Tag Archives: teens

The Gift of an Ordinary Day

Katrina Kenison is the author of Mitten Strings for God and The Gift of an Ordinary Day. She blogs at Ordinary Day Journal. (Thanks to Gabi for passing along this great clip.)

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To my daughter when she is a mother

Dear Daughter,

At the time I am writing this, you are a still a teen yourself. When you finally read it, you may be a mother with a teen of your own. It will be like a picture from your past that will bring perspective for that time.

Have you felt the joy and the fear of nurturing a new life? Your new life awed me. Still, your innocence scared me; I was afraid I would mess you up.

Despite my fears, you learned to stand, supported by my nurturing. Eventually you began to walk, and so did I. We both grew confident—me in teaching, you in learning. I feared again when you started to run, until I saw that you were following my lead. Each new experience has taught us together in this way.

Now, you are a teen. Everyone says it will all be different. It is, and it should be, but not in a negative way, as they imply.

The difference I sensed is that you’re in the midst of growing up to be responsible. It is just a short time—probably before you or I are even ready—until you leave our home. When Dad and I talked to you about this, I hoped it sounded like we were expressing our trust in you.

I was really relinquishing my control.

You see, handing you responsibility was the stressor point that caused me to falter as a mother. When it didn’t feel like you had received the assignment or knowledge that I was giving, I would become frustrated, anxious, and impatient. I may have been delegating responsibility to you, but I was not trusting that you had received it. Many times I would ask myself, “Have I fully communicated so that she will succeed in this task?”

Then I finally understood that the vital communication tool I use myself is one that I have also taught you to use. If God can communicate your needs to me, can He not communicate them to you?

After that conversation together, it was time to rearrange the spaces in our home, literally and figuratively. My desk has always been at the center of wherever you and your siblings spent the most time. At first that was your playroom. Then it became your learning center with projects and stories. It moved on to be your homework zone. Now, my desk is in a separate room. You will still need me close, but further away so you may practice on your own without my constant supervision.

Remember when I taught you to make pancakes? We did it together a few times. Then I left the kitchen so you could work without my little corrections. You still came to me when you had questions about how hot to heat the griddle or how much batter to use. Being a teenager will be like that. As you use your own initiative to grow, I know you will still come to me, and we will connect through conversation.

I love how you have rearranged, cleaned and organized your room, too. You made it your own because the desire to do so was yours. You also shared your feelings that you have found a way to be more aware of God’s help and encouragement. You seem enlivened by the endeavor to create your present and your future on what you are learning in your heart. I know you are feeling your own sense of responsibility, and you are listening. The conversion of your room is only the symbolic evidence of a greater change in you.

Recognizing this in you brings a greater change in me. Now, I am learning to trust God, that He will guide you, too, as He has guided me to see what changes were necessary. Thank you for being patient with me while I learned the trust part of parenting.

Teresa Hirst lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children. In addition to loving her family with good food and conversation, she likes reading, writing, and Finding What Inspires at http://www.tjhirst.com, where you can connect with her.

Show me who you are

Scott and I had this parenting notion: Show me who you are. This was extremely helpful. When our sons showed us who they were – as they were figuring this out – they turned out to be delightful and talented people. Not one of them fit a preconceived notion of who they might be.

Support their interests. We did not make demands on Scout participation or certain athletics or after-school activities. We had only one “must” and it was that they must take piano lessons until they could accompany others. Each of them did this and we were amazed when they continued their lessons way beyond the point where we thought they would quit. As parents, we paid for a lot of lessons in several fields, drove them to their lessons until they could drive, and we attended every activity we could, which turned out to be most of them.

Feed them and feed any of their friends, and let your home be the gathering place. This involves extra money and lots of late hours, but it was great having them know they could always invite friends over, and our home came to be known as a “safe place” to hang out, by kids and parents alike. As a result, we knew their friends well–and enjoyed the interaction. Also, one cannot underestimate what we learned while everyone was hanging out here. The casual eavesdropping opportunities were tremendous – so we had a pulse on what was going on with them and their friends. This also leads to another tip: drive them and their friends where they want to go. The parent at the wheel becomes invisible and SO MUCH info is dropped in the conversations.

Look for something to praise and compliment every single day – and then SAY it, don’t just think it. Also tell them you love them whenever they walk out the door or end a call. Every single day. We always did this, but became extra-motivated when friends of ours lost their son in a car accident and were comforted knowing that the last words exchanged were, “I love you.”

We are strong advocates of natural consequences for choices and behaviors. We also tried to be VERY consistent: we did what we said we would do (so we were careful about what we agreed to). Most of our house rules and policy evolved through a democratic family council method. Our boys had a lot to say about what happened in our home, even down to furniture choices.

We granted them three (and only three) “saves” for each school year. They had to use these saves wisely – having us bring stuff to school they forgot, etc. This helped them to be responsible for their work. If they had to stay after school for detention – my coming to get them was a “save.” Each son had only one detention in all their school years. But they each had one. Each usually used up their “saves” in a year. Now that they are grown, we have funny family stories about these.

Reflective listening is powerful and helps them know they are heard. This method also defuses arguments. As parents, we worked hard to listen and allow them to talk, then we’d feed back what we heard in a neutral tone of voice (sometimes hard to do): “You must feel very frustrated.” “Wow, that must have been hard.” “Yikes, what did you choose to do about THAT?”

Have them check in with you when they come home. We always waited up for our kids, no matter how tired we were. They had to check in with us. We placed two comfy chairs at the end of our bed, and the kids developed a habit of dropping into those chairs or on the foot of our bed to talk about their night or day. Sometimes we would be there into the wee hours. We had an unspoken policy if they wanted to talk, we would listen (and stay awake).

Let them have complete stewardship of their rooms. I RARELY went in their rooms. Laundry was done only if it was delivered to the laundry room. Each of them went through a period when they lived wearing the clothes off their floor and sent their laundry down in huge heaps occasionally. If they wanted to keep the rooms messy, then that was their choice. (Choose your battles.)

Which brings me to my final three tips for parenting teens:
Have fun with them every single week. We often had some family activity each week.
Laugh a lot. “Save the day with laughter,” as Grandma taught.
Talk (and listen) a lot. Be sure to ask questions that cannot be answered with a grunt or shrug, a yes or no. Here are two good leads, “Tell me about…” or “How did you feel when…?”

Wow. I’m going on and on. It’s kind of fun to think back on this and realize that a lot of this really worked. We still love each other. We’re friends. They are delightful and responsible adults with unique talents. I occasionally told them back then, and I’ve told them a few times since they’ve left home: I have many weaknesses and have made errors, but one thing I know about myself and about them is that I was a really good mother. They seem to believe my press statement.

Annette Paxman Bowen is the author of three books, including one about connecting with teens. She currently works as a public affairs media director.