Have you ever been micro-managed? Have you ever been asked to do a job only to be told how to do every step of the job? The typical thought as a result of this micro-managing is to wonder why that person just didn’t do the job themselves. This does not feel good when people do this to us, and our teens are no different.
One way to avoid this is to involve your teens in the process of managing their lives. They need to learn to be their own life managers and the time to start is NOW. Don’t wait until their senior year in high school to start raising a responsible, thinking adult.
There are many areas in which they can contribute and take ownership of their own life.
I am not talking about sending your 13-year-old out to find a job to pay rent and buy groceries, but what about their school life? Free time? Extra-curricular activities?
It’s important that we involve them in their day-to-day life for three reasons. First and foremost, because it is their life. Secondly, because you have agreed to use your teachable moments, and in this area you will be offered many. And third, if you continue to make all of the decisions for them, two things will happen: You’re the one to blame when things don’t work out, and they don’t learn how to make decisions on their own. Not a great recipe for college success.
Let me give you some ground rules for how to make this work for you.
1) When offering choices, only offer those where either outcome is acceptable to you.
2) Only offer what is readily available.
3) Clarify the parameters when you offer choices. Be sure that the boundaries are known to the teen.
4) If the teen chooses choice C and you have only offered Choices A and B (and some will), you need to decide up front whether this is a negotiable or non-negotiable issue. For instance, when given a choice on going to restaurant A or B, if a teen comes back with, “Can we try the new one, C?” then you may not have a problem changing the options.
However, if you are discussing curfew time, this subject may be non-negotiable. In your role as the parent, you need to decide what items are or are not, on the table for discussion. When you are willing to negotiate on the majority of issues, you can pull your ‘trump’ card…. your non-negotiable ‘NO’, without push back. When a teenager understands, is heard, and feels validated they can respect your rules much easier.
Our teenagers need to know that they have a role, a valuable contribution to the daily life around them. However, you also need to respect your teen’s ability to choose when and how to contribute. An example of how this shows up in daily living is with laundry. Often when a parent has completed the laundry and has a pile for their teen that needs putting away, they interrupt what the teen is doing because they, the parent, have decided that the laundry needs to be put away right now. They do not consider that the teen may be watching their favorite television show or that they are finally having a breakthrough on that writing assignment. This shows no respect for the teen’s use of time. Rather than demand that the laundry be done on the parent’s time schedule, what if the statement were, “Please put your laundry away before dinner.” This approach gives the teen time to plan how much television to watch before completing the laundry job. And for the doubting parents out there, this has to be followed up with the parent being the backstop for the teen. If the teen is to have this done before dinner and dinner is served at 6 p.m., then the teen does not have his dinner at 6 p.m. if the laundry is not put away. Again, the parameters must be clear so that the teen can take ownership and manage their time and activities.
I want you to respect your teen’s time, opinions, and ideas. Kids are incredibly smart and have a lot to offer! Kids think differently than us and that is good. They have fresh ideas and very few barriers to the thought process. Plus, we need to continually encourage our teenagers to think and one of the best ways I have found to do this is to value their input.
While we need to respect their opinions, this does not mean that we need to necessarily agree with them. If we agree that we are raising thinking teenagers then with that must follow the development of opinions. Being able to formulate, articulate and defend your opinion is an incredibly valuable tool that I want my teenagers to possess. When they leave to attend college or go out into the work force, don’t you want them to be clear on their values and be able to articulate what they believe and why. With a firm grasp of who they are and what they stand for, you can rest assured they won’t be easily swayed by the thoughts and beliefs of others. But, if they are never given an opportunity to voice their ideas or investigate their beliefs, they are at risk of being influenced by others who may not share your core values. Personally, I’m not willing to risk that for my children, are you?
by Debbie Elder