Today’s guest post is by our friend Kathleen Fischer. She always has something worthwhile to share. Today she encourages us to stick to our guns. Because it’s all worth it in the end.
Thanks, Kathleen! … and thanks for walking the road with me.
Check out Kathleen’s new blog! – kathleensblog.com
When parenting teens, we often feel as if we’re under fire and maybe under siege too. Their anger can ignite in a flash or, often the case with our daughters, smolder for days, leaving us feeling we’re in a war of attrition. “Wouldn’t it just be easier if I capitulated,” we may wonder wearily.
At times like that, it’s good to keep a few things in mind.
As parents we have three jobs: our kids’ safety, our kids’ decency, and getting out of their lives. It’s useful to make this clear to kids early on, say fifth or sixth grade.
“Want to spend the night at the home of a kid I don’t know? I’ll need to check it out.”
“Aw, Mom…. “
“It’s my job, your safety.”
Or, as kids get older,
“Want to spend the weekend at the lake home of the kid/family with the spotty reputation? Nope.”
“Mom!!! Are you trying to ruin my life?”
“Nope, decency and safety are my job.”
Decency and safety always bring us back into the mix.
As teens grow up, they want us out of their “business.” And, just for the record, we want out of their business. This is the normal, natural maturational process underway (wouldn’t you be worried if your kid said, “Mom, Dad, I want to live at home with you forever!!!”). So, this is the cool part, when those inevitable conflicts with our teens arise, we fall back to what we are all seeking. . .
“If you want me out of your business, I will need to be confident that you are managing your safety and decency pretty well without my help. That means, I’ll need to know enough and hear enough from you about your life so that I can see how you’re managing. I am also looking for examples of how you spotted problems before they arose and solved them for yourself.” If we lay this foundation, then when the inevitable situations arise in which their actions have not been safe or decent, we go back to the foundation.
“I’m back in your business because what you did (or didn’t do) lets me know that you’re not managing your safety and/or decency so well. What went wrong for you?”
Discipline arises naturally from here. Parents ask, what went wrong for you. . . and kids are likely to say, “I don’t know.” If our goal as parents is for them to figure out how to do it better next time, “consequences” may revolve around their having time/space/privacy (read: time away from other kids, not out driving around, etc.) to figure out what went wrong and how they might choose better next time.
No one likes being disciplined. No one likes being called up short for a bad decision. We don’t need for them to love the discipline/consequences. We need for them to grow better at safety and decency. “As I see evidence that you’re managing better, I’ll be backing out of your life. That’s my goal for me and for you.” Because folks don’t like discipline, please don’t expect them to say thanks for quite a while. Because folks don’t like discipline, please don’t expect better than the silent treatment from her.
But do take comfort from helping your kid grow in their own ability to manage. And for sure, whenever you see even the tiniest indication that they’re getting it, PRAISE them. Remember, what we praise or pay attention to is what we get more of.
And best of luck whether under fire or under siege. This battle may be fierce but keep your eye on winning the war!
Kathleen M. Fischer, longtime Dallas resident and mother of three, is a registered nurse with a master’s degree. In a career spanning more than thirty- five years, she has worked in public health settings; taught in public school and at the university level; and presented professional educational seminars. Kathleen continues to be a popular speaker in corporate, professional, church and community settings, often presenting topics from her recent book, Bringing Our Boys Through the Second Decade.