So much happens between the ages of 12 and 15 that many parents of teenagers feel like they’re drowning for 4 years (and even longer, depending on how many kids they have).
Do you feel a constant tension between holding on to your "baby" and training up a young adult?
While we all know that we’re raising our children to eventually leave our homes as adults, bridging that gap is often an arduous, stressful and confusing journey, filled with conflict.
This struggle will always be a tension to manage, but it doesn’t always have to be a war to wage.
Without a doubt, the most common conflict I observe between parents and students is the battle for freedom and responsibility. The student believes he can handle more, but mom and dad don’t think he’s ready. This struggle will always be a tension to manage, but it doesn’t always have to be a war to wage. It is possible to work as a team to help your student become a healthy, successful adult.
Take a deep breath and try taking the following 2 steps:
1. Embrace your new voice as a coach.
As your child becomes a teenager and then a young adult, your role and voice in their life change. At some point in the teenage years you transition to being a “coach” in their lives. Gone are the days of blind obedience and “because I said so.” Now you live in the world of mentoring, advice and guidance. Obviously you are still the parent and set the rules, but your voice is now one among many in his or her life. Yours is an important voice for sure, but not the only one. As your teen looks for freedom, she still wants to know what you think, but the final decision increasingly becomes hers to make.
This is a healthy part of growing up, but also a huge point of conflict when the parent and student aren’t on the same page, which brings us to the second step.
2. Look towards the future and carve out a path.
As a parent/coach, you can help your teen become an adult by working together to carve out a path of success. You need these 3 ingredients:
- Parents that keep their sights focused on the end goal of raising an adult,
- A student that is willing to take on responsibility to gain freedom.
- Open communication between the two about how this goal will be accomplished.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about:
Let’s say your teen wants to have her own phone. You may not be ready to give it to her right now, but because you’re focused on the end goal you have to admit that she’ll eventually get one someday in the future.
Instead of harping on how she is not mature enough yet, look into the future and carve out a path. Develop specific goals and expectations that she must meet in order to gain this new freedom. When she meets expectations, celebrate and be happy. When she doesn’t, hold her accountable to the agreed upon expectations and adjust accordingly.
This approach helps you to be proactive in the world of freedom and responsibility. It puts you in the position to grant a freedom to a responsible student as they succeed and hold them accountable when they don’t. You aren’t keeping them from their freedom because of a blurry set of rules about maturity; you’re putting the ball in their hands and letting them earn it as they prove responsible.
Truthfully, none of this is novel or complicated. Every kid will eventually be off on their own as an adult and have to make their own decisions. The difference is looking ahead as a team instead of focusing on the past or even the present.
Having a future-focus will help your teen develop and progress into adulthood. Embrace the future adult in your house and coach them to victory.