July 16, 2013

Raising Teenagers & Drowning as a Parent. ~ Stephen Light

I am tired—in fact, I am exhausted.

My name is Stephen Light, and I have teenage daughters.

I know there are so many of you nodding your heads, smiling and possibly crying. You have either been through it, are going through it, possibly dreading it coming or wondering what all the fuss is about.

I honestly believe that raising the Titanic would be easier than raising teenagers.

I speak to many parents, and here is what I have discovered: We are all going through similar things and I have developed a new found respect for what my mother went through, phew.

I have a very empowering approach to life, which is challenged daily by my teenage daughters. Here are some of the things I stand for:

  • Respecting each other’s rights
  • Allowing all voices to be heard
  • Empowering People
  • Being responsible
  • Holding accountability
  • Fierce Courage

Here is what I am dealing with:

I spend an enormous amount of time explaining to my teenage girls what I want to happen. I put boundaries in place, and I expect them to be adhered. I allow for challenge as long as it is done respectfully. I allow small shifts in the expectations, accommodating differences in personalities.

Having said all of that, here is what I still expect:

  • Clothes to be packed in the cupboards as opposed to lying on the floor or bed
  • Towels to be hung up versus the ‘use and drop’ method
  • School bags to be packed the night before
  • Homework to be done before dinner
  • Chores to be done before bedtime
  • Showering to be done before dinner
  • Beds to be made in the morning
  • Going to bed on time—the agreed upon time they requested.

My reality is very different: clothes and towels are left on the floor, rooms are untidy, homework is a constant battle, school bags are packed as we are leaving for school and going to bed on time is very low on the priority list. I am constantly picking up after my girls and finding that I am exhausted by it.

Here is what I feel:

I feel disrespected and frustrated by the whole process. I have explained what I want and why I want it. I have had long conversations around compliance. I have negotiated and agreed expectations. I have given and given and it feels like I have been placated most of the time. I have been given apologies for transgressions and promises of “It won’t happen again, I promise.”

It feels like there are two worlds operating under the premise of one. There is my world of clarity and their world of confusion. (Now, I know you are laughing and so am I. As I write that, I know it’s funny.) Yes, I know they have very different needs and yet I am the parent.

As I resort to ‘parent’ mode to address the transgressions, I find myself taking on the power afforded by the position of parent and begin to violate what I stand for:

I shut the girls down, I dictate, I manipulate and I enforce. I punish and reward based on behaviours. I become someone I do not like, and I blame it on the girls.

And yet I know I still have to parent.

Here is what I know:

I am swimming upstream. I am dealing with something that is bigger than me. I cannot enforce my way and expect complete compliance when I value empowering people, hearing all voices and respecting each other’s rights. I have to take a step back and see what is really happening. I am raising girls, and they will one day be mothers and wives. I have to acknowledge that the way I handle these situations is bigger than my immediate need for peace through compliance.

I know they will continue to challenge and push boundaries. I know they will continue to leave towels on the floor, plates on the table and go to sleep late. I know they will continue to do this. The question is: What do I want to do about it?

I can choose to shut them down and become a real enforcer. I fear I will get rebellion in other ways and teach my girls to fear authority, especially from males.

I can choose to be a push over, picking up after them and allowing them to do whatever they please. Again, I fear I will be raising girls who do not know boundaries and who have no sense of accountability.

I need balance, and I need to pick my battles. If I want empowered, value-driven and strong women who are accountable and responsible, then I have to model that. I need to be a father who has compassion with boundaries. I need to be a father who loves and holds this firmly when holding them accountable.

I need to acknowledge that the way I live my life is rubbing off on them. They may behave in ways that are contrary to what I want and yet they are learning deep-seated values that we espouse as parents.

I have to trust this and know it will be okay. (There I am feeling better and braver. Then again, they haven’t come home from school yet.)

Trust yourself and trust the process. Let go of the small stuff and hold the big picture.

Happy parenting!

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Assistant Ed: Paula Carrasquillo/Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: via Pinterest.}

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