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Did you see the article going around recently about parenting teens? It implored parents to stop doing things for their teen in order to grow independence and maturity. Maybe you even shared or ‘liked’ it. It made some valid points.
But it also kind of broke my heart.
Don’t wake your kids up. Don’t pack their lunch. Don’t bring them things they’ve forgotten or fill out paperwork for them. Don’t ‘meddle’ in their academics.
Here’s the thing, parents… as our sweet babies grow into smelly, sassy teens, we do need to change the way we parent. We need to be intentional about developing that independence and maturity. And that can mean hard lessons, consequences, and ‘tough love’. But there are a few major problems I see with advising parents to stop doing these things for their kids altogether.
First, it’s mean.
How unkind does a person have to be when their usually responsible teen forgets something at home to say, “Nope, you’re on your own.” As our kids grow into teens, instead of completely cutting them off from the human kindness of helping one another, how about we start treating them more like adults?
If a friend of mine forgot something, I’d bring it to her. If she forgot something every single day, maybe not so much. I take pleasure in preparing my husband’s lunch for him. It’s a way for me to show love to him. Is he capable of preparing a meal for himself? Of course. My kids are, too.
Because I’ve taught them how.
Why would we punish instead of instructing?
Parents, it’s our job to teach our kids life skills. And to be fair, the original article does address that briefly. I’m all for kids learning to do their own laundry (well before the teen years, as a matter of fact) and taking ownership of filling out paperwork for their activities and such.
What I’d like us to keep in mind, though, is that our teens don’t lose their ‘future responsible adult’ card because they needed help.
We help when help is needed…because that’s what decent people do.
Apprenticing Into Adulthood
As with every single other area of parenting from how we got them to sleep as babies, to discipline to eating habits…when we think about parenting teens, we need to act with respect to the ‘bent’ of our child.
The people declaring a list of “8 things you should never do for your teen” remind me of the ones who tell parents of newborns that “you must do A-B-C to get your child to sleep through the night or his life will be ruined forever.” Bah! Anyone with more than one child can attest to the fact that babies are different. Are there various methods that parents can try to get junior to sleep? Absolutely! Is there one method that will ensure success for every baby? If you say so you are a giant liar.
I learned as an adult that my mom used to pack my sister’s suitcase for summer camp. What?! I was Miss Independent and would have bucked at the idea of such an intrusion. And guess what? Amazingly, both my sister and I are mature, responsible adults. Now that I’m parenting teens myself, I find that my boys respond to differing levels of my involvement. To prescribe one method of leading our kids to independence is nothing more than ridiculous.
Telling parents not to ‘meddle’ in their kids’ academics is the worst advice ever.
Seriously, that might be the worst advice I’ve ever heard.
I get that as a homeschool parent, I’m kind of the poster child for parental academic meddling. But I stand with my mouth agape, shaking my head and pulling my hair out at the thought of any Christian parent conceding to hand their child completely over to the morally corrupt academic wasteland that is our education system.
You are not discussing with your kids what they’re being taught?! Please, go ahead and declare defeat. You lose. Or, I should say, your kids lose.
High school and college are the prime times during which young people are leaving their faith. And it is expressly because parents and churches have not prepared them. We prepare them by talking to them about what they are learning–not by assuming that when push comes to shove their faith is secure, crossing our fingers that they’ll be ok. Preparation to defend their faith means teaching them how to respond to the attacks that are coming against it. How can we do this if we are unaware of the attacks even happening?
Christian parents may wrongly assume that because their child was raised in a godly home and attended church his whole life, he will maintain his faith in college. Wake up! Your child will be faced with an unprecedented level of attacks on the beliefs that you’ve tried to instill. It is not, as the article claims, “over-parenting” or “over involved” to take this threat seriously. On the contrary, I believe that we will be held accountable for our lack of shepherding our kids in the ways of truth and a Biblical worldview.
The body of Christ
Scripture is clear that as a body of Christ, we support one another. What kind of jerk parent would I be if I didn’t even treat my own children with the same courtesy and kindness that I would any other brother or sister of the faith? If that makes me an over-parenting, over involved, helicopter mom…I will wear that badge with pride.
Hear me…there’s room here for natural consequences and hard lessons and backing away so teens can grow in responsibility. But just as the author of the original article begins with a plea that others not judge her for for holding her kids accountable for their choices, I would entreat her to not draw a line in the sand and paint anyone who parents differently as over involved immaturity enablers.
Clearly, balance is in order here. But isn’t that what every stage of parenting requires?
The teen years are no time for lazy parenting. They may be less physically demanding than toddlerhood, but parenting teens -parenting teens well– requires the emotional fortitude of a champion.
Instead of dictating which things parents should and shouldn’t do for their teens, can we simply agree that parenting teens must be intentional?