My teenagers are 19 and 16. How did that happen? I swear just yesterday we brought them home from the hospital, looked at each other and said "now what"? I can't dwell on it or I'll be a blubbering mess and nothing will get done around here. Moving on.
C and T are really good boys - they have nice friends, get good grades, haven't gotten into TOO much trouble, and are respectful young men. We don't have all the answers when it comes to parenting teens. Most of the time we are just muddling through and hoping it all works out.
When C was about 12, hubby and I realized that the times were a-changing! Almost overnight C became surly, obnoxious, and generally unpleasant to be around. The terrible teens had arrived - and it wasn't looking pretty.
I panicked and called an emergency meeting with my husband - I was not prepared! What were we going to do with this creature who had stolen our adorable son? We decided that the best course of action was to set some immediate ground rules. We wanted to be on the same page so that C couldn't try to divide and conquer - a classic teenager tactic!
That day we came up with some of the rules. With years and experience under our belt we've added a few and tweaked others here and there. Not sure how much the boys like them, but they don't have a choice if they want to live in our house.
Expect respect. This is our number one rule and the foundation of everything else. No matter how mad or hormonal they are, or how much they don't like what we're telling them, we expect our boys to respect us and everyone around them. It's normal to have a bad day or feel emotional, but it's NOT okay to take it out on the people in your life.
Know their friends. Who your kids are hanging out with is a good indication of what's going on in their lives. We make it a point to get to know their friends and have made our house the gathering place.
Monitor their social accounts. This includes text messages, facebook, twitter, and whatever new thing these young uns are coming up with these days. We only did this when they were younger. Once they got older and had proven to us that they could use them responsibly, we stopped being big brother.
Hold them accountable for their actions. It's so tempting to step into their lives and bail them out of tough situations. No parent wants their child to feel hurt or disappointed. We want our boys to be accountable for themselves and figure out how to handle the difficulties that life throws at them.
Don't try to control everything. Set boundaries for the things that are most important to you and your family, but remember to be flexible. Learn to pick your battles. We give our kids a little leeway to make choices for themselves - even if they're not always the right ones. Then we refer them to #4 above :).
Know when to step back. No matter how much you want them to, teenagers aren't going to tell you everything that's going on in their lives. This was the hardest one for me. I love to be involved in every aspect of my boys lives - my husband says too involved. But pushing just makes them withdraw even further.
Keep communication open. Again, they aren't going to tell you everything. But our boys do have to inform us where they are going, when they'll be back, and if plans change. This is non negotiable for us.
Don't try to be their friend. I wrote an entire post about this last week. I'm not my kids' friend - I'm their parent. Once they are grown, I hope that we will be friends.
Let them know you support them NO MATTER WHAT. If my boys are in trouble, or need someone to listen, they can call me. Anytime. Anywhere. I will yell later.
Remember to have fun with them. Sometimes we forget how great our teens are when we get caught up in the daily grind of parenting. Underneath the surly exterior they are still that cute toddler who made you laugh!
Since I just started my blog, I thought it would be fun to post a picture each week from when my boys were younger. This is Spring 2002. They LOOK like they get along...hmm.