Full disclaimer…I don’t really know what I am talking about. I am navigating the rocky waters of parenting a teenager day-by-day. I don’t claim to have the answers. Heck, I don’t even feel old enough to have a teen…much less two of them? We blinked and here we are with a freshman in high school and a 13-year-old.
As a parent I always thought each year they got older parenting would get easier. We survived the interrupted nights with a newborn. The unconsolable irritability of teething. We held our breath as they took their clumsy first steps. Kept it together as we put them on the bus for the first time (at least until they drove away). We spent a few days in disbelief when 6th grade graduation rolled around and celebrated that we had survived the first several chapters of parenting. Even felt like we had rocked this parenting thing with flying colors.
Then came THAT day. THAT day we had heard so many horror stories about. THAT day when everything we ever knew about parenting was null and void. THAT DAY. THAT day they became TEENAGERS. We noticed the physical changes first. Voices becoming deeper. When they went to shoot a basketball I noticed hair (gasp!). It seemed that overnight they were taller than me.
When the realization hit that big kid problems can’t be fixed with a band-aid or a popsicle this teen parenting thing got real. The world is so different than the one we lived our teen years in when “cell phone” and “internet” weren’t even household terms yet. I feel like we often don’t have a point of reference in our parenting because our world is changing so fast it is hard to keep up.
Even with this new learning curve of parenting teens one thing still holds true in our home. DAD AND I ARE STILL THE BOSS. It kills me when I hear parents talk about how their teen won’t take a photo on the first day of school. Ummm…those new shoes and clothes they’re wearing? Who paid for those? Yeah, I thought so. So humor your mama, fake a smile, and be grateful we love you enough to clothe you kiddo.
Another one I loved is when a kiddo responds with “it’s my phone” when threatened that it will be taken away. Ummm…did you buy that phone? Are you making the ridiculous monthly payment? No? Yeah I didn’t think so. Quite honestly we have possession of our freshman’s phone more than he does. Give us attitude, procrastinate on chores, break any rules…and the phone gets locked away for a specified amount of time. Our boys are also fully aware that we have full access to their phones and all passwords at anytime.
But the most important thing I have learned parenting teenagers is they still need us. Maybe even more at 13 and 15 than they did at three and five. They may claim they don’t. But they do. It’s a confusing, challenging time figuring out their way and who they are. Doing this in a world of social media only complicates their journey to becoming a confident young adult. I have made parenting mistakes along they way but here are a few things I believe we have gotten right:
- Firm rules are a must and those rules start from the time they can talk. When you establish the parent-child role from a young age there is never a gray area. Even when they are towering over us we are still the boss. I believe our kids value that constant, consistent authority. They know home is a safe, predictable place, where the expectations and consequences are very clear.
- One or our top jobs as a parent it to build our kiddos up. It is far to easy for me to find their faults during those days full of teen attitude and laziness. However, the world does a good enough job beating them down. It is one of our most important responsibilities as parents to find their gifts of greatness and remind them of those…frequently. Praise and words of affirmation go along way.
- Big kids need hugs too. Maybe not in front of their peers but a spontaneous hug in the middle of the kitchen is valued more than we can imagine. There is scientific proof that humans NEED physical touch every day. Our oldest isn’t naturally affectionate like our younger two so it doesn’t come as naturally with him. But I can feel the stress lift from his body when we take just a few seconds to rub his shoulder or give him a hug at the end of his school day.
Our parenting duties don’t cease when they become independent and self-sufficient. We may not be able to kiss the boo-boos away like when they were young but we parents still play a very powerful part in our teenagers’ confidence, security, and happiness. There will be ups and downs but the ever-evolving relationship we have with our teens is one of the most rewarding and humbling parenting experiences yet.