Monday, June 6, 2016

Parenting Teenagers

NEWFLASH: parenting teenagers is different than parenting little kids! This is probably so obvious, but for the sake of journaling, I thought I'd write about my feelings about it.

I've been doing it for a few years, but I feel like the last little bit (older teenagers, 3 at a time) has really changed how mothering feels for me.  It's harder, I think, but probably only because I'm a routine person.  I spent(10-15) years learning how to parent little ones and now I have to learn something new.

Parenting big kids is so much more cerebral I think.  It's less physical (pick up the kids, wipe their noses, buckle the carseat, watch them at the park) and more mental (thinking through interactions,  deciding on consequences, stifling urges to control, etc.) I will never understand people who say they need outside work so their brains don't turn to mush.  Mothering requires so much hard mental work for me, especially now. 

I feel like with little kids it was clear:  they need to be respectful, they need sleep, they need to eat good food, they need to learn, they need to get out and do interesting things, they need to learn to contribute.  I felt like I was really good at setting up systems and being consistent so that those needs were met.  Not that I was perfect, but I felt like I kinda knew what I was supposed to do.

With teenagers, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M SUPPOSED TO DO.  Here are some questions with which I wrestle (and, in the end, usually have different answers for different kids):
  • do I care if his hair is long? 
  • how much input do I have on modesty?
  • should I make them redo this crappily done job or just let it go?
  • is a curfew really important?
  • How much do I check and give consequences for grades?
  • how much do I push getting a job, an eagle scout, an extra curricular activity?
  • how much do I require them to be with the family?
  • should 15-17 year olds be allowed to take road trips?
  • how do I manage those #$@* cell phones?
  • how do I handle poor driving?
  • do I set limits on the sports they play?
I am not a helicopter parent by any means but I'm also very rigid in my head on how I want my kids to be, so I'm constantly trying to balance those two competing characteristics. I want to be involved enough but I don't want to force them to conform to my very narrow ideas.  I'm learning that I feel most frustrated when I make who they are and their behavior some sort of reflection on me and my parenting, so I'm trying to notice when that DUMB way of looking at things is driving my interactions with them.

Going along with that:  you kind of can't make them do stuff anymore.  You can't make them be nice to someone, you can't make them get a job, you can't make them care about how the house looks, you can't make them be reverent at church.  You can have consequences (but should you for all of these things?? Who even knows...) but you can't actually MAKE them do stuff.  I have REALLY good kids and  they really want to be good people, and so more and more, I'm learning that they respond best when I teach a principle first and then talk about applications.  For example, we were concerned about cell phone use and so we taught a family home evening about temperance.  As we concluded the lesson, we talked about our new plan to keep phones on the main level of the house (and to try it for a month and get feedback) and they were really good about it.

Another thing: they see you for who you really are.  My kids are respectful, but they call me on stuff. They will tell me if I'm seeming hypocritical, or unfair, or unreasonable.  It's a little hard for a slight perfectionist.  I'm trying to listen and evaluate and respond in a way that invites them to keep being honest with me.  It's hard.

There are lots of good things!  I can see them becoming adults (and I like it!)  All those years of wondering and now I can see glimpses.  Also, they are very funny and interesting.  I love when things are quiet and we can start talking and I really enjoy the conversations.  I appreciate especially the extra responsibilities you can give teenagers: trips to the grocery store, childcare, help with cooking, around the house projects, help on trips.  I like their friends.  I like that they are better at some things than I am, and they teach me: sewing with Emma, running with Gabe.  

I really really love them and really really know I lucked out.  I hope I can figure this stage out okay.  In the end, I feel Heavenly Father prompting me when I need it the most, and I'm relying on His help to not fail.  What a refining challenge this job is!


Jeanelle said...

I loved this! I love how you're learning along the way (and are willing to, even when it's hard) and I loved the principle first and then how to apply it lesson. Brilliant reminder!!!

Carie said...

Exactly. To everything.

Nurse Graham said...

Sounds like you are getting all figured out! It's a process of trial and error mixed with wisdom, grace, and humility.

Lima Bean said...

Thank you very much for sharing these thoughts. Especially the part about how choosing to stay home and be a full-time mother is such a mental challenge, and can and should be rewarding and challenging in the very best way.

Kristyn said...

I'm one of those people who don't know you, but I love your blog for posts like this. It's such a real, but still optimistic view on the road I have ahead of me. Im grateful you record things like this here! So, thanks for being someone who doesn't just gripe about their kids nor act like they're perfect either. You seem like a great mom! You're doing great.

Diwakar said...

Hello Jessica and Ryan. I am a Pastor from Mumbai, India. I am glad to stop by your blog post on parenting teen agers. Very interesting and thoughtful. I never thought they way you have put it. Me and my wife had the privilege of parenting three teen aged children and it is certainly challenging but the Lord was God in seeing us through that interesting period in our life. I am blessed and feel privieged and honored to get connected with you as well as know you thorugh your profile on the blogger and the blog post because of who you are in the Lord and your love for HIM. I have been in the Pastoral ministry for last 37 yrs in this great city of Mumabi a city with a great contrast where richest of rich and the poorestg of poor live. we reach out to the poorest of poor with the love of Christ to bring healing to the broken hearted. We also encourage young and the adults from the west to come to Mumbai to work with us during their vacation time. We would love to ahve your teen aged between 17to 19 yrs of age to come with their friends to work with us during their vacation time. I am sure they will have a life changing experience. My email id is: dhwankhede(at)gmail(dot)com and my name is Diwakar Wankhede. Looking forward to hear from you very soon. God's richest blessings on you, your family and friends. Also wishing you a blessed and a christ centered rest of the year 2016.

Lauren in GA said...

I really loved this. I have MANY of the same questions and often simply do not know what to do.

Ohhhhh...the cell phones...Adam asked the other night if he could start having it in his room at night and I said, "I seriously don't think that will ever happen." I don't know...perhaps I should be more trusting...but I just am not ready to have the entire world at his fingertips at the hour of the days that one is usually at their weakest. I feel badly because he thinks my refusal to let him have his phone smacks of mistrust...but it isn't that...I just don't want him to be presented with temptation when he doesn't need to be.

The whole parenting thing in this day and age has me baffled. I really enjoyed reading this and hearing your thoughts.

Dad said...
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Dad said...

I liked this. As always I love to hear how you think about things.