I am getting ready to travel to see my mother down in Florida – so I only have one more post after this one and then I will back to the blogosphere on March 6th.
The other day, we had our usual drop offs and pick ups for my teenage son, which of course included a drive through the winding back roads in Mechanicsville, VA.
Mechanicsville is a rural suburb right outside of Richmond, VA. My friend Karin loves the back roads here and so I decided to snap a photo to text her and say hello. I like how they look at dusk with a little blur from the window.
The parents greeted us and shared that they had not been at this house very long and they were still making updates.
The cabin style house had some textured wooden siding. This photo from the porch is linked to Narami’s texture challenge week 8.
We had to make another stop to drop off a different friend on the way home. Darkness had set in, but I was able to grab a photo of this old yellow muscle car.
It looked a bit “saffron” yellow and so I am linking it to JNW’s color challenge this week:
When we got home, we went in through the garage and I looked over at this can of sea foam sitting on the shelf. For those that don’t know – “sea foam” is a gas/oil cleaning additive for engines – and it is the best stuff around. Last week’s JNW word was “sea foam”- and seeing that the saffron photo is of a car – well here is some Sea Foam….
Okay – so now for part 2 of my post.
Please free to skip this part!
I want to share a few thoughts on parenting teens. My hubs and I are still learning so much as we go – and I like to be very careful before I share tips, but I have a few things to share that might be of value to someone. This is just for educational purposes and this is just me informally writing to you. It is not trying to be the list of the century – just some things on my mind this week.
So just a few things to chew on….
1. Bank account “deposit and withdrawal” analogy.
The “deposit and withdrawal” analogy is one of my favorites – and it involves thinking of your relationship with your teen like a bank account – where you make deposits and withdrawals. If you make too many withdrawals without depositing – well things get depleted – and so you basically just monitor the relationship by making sure you deposit enough of the right things into the relationship. A strong relationship is fortified with a good balance of deposits to withstand times of heavy withdrawals. This is simple – but it really helps – and it could take time – like time to heal if a big withdrawal was made – or time to have some space if it is a phase where folks are butting heads. But become mindful of the “red and the black” – just like you would other “accounts” – and the relationship can be fortified and strong.
2. Understand LOVE languages.
I have always liked using Chapman’s Love languages (HERE) and even though I disagree with him on some aspects – the concept helps us to think about how we uniquely respond to each other. People do not express love emotionally the same – and so it also helps to understand how you and your child respond to 1. affirming words, 2. acts of service, 3. receiving gifts, 4. quality time, and 5. physical touch.
I also throw in a 6th one – which is food – because in my experience – feed teen and the entire mood is improved instantly.
If one of your teen’s primary languages is receiving gifts, well a shopping trip that included talking on the way might be ideal. If the teen valued quality time, you would tell them that you blocked out a whole chunk of time for them and then set up an activity that allowed for this time together. The acts of service one is similar to the “love is a verb” saying – and it involves doing an activity that just serves the other person – and it can be powerful – and can lead to reciprocation.
I have written about words of affirmation before – and do not want to be long-winded about it – but remember that words can either build up or tear down – and sometimes we have to share harsh truths – of course – but too often people constantly berate those around them from sloppy or unchecked speech.
Many are anemic in the area of building up, but it can be improved.
And please hear me on this – teens soak up your words more than you will ever realize. They “hear us now, but listen later…” – and so much of what we say falls onto this absorbent sponge. It is hard to sometimes see through a tough exterior – or through their needy ways or developing personality – but look for ways to build up your teen. Keep it genuine – because BS never works at any age, but look for ways to use words to build them up – and all the more if this is something that is a primary emotional area for them.
Also this may change – as the teen ages. One mom shared that an older teen was low on money for a good year – and this humbling period made that teen later value reviving gifts more.
3. Explain the process and share the thinking with the teen.
This is a very personal tip that is one of my favs. Explain to children how you are making decisions – ask for input about things – and make deposits into the bonding side as you discuss “their” life. This respect for them will come back to help down the road. Tell the teen that more than wanting conformity right now, we care about their adjustment as an adult too. remind them that their brain is still growing until they are 24 +. Remind them that you know there is not set formula – but you are willing to learn and explore what needs to be done.
Many parents know to “Always make sure the consequence fits the punishment” but I say BEFORE it even comes to that – there might be some grace handed over. Too often – especially in the Christian community – I see parents coming down way too hard on a teen with a predetermined consequence.
It is really wise to assess what is going on at that moment.
If the teen is reachable and doing well – well an extra consequence might not be needed – the situation might already be assuaged from the discussion and the occurrence – and it takes an in-tune parent to see that.
There is a learning that HAS to happen with people – and we need to embrace the learning without always coming down with a scold.
Sometimes when grace is given the child learns in a way that is far more helpful that having them live out a predetermined consequence.
4. Don’t be a big crab all the time.
Sure, we want our kids to be responsible and to enter adult hood equipped, but without realizing it -some parents have made their teens lives completely miserable. I know this is such a complex and layered topic – and so I want to be careful with my words, but this is also why I am also spending my time to share a few tips. I see SO many parents being way too mean to their kids – when really the teen sometimes just needs a huge dose of love and some grace – along with some deposits into the parent child back account.
And the teen needs to be told this grace is happening – for example, the parent might say something like, “You know, I was going to take your phone away for this – but we have been thinking about it and while we are really disgusted and sad that you let someone take your photo while giving the middle finger like that – well we feel as if you have learned your lesson. Also, at least it was not a shot of you mooning someone. Seriously though, remember honey (uses term of endearment) – we talked about your digital footprint and how this trail follows you for a long time – so this is very serious. But because I see that you are taking this matter seriously, we are not going to take your phone away. But you have been warned and so please make better choices….”
which leads to my next tip –
5. Don’t crush the child’s spirit.
Now sure we want to help the child as best we can - but don’t lose the child in the process. Parents, please hear me on this – teens need a whole bunch of love and grace – and they need your essence. It might help if you remember what you wanted to be treated like as a teen. The Bible even says to not provoke your children to wrath and to lead in a way that does not ruin them…. and to tran them up in the way they should go so when they are old they will not depart from it. Did you catch that? It did not say they will instantly “get it” – but instead it takes time – so always remember that you are fortifying a foundation – and you may not see fruits for a while.
It might help to just lighten up and not worry so much. Get your hands on some resources and look for tips -toss some – keep some – and use some – but know you do not have to reinvent the wheel – and there might be some challenging days – so it helps to have a few tips.
6. Find a balance.
know this – permissive parenting can lead to floundering for your child later in life. And too strict of parenting will hurt them for a long time in ways that make them seek relief.
So find a balance, but be sure to parent!
For example, parents can say something like this: “Right now this is not about our friendship side. I value the friendship we share, but at the end of the day- I have a job to parent you! I know you know this – and when you are older you will see this even more. In the meantime, it would be easier if I could be passive here and just let you do your thing – but because I love you – and because I have accountability to parent you – well I am not letting you do such and such…. it is just something I feel strongly about and I need you to respect my wishes at this time… ” and then maybe add something else that can be compromised on… and remind the child that they have choices and also times of when you did give in fully (or something like that).
Don’t come down too hard on yourself when things do not work out exactly the way you planned.
Because that might be a sign you are dong things right – you are keeping an open fist and not smothering – and maybe – well maybe… you are letting them be them…. in a genuine way that is also a gift.
7. Raising Leaders.
One thing that always helped me was to know that I was raising leaders. Both of my boys have different leadership sides that come out naturally. They are both so different – and it depends on the scenario – but leadership is innate and it is also nurtured – (the whole nature nurture debate can get us talking for a long time) – but I believe that teens that have some power – choices – and that are respected more will have more power in general and they will make better leaders over their own lives.
It is more than saying they rise to the occasion – it is also about tapping into their strengths – opening a path for them – and speaking good things on them and letting them feel empowered. Have you ever heard the analogy of the country dog and city dog? The country dog rolls freely and the city dog bolts out the door as soon as it is cracked. And so as you train the child and teach (not as you beat them and stifle them with so many consequences) well as you equip them and help them find their own individuality – well – you are equipping them for leadership in different ways.
Remember that as they respect you and respect your wishes, you respect them and they are not necessarily becoming a little clone for you. Give them space to be their own person (with boundaries).
8. Stay being you – do not apologize for it, but be humble enough to compromise because of it.
Most people know that self-awareness is the key to health and growth. We need to know how we come across – we need to know how we “want” to come across – and then we need to understand more about how we personally respond to this and that. We need to be aware- this helps us know what to improve and modify.
Once we understand our strengths and weaknesses as a parent – it can really help us assess what our kids will need to have supplemented – or what we will need to work on. Even the best of parents will still have things to work on – and growth is expected and needed – but you also are who you are. And then kids also have different phases and stages that adds to the mix here – and then some parents do better with younger children -while others do better with older – etc. This little tip is one that I could write a chapter about – but it comes down to owning all of your ways – without excuses and without taking too much personal – and then staying objective as you improve - but also accept and supplement.
9. Enjoy this very day with your teen – because it might be all you get.
We all know life is short and we do not knowhow much longer we have on our life journey – and so keep that in mind when you look at your teen – smile and love on them some more – just because life is short- and just because life is precious.
And feelings follow behavior – so when you start becoming grateful for this very day – just because it is a gift – well that gratitude permeates the whole setting – and makes life better.
10. Don’t compare.
Do NOT compare your teen (or family life) with others – I know there are general comparisons that can be healthy – but comparing either puffs up or slams down – and it is not a good way to measure personal progress. Set your own benchmark for success with custom-made goals for what your family needs. And stay flexible with the outcomes because one of the gifts of being human is that we are not robots. The very mess and angst that leads us to problem solve is the same stuff that gives rich pleasure and fulfillment.
Okay, I could go on – but I think that is enough for us all to chew on.
Enjoy your day – and if you are the parent of a teen – or parent of grown adults – or if you have anything that is unsettled – well I encourage you to lighten up and approach it with grace and tenderness – and see what unfolds.