can’t take things personally. I have to take a step back and remember when I was their age. I am here to assist and coach.
If you want to have a good relationship with your teenagers, you need to begin developing that relationship when the kids are very young.
Parents who control young children and treat them harshly won’t magically have great open relationships with their teens. Once they reach the ability to think abstractly, they will naturally questions rules and seek to be independent and authoritarian parents can’t handle that. Threats and punishments often backfire. Creating a prison of home doesn’t make anyone want to cooperate. Then parents want to take the easy way out and give up, shipping kids to relatives or military school, or something drastic.
Trust doesn’t just happen overnight. You can’t be a rule-cracking authoritarian and long for warm embraces and meaningful conversations from a distant and hesitant teen.
You develop trust from babyhood, working, failing, struggling, apologizing, loving – and doing it all over. Yes, it’s exhausting, and it can be heartbreaking, but it’s the most rewarding thing in the world.
Parenting teens requires diligence, consistency, honesty, forgiveness, and patience.
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