I’m learning a very valuable life lesson from my teenagers right now.
Teenagers aren’t going to make logical decisions – shocking huh!
- You can talk and talk until you are blue in the face.
- You can yell, you can be gentle and loving,
- You can lock them down or give them too much freedom (we’ve tried all of the above).
- You can give them what if scenarios and have them say all the right things, but when it comes right down to it they aren’t always going to make what you consider to be the right decisions.
Their thought process is kind of short circuited towards the short-sided approach to life. As a parent, we can see the long-term ramifications of their decisions. No matter how much you try and explain this to teenagers, they just don’t seem to get it.
I think I was a slightly unusual teenager in the sense that I always wanted to go to college. I knew I had to get good grades and save my money, so I thought that was just the normal attitude. Most of my actions as a teenager were geared toward my future college plans.
Having teenage daughters has completely changed my thought process.
They live for the here and now. They care more about their social life than school. Their priorities just aren’t things I consider important. Seeing past the next week just isn’t something they can envision.
They aren’t stupid at all, they just have different priorities than I did at their age.
I’ve had to reconcile my dreams for them with the realities of their personalities. I can’t allow myself to get caught up in the sadness I feel that they aren’t living the dream I want for them. It is really hard for me to realize that just because I know a route will work for them, doesn’t mean that they will see my vision and follow that route.
Right now my girls just don’t value education at the same level I do.
It breaks my heart because, for me, education is so important. It isn’t even college, it is just the need to gain knowledge.
I don’t believe college is for everyone, but I do firmly believe in continuing education in whatever field you choose.
As a parent, we often try and force our kids to make the decisions we deem best for them. Most of the time, we are right. But right doesn’t matter when we are trying to help them learn and grow. Sometimes the right thing to do is let them make a mistake, dust themselves off, and move forward.
Often the best thing we can do is a parent is to let them fail.
I’m not talking about letting them do drugs or make the major mistakes that will ruin their lives. I’m talking about the minor events in their lives.
There is such a fine line between allowing them to stretch their wings and grow while at the same time molding them into self-sufficient adults.
I remember working with a 14-year-old girl who’s mother had never let her pour her own milk. This poor kid was completely helpless. Her mother had literally stunted her growth by never allowing her to do anything for herself.
When I became a step-mother my girls, who were in their early teens, already did their own laundry, could cook basic meals and had a pretty decent idea of money management. They were very independent.
This very independence is a double edge sword. I love the fact that they can take care of themselves, know how to stand up for themselves and others, and aren’t afraid to get out and do new things.
When I struggle with some of their decision, I have to remember that they have their own personalities and I need to be cultivating those personalities and helping them grow.
At this point I’m not really sure how to even support them beyond just loving them unconditionally. I doubt I’m doing everything right, but at least I’m trying. In the mean time I’ll just keep listening and guiding them as best I can.
I’ve thought a lot about this balancing act over the last couple of weeks and realized that for me it is all about choosing my battles.
So often as a parent I get in my rut and expect my kids to do what I want when I want. This is so completely unrealistic – especially with step-kids.
Over the years, I’ve learned to let go of the little things that really don’t matter.
If they want to have a messy bedroom, I’m not going to fight them on it. However, I’ll still insist that the bathroom is clean.
If they are going to choose not to do their homework in a timely manner then that is their issue, not mine. They know the repercussions of their decisions and there is only so much I can force an older teenager to do.
Will they regret it later – yes, but some lessons have to be learned.
This doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep trying to encourage school, but I’ve also come to realize that ramming college down their throats isn’t helping the situation either.
Sometimes the best thing we can do as a parent is to nurture, love and direct, but step back and let teenager find their own path.
Wish me luck in my ability to actually do this.
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