You know when you’re in the thick of it when your children are young? You can’t imagine it being any freakin harder. The sleep deprivation, the lack of alone time, the constant temper tantrums, the diapers…
And then the teenager years hit and you wish you would have savored the unable to talk back to you years.
I am no parenting expert, but I do feel like I’ve learned a few things in 19 years of parenting.
*Give them hugs. I know this may seem simple, but think about the last time you actually gave them a loving touch. We go through our days doing this and that and sometimes forget that if they are not hanging from our legs, we haven’t made real contact with them all day. “But Mellisa, he doesn’t want me to love on him/her.” Awesome. Even more of a reason to do it. Kids will pull away so much at this age and it’s our job to keep that relationship strong. They need that touch as much as they needed it when they were little, but they’ll never admit to it.
*Spend time with them. Are they into video games? Well, you better learn how to play. Ask them to show you how to play the game. Do they love sports and you have no idea what’s going on? Go outside and let them laugh at you for trying to catch the ball. I’ve been hit a time or two trying to catch a flying ball. Do they read? Ask them about the book they are reading. The point? Be involved. Be interested.
*Have grace. That boy in the picture above? He got in trouble at school awhile back. I was not happy, but when he came home I gave him a huge hug, told him I loved him, and asked him to give me the details of events before I handed out the punishment. Are you a perfect parent? Then how can we expect them to be a perfect child? It doesn’t exist.
*Have boundaries. My kids are very clear on what is expected and what we won’t and don’t allow. Will they push those limits? Of course, they’re kids, but we set them up with the knowledge. Remember back when your kids were smaller? I don’t know about you, but we had to have a routine, we had to tell them constantly not to touch something that would hurt them, and they eventually figured out what they would sit in time out for…same for this age.
*Keep lines of communication open. I ask the embarrassing questions(yep, even sex education), I ask about school everyday, I ask about if they want to ask me anything that they don’t feel comfortable asking anyone else. If they keep saying “no,” I’ll get very specific, because I know if I keep those lines of communication open…they may eventually take me up on the offer of advice.
*Be in their business. This is probably the one thing that I get the most comments on. Privacy. Not everyone will agree with me here, but keep reading. There are parents who are scared of breaking their children’s trust, snooping around their room, checking their communication with other teenagers(ie: phone texts, messages, etc.), but I’m here to tell you that it is not my job to be their friend. I am their parent. It is my job to keep them safe. It’s a scientific fact that this age:
“The prefrontal cortex of your brain is the part where all your rational decisions are made. The neurons in the prefrontal cortex communicate with the neurons in the other regions of the brain through synapses, thus playing a major role in weighing choices, controlling emotional responses and impulses, and making judgments. In adults, this region of the brain is fully developed and connected to the rest of the brain, but to reach this stage, it has to go through a long, drawn-out period of chaotic development that begins with puberty and stretches until the mid-20s.” Source: Science ABC
What all that means is they do not have to capacity to make rational decisions all the time. It is our job even if that makes us unliked by our children.
Our children know very well that we can check anything we want to to check while they live in this house. Period.
*Give them autonomy. Give them the chance to make decisions for themselves as well. By the teenage years, they are perfectly capable of making their own lunches, picking out their own clothes, bring those said clothes downstairs to be washed, even washing their own clothes. Give them the opportunity to make a meal, change a tire, mow the lawn, and start a little side business. If we’re not teaching those things while they are at home, how are they going to do them when they leave the nest?
Raising capable, good human beings is a mighty task my friends. It’s exhausting, terrifying, and joyful. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride.