My teenage daughter (15) and I were talking a couple of weeks ago and she was expressing some desires she had. As we were talking my teenage son (13) chimed in and asked why I don’t let them participate in everything their friends do. He continues to say that I am over protective and my daughter agreed with him. I paused for a moment and asked them why they feel that way. They began to speak about how I do not allow them go to their friends houses at free will if I don’t know the parents (they answered their question right there, I don’t know the parents), don’t allow them to have a Facebook, go to the teen club (what the heck for), and the list went on and on…and on.
As I listened to them I realized that an extreme blur exists in this generation between what is age appropriate. I let them finish then I asked them “if I allowed you to have everything now what would you have to look forward to?” I began to explain to them my philosophy. I believe that everything should be done in moderation based on age, maturity, and level of trust. I allowed my daughter to have a Pinterest account a few days before this conversation and she was super amped. I asked her if I allowed her to start having social media accounts at 11 as she wanted, does she think she would have been that excited. Answer, no.
I believe that when young people are given to much too soon, it leaves them seeking more, which isn’t always positive. I also believe when a child is locked down too much they will find a way to break out so there has to be a balance. Again, this generation doesn’t appear to understand boundaries or have a clue about what is age appropriate. I have to pause and think about what is age appropriate because I wasn’t a “normal” teenager and my life moved a hundred times faster than theirs. If it’s confusing for me as an adult, I can only imagine how they feel as teenagers.
Anyway, the conversation continued and my daughter said “you act like we’re going to go out there and do crazy stuff.” I paused and broke it down for her “It’s not that I think you are going to do crazy stuff, I just realize as teenagers sometimes your brain shuts off or you can get in situations and don’t know how to get out of it. Every time I have gone against my gut because I didn’t feel you were prepared it was a disaster, which is okay because it was also a learning experience. However, my job as a parent is to equip you with tools and information to prepare you for what’s out there and deter you from the mindset that you have to experience everything to get it. The last thing I ever want to hear from a child of mines is “I didn’t know”. Would you rather I equip you with information or just leave you out there to fend for yourself? Think of it this way, life is like an ocean, you can either sink or swim. Information is a life jacket. Would you prefer I throw you in the ocean with nothing and say “good luck, let me know how that works for ya!” or provide you with a life jacket and you decide if you want to put it on?” She paused for a moment and said “have a life jacket.”
When I look at this generation of teenagers with all the suicides, murders because relationships broke up, bad acts because of peer pressure, lack of respect for authority, and bullying I realize that many of these young people are not equipped to handle anything. The voice of this generations peers has become louder than that of their parents and people who have their best interest at heart. What I try to put in my children is I was not put here to be their homegirl, I am here to be a parent and guide them. I don’t care about what’s cool and popular in the moment, I care about their future. I teach them that their attitude determines much; You can’t walk around being ugly to people and expect greatness. In my house, privileges are earned not given. Good grades and a positive attitude go a long way. Disobedience and reckless behavior get them nowhere.
I have found that many young people act out because no one expects anything from them. They have no boundaries or standards to live by. I am new to this teenage thing and learning much along the way but one thing I do have are boundaries. I’m not perfect and have made plenty of mistakes but I refuse to give up. I have learned to get up, dust myself off, and try something else. In the past, I would beat myself up but I realized that while I was in the corner beating myself up, I was doing them a disservice by leaving them without guidance; so I wiped my faced, sucked it up, and came out of the corner.
Parenting is a journey. It’s not always a beautiful one full of rose gardens but I believe my children are worth every smile, laugh, tear, bump, and bruise along the way. I am thankful for my children and for a while did not imagine that I could produce such beautiful hearts. I asked my teenagers to be patient with me because some things we are learning together, because once again I was a different type teenager.
I know we cannot protect our children from everything but at minimum we can show an interest and equip them with information. I know some young people will act out just because but we at least have to try. Life happens to all of us but we cannot fail our young people by throwing them in the ocean with no life jacket hoping for the best. I encourage every parent (especially with teenagers) to take a step back and evaluate your position in their life. Are you talking at them or with them? Are you talking more than listening? Are you respecting them as individuals? These are questions I ask myself from time to time to keep me focused. Every child is worth giving the opportunity to live their best life. Will you be a hindrance in that process or will you step up and give them YOUR best?