Monday, November 03, 2008

Parenting Teens

I thought of this word picture yesterday and it really applies to the way I have begun to parent all these teenagers.

Parenting teens involves you letting them drive, metaphorically, and sitting in the driver's seat. You can give them all kinds of directions and ideas and you can discuss directions with them, and how to drive. But they are the ones in control.

If, as I did, in the past, you refuse to let them drive, they don't learn. Or, if you spend so much time talking and forbidding them from taking a wrong turn, they often rebel and take off in the car without you. So, you have to sit there, and sometimes bite your tongue and often simply attempt to relax as they make make mistakes.

And it usually goes like this:

parent: "Um, you realize that if you turn left you're going to go into the ditch?"

teen: "Shut up, I know what I'm doing. I know how to drive."

parent: "Well, this is an interesting ditch. I'm sure glad there wasn't more damage to the car when we drove into it. "How are you going to get out of the ditch?"

teen: "I don't know, can you help me get out."

(At this point the parent intervenes and either instructs the child how to get out, letting them live with the natural consequences, or helps them out of the ditch momentarily, even driving if the teenager wants them to.).

And then, the next month, or maybe week, possibly day....

parent: "Um, you relize if you turn right you're going to go into the ditch?"

teen: "Shut up, I know what I'm doing. I know how to drive."

I spent most of the years parenting our 4 oldest children by trying to do everything within my power to keep them out of ditches, accidents, etc, and it never worked anyway.

With the remaining 8, I'm just going to ride along. Sure, I'll give advice, sometimes when asked, and sometimes without request. And I will not give permission for them to do something that I know is dangerous or wrong. But I'm going to do everything I can to stay in the car.

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