“I have always felt that I am my kids’ time machine. I know what is ahead of them – the temptations and the challenges – and I know what skills they will need to make good decisions. My job is to equip them with that resourcefulness by getting them involved in the decision-making process and then holding them accountable for what they decide.”
As I read this, I literally was thinking – YES. This. This is what it is. PREACH!
First, let me back up. My boys are getting to the age (14 and 11) where I’m starting to feel a lot of pressure. To be clear, it’s a different kind of pressure than what I felt before now. Harder in some ways, as it feels like more of an emotional toll than physical.
In reading the post, I realized Merril had put into words what I am feeling. Or probably more appropriately, what I am questioning. As in, is what we have done up to this point been right? Is what we are doing now enough to support them into being joyful, functioning, contributing members of society adults?
While you could argue it’s been our job as parents to instill this decision making process their entire lives, I’m feeling increased pressure around it now more than ever before.
For instance, I’m sometimes maddened by what feels like a lack of resourcefulness in these two knuckleheads. Conversely, there are absolutely times I’m pleasantly shocked at their level of emotional intelligence and well, resourcefulness. (Teenagers are so damn tricky.)
I thought I would use this month’s blog to share some of my own thoughts, anxieties, and scratch my head moments to anyone else feeling the pressure of teaching their kids these important human skills.
Also, I’m sure we would all love thoughts and suggestions in the comments from those who have survived these early teen years to support us through this time! After all, this is The Mom Huddle!
POTENTIAL VERSUS EXPECTATION
Potential versus expectation is a tough one for me. I never want to undershoot my child’s potential by setting too low of an expectation or standard. On the other hand, I also don’t want to set completely unrealistic expectations in an ill-advised effort of being supportive. BAAA!
Anyone else struggle with this one??
While it was difficult to discern potential and expectation as they aged from baby to toddler, then toddler to preschooler, and so forth, I’m finding this teenage space a much harder stage. Why?
One difference is… before, it felt like in most cases I had at least an inkling of answers. Were they always correct? Of course not. There was a lot of trial and error.
Too early to start baby food? Maybe. Oh wait, nope they were fine.
Ride their bikes and cross THE BIG ROAD by themselves? Well, okay they did that pretty well. Guess I can loosen the reins there.
Their potential was there, and they were able to meet the expectation.
FAIL FORWARD OR STEP IN
Now though?? How do you know where to let them fail forward and where to step in and support? It feels like the stakes are much higher.
Grades are a great example. They each have the potential to earn all A’s. Is that my expectation though? No, not really. I don’t expect perfection. But the conundrum within it is still wanting to have a high standard.
For example, when there is a missing assignment very clearly showing on the weekly report, it takes restraint. Like a lot of restraint on my part. As in doing my best to not say, “why on Earth do you have a missing assignment when you were IN the class and did it IN class??”
Do I follow up? Or do I let it go and allow them to figure it out themselves? I honestly don’t know.
On one hand, the lack of turning it in feels like they are shortchanging their potential. Furthermore, supporting them to living up to their potential feels like my role in this whole thing.
On the other hand, if the expectation is a mix of A’s and B’s and this is being achieved even with the one missing assignment, what is my role here?
Someone please tell me!!
And grades are just a tip of the iceberg.
Friend relationships. Beginning of dating and girls. Temptations of drugs and alcohol. Making good choices. When to keep friend’s confidences and when you should bring in an adult. Social media. Being out in public without an adult.
I could continue but my head is already spinning.
DECISION MAKING ON RULES AND THE PUSH BACK
This becomes a great segway into rules and the pushback on what used to be easy (ish).
Can we just talk about how they have a lot more opinions than they did before??? To be clear, Jake has the nickname of The Agent for a reason. From the minute he could talk, he’s been a negotiator.
Even so, explaining myself before didn’t take NEARLY as much energy and thought. Furthermore, the answer “because I said so,” held a lot more clout in those days than it does now.
Which is interesting as I write that. In fact, does that mean the decision making process has at least a foundation? Moreover, are they pushing back in their safe place (with their parents) to test their own theories?
I’ve been told on numerous occasions from doctors to youth psychologists to amazing parents, this sentiment: Kids test their limits at home where they feel safe. If they are doing this (testing the limits), we should take it as a compliment of the environment we have created.
It’s a nice thought. And does help when you have the rebellious toddler. Then the questioning adolescent.
So yes, it does make sense, in the context of a teen as well. Additionally, it gives me hope we’re at least in the process of doing something right.
But let’s call a spade a spade. It’s also exhausting.
DECISION MAKING: RULES OR MANDATE
For example, we have a rule in our house of no kids’ phones being charged in their rooms at night. (No judgement if that’s not a rule in your house. It’s just one at ours.)
This rule gets pushed against at least three times a week if not more.
I’ve explained at nauseam our rationale. I’ve also said, “I WILL NOT discuss this again tonight.” Additionally, I’ve yelled. Also, I’ve silently and not so silently chuckled at the relentlessness of the questions about it. I’ve even questioned my own stance (in my head) on more than 100 occasions but decided to hold my ground.
In conclusion, it’s exhausting.
But so were some of the other rules we set out in the beginning of each stage. NOW, I just have the added benefit (right, Merril??) of my kids testing their own decision making process.
On the flip side of this, I’ve let some rules go. Social media was a no go for the first year of having a phone. But The Agent wore me down.
Okay, half true. He also proved himself to be responsible, so a social media account was earned.
For the record, I’m not saying our way is right or wrong. We’re just out here trying to figure out how to navigate a teenage world that is VERY DIFFERENT than the one we grew up in!
You too? (And for the record, THANK GOD we didn’t have social media when we were in high school and college… LOL.)
On to the final part of Merril’s post, the accountability. I think I’ve said in each of the sections before, but this part is exhausting too.
Worth it? OF COURSE.
Have you ever just wanted to gloat on a decision and outcome with your kid? I feel like if you said no, you are probably lying. Or you are just a stellar human being much less petty than myself.
But for real, how hard is it to NOT gloat when you have pushed them to do something with quite a bit of resistance, and they end up loving it or are super happy? Wow, I find it hard to not have an I told you so moment.
Even so, the accountability piece is hard to keep up with, especially in the on slot of activities, work, school, and just life in general.
As an example, being grounded from social events was never really a forte of ours. Jeremy and I are just too social of people. Saying, “you can’t go to x event this weekend,” really meant we couldn’t either.
Go ahead and judge. It’s fine. It is a bit ridiculous that we’re as social as we are. BUT, in my defense, we were in a pandemic for what felt like 10 years so there’s that.
In all seriousness though, the follow through on the decision is a challenge but a key piece of the puzzle. As I’m typing this, I think something I want to do a better job of is following up after they make decisions and intentionally recognize the moment. Was it a win or a learning moment?
Meaning, the accountability doesn’t have to be from the lens of gloating in “victory”, but rather even in the wins, what did they learn about themselves? And in the learning moments, what will they do different next time?
The irony? I do this with clients every day. Why should this experience in accountability that is so powerful to clients be any different in the situation with my kids? (Hint: it’s not, but just takes intentionality on my part.)
Raising kids is amazing, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s also exhausting. Each phase comes with something a bit new and different. The opportunity to feel “over our skis” all over again.
As I’m entering into a new phase that’s feeling maybe a bit more challenging than some of the others, I realize through this stream of conscious a couple of things.
First, it’s apparent we’re now starting to test the foundation of all of those early years. While I realize the foundation isn’t done, the time is here for them to make some of these decisions on their own. Or at least with less of our influence. Frankly, that suddenly feels very scary and real for this mom.
Secondly, as tiring and frustrating as it can be, remembering this is their safe place to push the limits and flex their power is going to be important.
One of my friends this past weekend shared how when she feels really frustrated with attitude or the emotional rollercoaster of teenagers, she approaches them with validation and love. Validate their emotions – “feels like you are going through something hard right now,” and then express love – “I love you so much.”
What a great lesson and ah-ha moment for me (thank you Sarah!). Of course, I want to be right. But that’s not the most important thing in a lot of these emotional teenage outbursts.
And finally, there is opportunity in the accountability. Admittedly, not in gloating, but rather in supporting my teen in processing and reflecting on decisions. After all, we’re either winning or learning. Both of us.
Godspeed to all of you entering a new phase. You will get through it, but find your support team.
I reflect that my current flourishing was cemented when others gave me a great and durable gift: a belief in my potential. Their generosity was not mere lip service, but a tangible investment toward cultivating my unique abilities for contributing to society.
– Gisele Garraway, Founder/CEO of THRIVEfunds
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