My teenager has reached a new milestone. He is officially halfway through his 8th-grade year which means that in a few short months we are finished with this middle school era. Each stage of parenthood brings its own sort of challenges. The first few years are challenging with basic needs and survival. Then on to preschool and elementary ages. This stage is where we define boundaries of right and wrong, healthy or unhealthy, and navigate individual learning styles and educational requirements. Middle school is all about hormones, emotional balance, friendships, and extracurriculars.
And now… DUN-DUN-DUNNN … my son is only 4 1/2 years from adulthood. How would I “grade” myself in these first few months of parenting a teen? Am I properly modeling for him for what’s to come? In my life, making conscious, mindful choices is important. Taking a moment to reflect and evaluate what has been successful and what needs improvement is important in my motherhood journey.
Communicating with a Teen
Communicating with my teen has been difficult. The first ten years of my son’s life, I treated him as if he were my peer. I spoke to him as if he understood my adult perspective, I let him have a hand in decision making, and we were BFF’s. It was just the two of us, and I did all I could to keep him from feeling pain.
Hindsight is 20/20. As he entered adolescence and our life circumstances changed, I began to see that our parent/child balance was way off. We were struggling. He was always getting his way, I was angry, and still giving in to his every whim. I had to make a change in my strategy so that I could prepare him for the peer challenges and stresses he would face. He needed me to be the “pack leader” so that he could resign himself to his proper position in our family.
I know that the later teen years could possibly bring forth challenges with rebellion, boundaries, and dating relationships. To prepare him for this phase, I had to set up proper boundaries and be diligent in my own discipline so that I would not lose my temper or be swayed for the sake of preventing a meltdown. This has to be done so he can gain understanding in how to respect and treat other people, how to work toward his goals without instant gratification, and how to set boundaries based on his values.
I would give myself a B- in teen communication. It is still so much easier to say “because I said so” and revert back to old ways. I have to strengthen my personal discipline and release mom-guilt so that I can be the mother that my son needs.
The Long-Term View
Having a clear vision of the future is a technique that I teach my son and one that I employ myself. Since we have 4 1/2 years until the end of high school, I encourage him to have a 5-year plan, and I have a 5-year parenting plan. In my parenting plan, I have a clearly defined vision of what I want our relationship to look like, cell-phone privileges, bedtimes/curfews, financial responsibility, and chores.
I am aware that the journey through these last few years of school is going to give him a lifetime of learning. By knowing his natural strengths and talents, and being able to make him feel heard and understood, without always getting his way, makes it easier to nurture him in the home and direct him toward his goal.
As a natural goal-oriented planner, I would give myself an A. It is easy for me to model how to make and fulfill a plan.
Equipping for Independence
As parents, we often reflect back on our childhood. How prepared were we? Did our parents give us adequate support? Then we have to put ourselves in our children’s shoes from an adult perspective and guide them to the best of our ability.
It really is true that your children grow up in the blink of an eye, and it seems so much to do in so little time! After a bit of reflection, I can see both my strengths and weaknesses as a mother. Guiding my oldest child toward adulthood can be uncomfortable. I have to watch him make mistakes and feel pain or disappointment, and I have to be able to guide in love and without judgment.
Sometimes I have a plan, sometimes I just wing it. Overall, I would give myself a passing grade. Of course, I have days where I feel like a failure. Most often the feelings of failure are all in my head and a reflection of my fears and pains. My son is a good guy and I see him succeed more than fail and have more happiness than pain. In my book, that is a win!