Tag Archives: Children

The Age Transition for Parenting Teens

A house full of boys is a little bit of what you would expect but also a little bit of not what you would expect. There’s bumps, bruises, things broken, and fart jokes, but there’s also everyone being afraid of a stink bug and wholesome full house moments too.

I can’t speak on what it might be like to raise girls but I do have a little bit of experience when it comes to raising boys and am just getting my feet wet in regards to raising a teenager. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned to do differently as my boys have grown older then it’s how I approach my parenting.

When kids are little they often times crave structure. Since they themselves have very little concept of time and no real control over their own lives (like do they even get a choice on if they have to go to the grocery store with you, nope they’re going), a routine and structure helps them navigate their daily lives and know what to expect.

As they start to get a little older there is still a need for structure and routine. Actually, up until they can start to make some real choices about their lives (like if they want to stay home by themselves while the family runs errands) routine and structure are a good way to go.

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Once opportunities, like staying home, start presenting themselves in the early stages of teenagerism (yes I made that word up) is when your parenting approach needs to start changing (actually it should already start to transition, slowly, as your kids become more mature).

The transition itself is one of providing less structure and routine for your teenager and letting them start to grow their own structure and routine. You essentially have to transition yourself as a parent from providing direction and playing Supervisor to sitting back and playing Advisor.

For some parents this is extremely difficult. For others it comes as second nature. Neither is right or wrong but making the transition is what matters. As kids start to get older, as teens start their journey towards adulthood they will have to begin facing a number of life challenges that, as parents, you will have very little say in.

What friends they hang out, what they think is important in life, what choices they make, what adversity life throws at them, and all the hurdles there are to becoming an adult. What’s important as a parent is that you do these two things to make sure that you transition as a parent from Supervisor to Advisor.

Let life dish out the consequences.

When kids are little we dish out the consequences. Timeouts, groundings, forced apologies, and so on. This is how it works when kids are little. As kids approach their teen years and on, this strategy does not work. It’s not to say that your kids should never get in trouble but if you’re relying on groundings aka ‘teenager timeouts‘ as a way to discipline your older kids, you’re doing it wrong.

Punishing your older children will only create a situation where life has already punished them and you’re simply icing on the cake, because that’s what’s really happening. As kids get older, life hands out the punishments. Kids get bullied or teased, they have moments of failure and rejection, their challenged to exceed expectations in school work and sports all while trying to navigate a social life and trying to figure out who they want to be. Trust me, life will dish out the punishments.

photo cred: Joshua Hoehine

Stay involved.

It’s not enough to let life just raise our kids once they become teens though. Yes they are becoming more mature and independent but in no way are they ready to fly solo. This is where it’s important to begin to become the Advisor in your teens life.

Instead of telling them what they should or shouldn’t be doing, or even forcing it, you want them to go out and make some choices on their own. Then let life provide the rewards and punishments for those choices. When that happens, that’s where you want to interject yourself.

You want to jump in right after life has given your teen the consequences of a choice, whether good or bad, and you want to provide some reflection on that point.

Now, some kids may need a little more time before they are ready to talk about something but ALL kids want to talk about their wins and losses. I promise you, ALL kids want to talk about their wins and losses. Most kids just put on a tough front at first.

As parents our job is to always leave the door open as an Advisor. We want to stay involved. You do this by actually staying involved. By asking about school, but also following up on their grades. If you notice them slipping, put some time into helping your teen study. Ask about friends, but also be watchful of the conversations and actions that are taking place. If you suspect something might be off, offer your Advisor role.

This can be done simply by saying, “Hey just wanted to let you know, if you ever want to talk about something you can. If you feel like it’s hard to talk about you can just text me too.

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The idea here is to make the barrier to having your child ask you for advice as little as possible. This is what we really want as parents. We want our kids to ask for advice, but that will never happen if they feel like you’re going to treat them like a child and tell them what they should do. If you’re going to go back to being a Supervisor.

So as your kids get older remember that they will begin to change and your parenting strategy should follow. Remember that we want to go from Supervisor to Advisor and that there are two parts to being a good Advisor. Let life hand out the punishments and remember to stay involved. Don’t feel like you have to do these perfectly but rather use them as guidelines. I hope this helps someone with a teenager and Godspeed. 😉

Raising Independence

When our kids are first born the level of dependence they have on us is incredible. A newborn flat out cannot survive without their parents. Yet so many other species on this little blue marble do not operate like this.

A giraffe can begin to walk nearly 60 minutes after birth! My last child didn’t walk until after his 1st birthday… A number of reptiles will lay their eggs and never return to the nest. My kids can’t watch a Halloween movie and not sleep in my bed for the next three nights. Sea turtles somehow always manage to find their way back to the ocean. My kids get lost in clothing aisle at Target…

photo cred: Picsea

There’s plenty of reasons things are this way though. Our species has the luxury of being able to raise our children with minimal threat to their well-being. There’s also a plenty of mental development that occurs in those early years, as opposed to the physical development we see in nature for other species.

And from that first day, we are required to give that high level of care and attention to our children. There’s no other way to go about it. Our children simply require that we are there caring from them 24/7. However, the mistake we make as we raise our kids is transitioning from this dependent care to independence.

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Our kids get older and we still get them a glass of water, cut up their food, help them get dressed, do their chores, clean up after them… and before we realize it, we’ve gone from parenting to nannying. Instead of doing things because our children can’t, we start doing them out of convenience.

We tie their shoes for them because it’s just faster. We keep changing their diapers because potty training is so difficult. We bail them out of situations when they get in trouble. We let them sleep in our beds because we’re just tired too. We continue to baby them and baby them as they grow older, creating more and more dependence on us.

And then what do we do? We send them out into the world and expect them to be functional adults. We expect them to be able to organize their lives, build relationships, start a career, be home owners, know how to balance a budget… the list goes on and on because as parents we’ve failed to smoothly transition them from dependence to independence.

We’ve let our children grow up in a world that doesn’t really reflect what life is really like. Now don’t get me wrong, every child deserves a childhood free of worries BUT if we’re raising our children to think that life is care-free and someone else will always be there to do it for them, we’re setting them up for a difficult adult life.

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Our childhood is just a small fraction of what our lives are and what good is it to have a great childhood and then grow up and spend the other 75% of your life miserable because you don’t have the tools and training you need to make a better life for yourself?

So… the best way I’ve found to allow your kids to still have a childhood and also give them what they need to be successful adults is to start teaching them independence. Start small and look for opportunities.

When they’re old enough, let them pay for their own snacks at the store with their own money. Give them an allowance so they can learn the value of a dollar and give them chores to earn that allowance. If they’re thirsty, teach them to get their own glass of water. If they’re hungry, teach them to make their own PB&J.

photo cred: Chloe Skinner

They won’t be perfect at it, they’ll fail, and they’ll screw it up BUT that’s all a part of the learning processes. We learn by failing, let them fail now, early on in life, when you can still be there to guide them. Don’t wait until they’re 25 to teach them how to manage their money. Start teaching independence now. You’d be surprised at what your kids can actually do at a young age, on their own.