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Too Much Information
The ‘H’ Word
The Battle for Independence
Bullying—Don’t Do It…Don’t Succumb To It
Teenage Danger Zones
Money, Money, Money
The Value of Self
Parenting is the most important, amazing, wonderful, fun, scary, difficult, heart and gut-wrenching job on the face of the earth. But you already know that, don’t you? What you might not know, however, is that when your children turn into teenagers, this ‘job description’ doesn’t change. Parenting teenagers is equally important, amazing, wonderful, and fun as parenting babies and children. No, really, it is.
Yes, this stage of parenting definitely has its share of challenges different from the other phases of raising children. But then isn’t that true of every stage of parenting? For example, babies present the challenge of keeping your head on straight in spite of being sleep-deprived, while parenting your elementary-aged child presents the challenge of knowing how to balance extra-curricular activities with school and home, knowing how much help with homework is too much, and teaching them to have and use social skills, manners, and a strong sense of self-worth.
By the time your teens become teens, you are (or should be) seeing and enjoying the fruits of your labor. And then comes puberty—complete with hormones—trying its darnedest to undo everything you and your children have accomplished to this point.
The good news is, is that the changes that take place don’t have to undo everything. If you do things right, the changes can just be rearranged to fit your teenager’s growing and changing self. And that is what this book is about—giving you the tools you need to know how to help your teen navigate these next few years happily, healthily, and successfully. Oh, and guess what? You’ll be able to do these things and keep your sanity.
Each chapter covers a different topic, all of which are relevant to parenting a teenager, to some extent or another. After identifying and explaining the specific topic, you will be given examples of how the behavior or circumstance can affect you and your teen, as well as advice and encouragement on how to address and handle the issue.
At the end of each chapter will be a list of suggested additional resources for your ‘reading or viewing pleasure’…and some for your teenager, too. Hopefully these resources will help you and your teen better understand one another and instill a greater appreciation and respect for what each of you is feeling and thinking.
With that being said…HAPPY PARENTING!
Respect yourself and others will respect you. ~Confucius
We have already mentioned the value of self-respect and self-confidence in previous chapters, but those mentions were relative to the subject matter being covered. In this chapter we are going to focus solely on the essentiality of your teenager’s self-respect and self-confidence.
The quote under the title of this chapter is spot-on. Respect for one’s self is the foundational cornerstone of your teen’s happiness and success. Their measure of self-respect determines the depth and satisfaction they derive from relationships and in their career. It determines their sense of morality, honesty and integrity, and their ability to contribute to society in a positive manner.
Whew! That’s a lot of important stuff, isn’t it? It’s more than that—it’s EVERYTHING!
Throughout this book I’ve stressed the fact that loving our teenagers unconditionally should be our number one goal. Our number two goal should be to make sure they love themselves unconditionally, as well.
I could spend time giving you all sorts of reasons as to why your teenager needs to have a strong sense of self-respect and self-confidence. But I’m not going to, because at this point I don’t think I should have to. I would hope and pray you know why these things are so important. Instead, I am going to give you a good number of tips and suggestions on how to instill these values. I am also going to share with you several quotes or words of wisdom from a number of other people. Some of these people are famous. Others are not. But all of them have something to say worth ‘listening’ to on the subject.
Are you ready? Then let’s get started.
FYI: The following are not in any particular order of relevance or importance.
Don’t let one day go by without saying the words “I love you” to your teenager. This goes for dads, too. They need to hear it. They need to hear it often.
You need to prove your words by showing your teen you love them. You do this by being present and personally invested in their lives. Show up for practices and games. Know what’s going on at school. Volunteer to help with school activities. Make your teenager’s friends feel welcome and comfortable in your home. Talk AND listen to your teenager. Include them in family decisions (appropriately). Spend time with them doing things they like to do. Include them in your hobbies and special interests.
Not every kid is athletic. Not every sixteen year-old has the desire to be in a dating relationship. Some teenagers prefer hunting and fishing to video games and rap. Some prefer playing in the orchestra, while others are most comfortable in a personal best, type of sport like golf.
Whatever your teenager’s interests and passions are, you need to help them find productive and creative outlets for them. In doing so, you are helping them attain a higher level of self-confidence. They are also perfecting their skills, meeting other people who share their interests, and they are able to see what options there are for possibly pursuing a career doing something they love.
Remember, though, just leaving them to do their ‘thing’ without your involvement and recognition isn’t what I’m talking about. For example, let’s say your teenager has a knack and passion for coding or writing apps. You don’t want to just leave them to spend hour after hour in front of a screen and/or by themselves in their room. Instead, you get them involved with a group of peers (4-H or other extra-curricular club). Help them advertise their services to people at church, your work, or your friends. Using their skills productively, to benefit others, and to be recognized and valued by others is a great way to keep your teenager focused and on the right path.
In keeping with this same line of thought you also need to be on guard against comparing your teenager to anyone else. They are just as unique and special as anyone. Make sure they know you know that.
Another important thing to remember is this: it is NOT your teenager’s job to live the life you either wish you’d had as a teen or want to recapture. Living vicariously through your teenager is immature on your part. And it is extremely degrading and devaluing to your teenager. So don’t. Just don’t.
Kids this age are under SO MUCH pressure to conform to whatever the current cultural norms are. As a parent, you need to be working 24/7 to make sure your teenager is allowed to be who THEY are; pursuing their passions and interests without being made to feel shame, weird, or disposable.
Delia is a perfect example of what this looks like…
Her small, rural town just happens to be home to a very prestigious university specializing in the various types of engineering. It is a classic case of oil and water—the conservative rural mindset trying to mix with the highly intellectual science-minded. Go figure!
Delia and her parents knew they had to come up with a plan when her high school decided to align itself more closely with the university. One way they did this was to drop all general math classes from their curriculum. The only classes they offered from which students could get their required math credits for graduation were algebra, geometry, trig, calculus, and mathematical physics. They also included the 4-hour vocational drafting course an option.
Delia was an A-student in every other discipline but math. In math, earning a passing grade was a sincere struggle. She didn’t want to waste four hours of her day in a drafting class just to get her math credit. But she knew she could never keep up with the higher level classes. Delia panicked thinking she might not graduate from high school all because the high school was trying to force some kids to be something they weren’t and do something they weren’t capable of doing.
Delia’s mom, being the resourceful woman she is, started doing some research for online classes. She found several high schools and universities that offer online high school classes. Some of them (Missouri University’s MU Online, being one of them) offered an entire online school for grades K-12. After talking with the high school counselors, it was determined that Delia could take up to four credits from an outside source as long as it was an accredited program. Those credits would then be counted toward the credits she needed for graduation.
It took less than ten minutes to enroll Delia in the online classes. The classes were flexible; meaning she could work at her own pace as long as the assignments were turned in by a certain date. The tests were proctored by the high school counselor, ands Delia walked away with a B+ in her general math and basic geometry classes. She also graduated with a 3.7 GPA.
Don’t let anyone throw your kids under the bus. Ever.
Girls are especially susceptible to this kind of pressure. Fashion magazines and celebrities do their darnedest to try to dictate to teenage girls what is and isn’t acceptable and worthwhile. From clothing sizes and fashion trends to sexual activity and academic achievements, the media sets standards teenagers are expected to meet.
Don’t let your teenager fall for the lie that these standards are the only worthwhile standards. Mentor and speak the standards you want your teenager to aspire to. From the time they are born you need to be mentoring, speaking, and laying the groundwork for the standards you want them to have for themselves.
I’m not saying fashion magazines or reality television should be completely banned from your household, but I am saying you need to censor and monitor what they watch and read in those regards. This is not old-fashioned or overbearing. It’s wise and good parenting.
Parenting/family resource writer and speaker, Darla Noble, encourages families to have she and others refer to as a Family Contract. Noble also instructs parents in the writing or creation of these contracts. They state the family’s purpose and mission as well as spelling out the rules, expectations, guidelines, and goals for family members. Family contracts, she says, are a means of accountability and an insurance policy for success. By letting family members know up-front what is and isn’t allowed and expected, as well as the consequences (good, bad, or indifferent), everyone feels safer, more respected, and less contentious.
Your teenager also has a greater chance of succeeding in life when they know your expectations aren’t unrealistic. Teenagers who are expected to make straight A’s are teenagers feeling too much pressure. Teenagers whose schedules are maxed out with extra-curricular activities are tired teenagers. No, make that exhausted teenagers who are under way too much pressure to be a ‘star’. Teenagers who are put on a pedestal and presented as the perfect son or daughter every parent dreams of having are terrified of making a mistake. They believe (and justifiably so) that a mistake will cost them their parents’ love or incur their wrath for ‘embarrassing’ them.
FYI: No teenager should have to live under these conditions. No one—no matter how young or old—should have to live under these conditions.
Instead of putting unrealistic pressure and stress on your teenager, set clear and definite boundaries. Open wide the doors of opportunity to find out who they are, and extend the grace we all need and deserve to be less than perfect.