Parenting as a role is part of an identity and as so, it becomes important as a part of who I am. Am I a good parent? How do I know? What do I constantly have to do to re-affirm my good parenting? Am I doing my part in this role and how does this role affirm who I am? My role is to know what is best for my child and make sure they get it. My role continues with my adult children, who need mothering.
Parenting as a function is doing the work of a parent. I like to say it is loosening here, tightening here, training here, encouraging and comforting over here. If it is a function, and not tied to my identity, parenting becomes a flexible response to what is needed instead of doing what someone expects. It leaves space and room for authentic relationship between the parent and child.
The relationship a parent has with a child, should always be one of honor. Children are to honor their parents, yet parents also should honor their children, recognizing the child’s right to choose. I teach my child to make choices and then trust that she will learn, just as I have, to make generally good decisions with some mistakes. My identity is neither tied up in sorting out what she should do, nor in telling her what to do. I honor the relationship, by noticing that she is a whole, complete and working human being.
For more on the topic of the parent role, check out, Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth.
I want to give you hope this morning as I reflect on the last few weeks. I have four boys ages 22-14 years old all with their own differences. Parenting adolescents can be a difficult job, while I have no experience parenting girls, I do know a thing or two about male adolescence. My 17 year old in the last few months has become extremely pleasant to be around and our relationship enjoyable.
I say this, to give us all hope, for it has been years that it has been very difficult living with him in this stage. Teenage boys go through a distinct immersion of emotional change during this time that includes anger directed towards adults, defensiveness, secrets, tension and some unexplainable non-working choices. My oldest boys went through this stage, one for a period of 4-6 months, the other for about 6-8 months.
Life circumstances such as separation, divorce, stress, difficulties at school, all create more drama and lengthen the process, it seems, of young men emerging from the boys we once knew. One of the things I think of as my youngest now goes through a very “angry at mom” phase is that he is coming into his own.
Teens are becoming brilliant and stepping into adult life; they need to carve out an identity and create meaning for themselves. The synapses of the brain are growing and changing to be able to understand abstract concepts and higher level thinking and problem solving. Adolescents are learning how to own their choices and their power to make them. When I focus on these things and I look at the wonderful young men in my life and our relationships, I can live with tolerance and understanding seeing the light at the end of the turmoil tunnel.
Being with a teen through these challenges is difficult, understanding is fleeting, patience is stretched, boundaries are crossed, emotions get heated… and underneath it all is a young, whole, capable adult is emerging in his brilliance! It is a marvel!
It used to be that chewing gum and talking in class were the biggest problems facing teachers. Now we hear about pregnancy and gang violence. As an educator I find that this is a problem, yet it is not the biggest problem facing teachers. The biggest problem that I see facing not only teachers, but also parents currently is passive defiance. That is when a student is given an assignment and they just refuse to do it. They do not necessarily create problems in the classroom. They just refuse to do their assignments.
Teachers and parents deal with this all of the time. We encourage, we nag, yet without consequences this falls on deaf ears. There is no consequences for many of these students. They have video games, entertainment, phones and all kinds of privileges that parents can take away for leverage. Yet teachers have less and less leverage, and little that is not punitive. Frankly, many of our students not only do not care about their grades, they do not seem to care if they graduate.
As adults we have much more power than we own, we buy a lot of leverage for these kids. We are not required to provide entertainment, rides and phone priviledges to kids.We can start by owning that leverage and being the adults we mean to be. Say what you expect once clearly and walk away, give a consequence once without a long explanation. Kids get it!