In a recent blog called English Mum, the author lists ten things she has learned about parenting teenagers. The last of which is: “Enjoy them. Teenagers are hilarious, intelligent, pant-wettingly funny and delightful company.”
We hear parents lament that they don’t think their teens are fun to hang out with. They dread trying to spend time together. They longingly ask us how they can change this dynamic and have fun with their teens.
So what gets in parents way?
Well, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to laughing hysterically with teens is the ridiculous job description most parents have in their heads about what they are supposed to do as parents. This job description includes, but is not limited to:
- Keeping their teens absolutely safe: physically, emotionally, and spiritually
- Making their teens perform to their potential (BTW, nothing good comes of starting a conversation with a teenager referring to the “P” word – potential)
- Assuring that their teens don’t drink, do drugs, or have sex.
And the list goes on.
With this job description and all those things to worry about, it isn’t a big surprise that parents find it hard to relax and enjoy their teens, and vice versa.
This unrealistic job description feeds parents’ fears. Slow Parenting Teens urges parents to understand that there are two types of fears at work: their noble fears for their teenagers and their selfish fears for how their teens’ decisions will impact them.
Noble fears include: fear that they will be in a car accident, that they won’t get into a good college, that they will get a DUI. When we ask parents what they are afraid of with raising teenagers, these noble fears are what come up first. They reflect the unrealistic job description for parents that sets parents up to fail and to be controlling with their teens.
Noble fears can make parents feel like they are really concerned only for their teens’ welfare and doing the hard work of parenting, but noble fears are based in selfish fears.
Selfish fears are the ones parents have for themselves – fear of what might happen as the result of teens’ choices and actions. Selfish fears include: I am afraid that I will have to spend weeks in the hospital with my teen, I will look bad if my kid doesn’t get into a great school, I will have to drive my kid around and pay for legal fees.
Parents try to control their teens’ behavior so that these really scary things don’t happen, and in the process, parents push their teens away.
However, when parents own their selfish fears, understand that their teens will have mishaps, and cease trying to control their teens’ behavior, they can build a respectful relationship. Everyone can relax.
Slow parenting teaches parents how to build and sustain a respectful, healthy and fun relationship with teens so that when the mishaps happen, their teens have a safe place to go. This is the main purpose of parenting, as we see it.
A terrific sidelight of building this relationship is that parents and teens look forward to spending time together. They plan outings, they talk often, they share their hopes, dreams and defeats.
Even when parents and teens have different interests and personalities, they find ways to connect. And with the connection, comes humor and hugs. When you let go of the unrealistic job description of what you think it is to be a parent of a teen and replace it with the realistic job of building a positive relationship, you can get out of your own way and get silly with your teenager.