Many points of childhood are happy and innocent. But childhood is also confusing, and even more so in the teen years. None of us get through childhood OR parenthood unscathed. At some point, even if you do everything “right,” it will be awkward or challenging. There is no magic formula to make the job easier, but there are some things to worth remembering when things get hard. Here are 6 things the savvy parent understands and strives to remember.
The things that make us crazy about our kids–their disorganization, their rigidity, their lack of ambition–are sometimes the very same things we struggle to accept in ourselves. The savvy parent pauses to see if they can relate to their kids. As one dad recently said to me, “I’m super rigid. I guess it’s not that surprising that he is also.” That awareness of how similar they are changed dad’s perspective: He was rigid at 13, he’s fairly rigid now, and it’s fine. His life is still good even if he’s rigid!
Many of us have baggage from our teen years, which is fine. But her’s how it can play out:
One mom who talked about her daughter’s weakness, stature, and vulnerability. She “protected” her by refusing to give her a phone and orchestrating her social life because she assumed her daughter would be bullied.
I met the daughter, who seemed the opposite–well-adjusted, engaged, energetic. She was just short.
Over time, it became clear that her mom was making a lot of assumptions about her kid because mom was left out when she was younger.
Another parent was lenient because her parents were embarrassing and uncool. She didn’t have boundaries because she assumed kids want a friend, not a parent.
Savvy parents know they have baggage. They step back from the kids every now and see them for who they are. They resist making assumptions.
We regulate so much of children’s lives–screen time, activities, honors classes– in the name of their health, well-being, and their futures.
But without a connection, or the intention to understand and know a child, all this feels like a tight leash.
Savvy parents have boundaries that are few and firm. But they also prioritize understanding, connection, physical affection, rapport.
Kids come to expect things based on precedents and habits, not because they are intrinsically spoiled.
Spoiling happens subtly. We do things more quickly and better than our young children, so it’s not surprising that as teens they don’t contribute.
Savvy parents look for opportunities for their kids to contribute to the household. They let their kids be independent and let them take risks.
There is a lot of bad news about children these days. More than ever, we need to be aware of the signs of distress, addiction, or destructive behavior.
Savvy parents separate and take action when things are headed in the wrong direction. It may mean taking them to therapy, installing some kind of router to shut down screen use, or saying no to them until they reset.
I presented about screens and dedicated the first half hour to giving parents the floor to share their feelings about screens. For many people, watching our kids use screens is very uncomfortable.
Then I showed this survey from CommonSenseMedia about how kids themselves feel about screens. The results are fascinating–there is so much awareness that kids have about how they are being distracted and manipulated. But by in large, the study showed that very few kids reported that social media had a negative impact on them.
Some parents refused to believe the research. I must work for Common Sense Media! (I don’t, FYI.)
Savvy parents understand that sacrificing the relationship with their kids over the screen battle is not worth it. Like I said earlier, our baggage has a big impact on the choices we make for our kids.
This doesn’t mean that savvy parents let their kids have free reign–Limits for screens and sleep are good!
What this means to me is that we see things differently, and the more we try to see things from other perspectives, the better the relationship. The stronger the relationship, the stronger the child.