For some reason, it’s now, with a 15 1/2-year-old and an almost 13-year-old, that we’re finally feeling that the teens have hit us. We’re definitely in a whole new ballgame and needing to develop whole new skills.
Mark and I working on seeing our teens' issues as teaching moments. Here are some of the lessons we've been working on:
We are part of your life. One of our children is feeling that since he’s now a big teenager, his life should not concern us. He feels he should be on his own and that we should just stay out of his way. We agree that teens should receive more independence and less micro-management. But we’re teaching that 1.) Privileges and freedom are contingent on trust, which you must earn through trustworthy behavior, and 2.) As your parents, we are engaged, interested, relevant, and involved. And will be for years to come, even as your independence grows.
You live your consequences. Mark’s dad says that when you putt cattle in a new field they walk the fence, checking where the boundaries are. We’ve had a lot of walking the fence here, where Mark and I establish a rule, and a teen chooses to violate it. We’d like to grab them by the shoulders and scream, “That is stupid! You’ll regret it later! Listen to me and stop it now!” (And of course, if we were talking about recreational drug use or launching a new career as cult follower, that’s exactly what we’d do.) Instead we watch the stupid choice unfold, then deliver the appropriate consequence. Trying to do so with a mix of compassion and dispassion. Our lesson is that Mom and Dad’s standards, limits, and boundaries stand, even if you don’t like them.
We communicate. Sometimes your parents ask you questions or tell you stuff. That’s our job. It’s your job to listen and respond respectfully, even if you don’t want to. We listen and respond respectfully to you as well. No matter how teenagery you may be feeling, we are always here, ready to listen, support, and help.
We are honest, consistent, and value-driven. There’s no fit you can throw that knocks us off track. We’ll do what we said we’d do. Our family standards will stand. We love you and respect you, and we believe you'll grow into a fantastic man.
We have the big talks. Oh thank the stars above for husbands on this one. Poor Mark actually calendars time to take the boys aside for private chats about all those crazy boy pubescent things. Things with words I don’t even want to write. He is awesome. He starts from the beginning and tells the boys what those big, bad words really mean and how if the boys handle themselves correctly, those scary crazy things will later become the foundation of their love of a lifetime. These talks happen every few months, because even if Mark has covered the topic before, the boy has changed, and things that weren’t an issue may now have become so. I am very, very grateful for these talks. They let Mark teach our values on important topics, they give him a chance to build relationship with the boys through his honesty and engagement, they help the boys establish their goals and standards proactively.