Recently, Tor shared twelve phrases a dad never wants to hear.
As I thought about the additions that actually occurred in the past two weeks, I realized that being a teen these days is hard.
I look at my single (adult) friends, and I think “not enough money or bad days in the world to make me enter into that fray.” People haul around more baggage than Southwest will fly for free.
And then I look at my daughters. Smart, funny, gorgeous, and insecure. Teen angst lures them to compromise in return for attention. Their lack of experience, the absences of battle scars, the innocence is exactly what makes it even harder.
We try our hardest to give guidance. To weigh in when we see disaster in the making…the titanic floating into our back porch on a text message. Often we collide with the iceberg.
But we keep steaming ahead.
1. Choose your battles
I get paid to manage risks and find ways over, under, or around them. Prevent them. Avoid them. Reach the goal unscathed. I want to stop every fall.
Life is not quite as clear and simple. Scars make us who we are. They teach us lessons. The equip us.
We have to learn to balance our parenting choices and take some calculated risks…Know when to let them go and earn the battle scars that will prepare them to live the life God has been preparing them for, or when to go all Mama Bear and pull them close and protect them from the inevitable hurts in life.
2. Follow your gut
If a situation makes your stomach feel like you just ate a double-bean burrito with extra sour cream, say no. You might get the silent treatment, but Malcom Gladwell made a lot of money researching the value of intuition.
3. Trust but Verify
Teens may truly believe that they are trustworthy and that they will make good choices. They may even really intend to do what they say they’re going to do. But things never go quite as planned and they often end up places they are not supposed to be. or talking to people that are not who they seem. Followup.
4. Listen to anything
Anything at all. My girls are allowed to say anything at all to me as long as they warn me first.
When they ask a question like “Can I date this boy that just got out of juvenile detention and is still on house arrest…?” or “”You know how all guys ask first thing how far you’d go….?” I’ve committed to not scream or cry or lock them in a cell until they’re 30.
They share more when they’re not terrified. Just sayin’.
5. Be consistent
I suck at this one. The girls are masterful at finding loopholes and talking their way out of consequences. They’re eels, these teenagers. Electric eels. Setting boundaries up front, and then consistently applying them is far better than making judgement calls on the fly. ”Why can’t I come home 45 minutes after my 11:00 curfew when my sister was just 45 minutes late for dinner?” I’m getting the silent treatment now for that one.
6. Stand Firm
Do not fall prey to manipulations such as the silent treatment. Do not feel guilty because everyone else in school has their own iPad and Amber just got a blue Mustang for her 16th birthday and EVERYONE else is going to the all-night rave or the practically-porn movie. Make reasonable decisions and then stick with them.
Am I perfect at these things? Heck, no! This list is as much for me as for you. But we’ve found that when we stray from these foundations…very bad things happen. Tattoo guns and delinquents appear in our lives.
Getting involved is messy but important.
We all have things to learn, this weird little family that God has assembled. But we’re figuring it out…one house-arrest at a time.
EdiTOR’s Note: Our family recently delivered our third child. As such, some blogging buddies of mine have graciously offered to write a series of guest posts to allow my family to spend a little time together – away from this blog. I’m deeply grateful for such friends, and I hope you enjoy their writing!This is a guest post from Christine Niles. She is a writer and project manager with a heart for orphans, and a mother of two girls adopted from Ukraine at ages 12 and 14. Christine blogs about adoption, parenting, and writing at www.riverofthoughts.com. Follow her on Twitter @croyseniles.
Photo Credit – Creative Commons: chris8800