It is getting harder and harder walking the fine lines of discipline, freedom, and involvement with children approaching “teenhood.” My daughter is 12 going on 20 and my son is 14. I envy those parents whom can make the rules, set strict standards, and consistently enforce. I’m not that parent. Although I have rules and expectations which are clear regarding respecting one another and yourself, I have my own personal problems with self-discipline much less enforce this on another, stubborn, human being. As a parent, I don’t have much choice other than make my own behavior changes in order to help my children grow.
“Consistency is a fundamental principle of successful parenting and this is particularly true during adolescence” (Angela Morelli, Parenting Teens: Discipline, Love, Rules & Expectations).
The information I read and my own experiences tells me there is a balance between loving, understanding, and enforcing discipline. What works with one teenager may not work with another; however, I do believe there are consistencies that can work with all families. Some families may not allow even the slightest foul word uttered in their home. Unfortunately, I’m guilty and I don’t expect my children to never mess up. The boundary? We do not disrespect others with foul language and I don’t want what they hear repeated. The use of foul language is an easy one compared to the grand scheme of issues we as parents encounter with technology, health, drugs, and all the other scary adventures our children are exposed to.
I expected these challenges, but am surprised by others.
When my children were small, I remember daydreaming about when they would get older. They wouldn’t need my attention and care as much. I could have more freedom, such as going to the grocery store and leaving them at home. Going to have coffee with a friend and they would be able to take care of themselves while I’m gone. Maybe even taking on an extra job to bring in another income.
Those days have come and yes, there is more freedom. However, my attention and care is needed and in a way much more indirect, yet just as consistent. If you research discipline for teens and adolescents, consistency is a repetitive element in creating boundaries and consequences. I have also read a lot about raising confident, resilient young adults. As a parent, we are supposed to know how to provide the proper amount of support and guidance yet allow them to fail due to their own decision making. Both my preteen children have cried in my arms and slam doors in my face due to consequences of their own decisions. Although I don’t want my children to endure painful or distressing situations, these experiences are inevitable and valuable. As a parent it is my responsibility to protect as well as prepare my children to become resilient.
How do I do this when I struggle with my own self-discipline every day?! I cut coupons and forget them at home. I usually take inventory right before heading to the store. I don’t automatically remember the schedule for the week; it must be reviewed every day, sometimes every hour, in order to be at the right place at the right time. My bed is not made every day, and the dishes not done every night. Often a set bedtime turns into more of a suggested goal.
The important thing is I am there. I have found they need me more now than I thought they would. They need to know I will check in on them, even though they tell me to leave them alone. They know I will help with homework, even though they pretend it’s done. They know I will set my alarm to make sure they went to bed, even though they tell me they are old enough to stay up as late as they want. They know I will meet a new friend’s parents before they have a sleepover, even though they tell me it’s embarrassing. They know I will hug them, even when they push me away.
The consistency I have created for my children is that they can depend on me to be there. I have come to realize that I will not be taking up any kind of new hobby or second job. Preteens and teenagers need parents almost more than they did as young children. They are angry, scared, joyful, and depressed all in a matter of five minutes! I can’t be. I have to consistently show them that no matter what they go through, they don’t have to let it dominate their behavior. It is hard to do this part as a parent, but because of my own resilience, I can.
In the mornings my daughter will slam the car door and walk toward the school, irritated at me for yelling “I love you! Make it a great day!” If I just sit for a moment, I will see her turn her head slightly, glancing to see if I’m there. Some days I even get a little smile.