Courageous Parenting

Pictures of Daughter 2, Riley:

Early Teens



Middle Teens

Am I a courageous parent? I’ve been thinking about this question for the past week, after a church lesson where the teacher used this talk directed specifically to the parents of teenagers…and that is me. Daughter 2, Riley, is a teenager; Daughter 1, Courtnee, is just past being a teenager; Daughter 3, Lainey, will be a teenager in a few months. Wow! I work with teenagers at church and teenagers at school and my house has unrelated teenagers coming in and out every day. I spend a lot of time with teenagers!

Teenagers are amazing: they are smart, funny, energetic, very tech savvy, innovative, hopeful, silly, young, cute, and FUN.

Teenagers are exasperating: they are unpredictable, moody, sleepy, loud, demanding, experimental, unrealistic, uncommunicative, overly dramatic and sometimes scary.

Teenagers can be very easy to please…food, cute shoes and jeans, a cell phone, a Facebook account, a car or a ride, and they are good to go.

Teenagers can be difficult to please…they are now a vegan, they want outrageously expensive shoes and jeans, the cell phone and Facebook accounts need constant monitoring, and the car is out of gas.

And teenagers are still children. Really! Did you know that a human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25? Read this from teenagebrain.blogspot.com:

“The greatest changes to the parts of the brain that are responsible for impulse-control, judgment, decision-making, planning, organization and involved in other functions like emotion, occur in adolescence. This area of the brain (prefrontal cortex) does not reach full maturity until around age 25!”

“Ah ha,” I hear you saying, followed by “it makes sense,” and “no wonder,” and then I hear you saying a few bad words when you remember that his under-developed brain controlling your teenager’s behavior is also controlling their body which at this moment is controlling your car. I totally get it…I’m right there with you.

Sometimes we want to forget that teenagers are still children because we are tired and worn out from parenting them this long. But hang in there for the home stretch…teenagers still need their parents.

They need courageous parents who tell them no…a lot…and they need parents who tell them yes whenever they can. They need courageous parents who check up with them on school, friends, life. They need courageous parents who support them in their activities, even if it is not convenient. They need courageous parents who listen, which can be difficult because sometimes they don’t talk and sometimes they never stop talking. They need courageous parents who will hang out with them and that will also tell them it is time to go to bed. They need courageous parents who remember that it is hard to be a teenager. And they need parents who love them…no matter what.

After successfully raising one teenager, I’m sure her future therapist will agree, and half-way through raising another, I have learned a few things. I’ll share:

1. The car is a wonderful place to be with your teenager. Turn off the radio, have them turn off their phones, and talk and listen. Sometimes they will refuse to say anything, but sometimes they won’t and those moments are golden.

2. Support them in their activities. I spent all of Riley’s first year of cheerleading complaining about a lot of cheerleading-related things. This was not helpful for either of us. Riley’ second year of cheerleading I volunteered to organize a tailgate party for the cheerleaders and their families for every home football game. I made Riley a little gift bag of new socks and snacks and a nice note for every away game. I drove cheerleaders to cheerleading camp. I went to football games, basketball games, and pep assemblies. I became a cheerleader mom!

3. Say yes as often as you can, but don’t hesitate to say no. I pick my battles because they are constant. Riley is a pro at arguing. You might think she gets it from her sweet lawyer dad, but she gets it all from me…just ask my mom. She is smart and she is good at arguing and a lot of the time she is right. So I listen and sometimes I change my mind. But when the stakes are high, I don’t back down…and neither does she.

4. Embrace technology. I have a very tech-involved teenager, so I Facebook and I text. It took some time and some convincing from Daughters 1 and 2, but I do and it is a great way to keep up with my teenager and her life and what boy she is interested in and who her current friends are…I also think she is more careful about what she shares on-line because she knows I will be reading it. My husband monitors email accounts and cell phone stuff.

5. Welcome your children’s friends into your life. Make your house the place where the kids want to hang out. Give friendly greetings, supply food, host parties, learn names. Don’t worry too much about what your house looks like…I used to until I realized that the kids don’t care and I can’t keep up. Get to know your children’s friends…ask them about their interests, their families, school, their lives. Again, the car is a great place to facilitate these kinds of discussions.

6. Develop a very thick skin. Enough said.

7. Develop and practice important phrases, like this:
“I understand.”
“Because I am the mom, or the dad.”
“No.”
“It doesn’t matter what everyone else has, is doing, or says.”
Basically, all those things that your parents said to you and you swore you would never say to your own children. I use such phrases to signal that the discussion is over. I do let my children express their opinion and I do let them argue their point on a lot of things, but when it comes down to it, I am the mom and ladies, “the buck stops here!”

*My current favorite phrase is “the end” and it really works…especially when my teenager is arguing with me via text.

8. Make sure you understand what your personal values and rules are so that you can stick to them, and make sure that you talk about them. I guarantee that your teenagers will force you to question where you stand on a lot of important things…religious beliefs, governing values, current events, the environment, hem lengths, bikinis, etc. That’s okay. It is good for both of you…it forces you to really think about things and it helps them to understand where you are coming from.

9. Find some mentors. This has saved me as a parent. Mothers and fathers who are a bit ahead of me in the parenting game offer much needed advice, empathy, and success stories. Last spring, after a particularly difficult ride to the dentist with my teenager, I even asked the dental receptionist for advice. She has successfully raised 4 daughters, and they have all survived. She said something to me that I have thought about many times, “As mothers, I think we forget how hard it is to be a teenager.” So talk to someone, anyone, or everyone. Who knows, maybe the grocery store clerk will give you the best parenting advice you’ve ever had.

10. Finally, the number one parenting mantra, enjoy this time. You only have a few years left with them living with you, hopefully, and you need to have fun. Watch crazy teenage movies, listen to teenage music, eat some junk food, dance around the house, smile, laugh, enjoy. The rewards are coming. I promise.

Current Teens

Note of Interest: After a teenager/mom confrontation this morning, I received the following texts:

“I’m sorry for being rude and disrespectful this morning. That was my fault and you’re right I should have gone to school. I’m sorry, I’ll see you later. Love you.”
Received 9:59 AM

“Could you maybe get some cash so I can get gas in my car?”
Received 10:34 AM

More Mom Moments.

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