Several years ago in the wee hours of the morning, I heard our teenage son exploding downstairs into the kitchen. Upon investigating the commotion, I found him feverishly doing his previously forgotten assignment i.e. cleaning up the kitchen. Seeing a wonderful parenting opportunity, I sleepily complimented him on his admirable behavior. Surprisingly enough, his response shocked me awake as he good naturedly retorted, "Yeah! I wanted to do my work because I know how you just love to take away my cell phone!"
Ah, if there's anyone who knows how to yank my chain, it's my son, so I dutifully launched into a full blown "parenting sermon" of how I had my own cell phone and didn't want his!
After we playfully bantered back and forth a while, and he was off to bed again, I began to wonder just how much he believed his own accusation. I made a mental note to use more empathy next time I am required (by our Parent-Teen Agreement) to confiscate his phone. By the way, I rarely ever have to take his phone, as illustrated by this story.
The "I Don't Want to Take Your Stuff Away From You!" conversation prompted me to think of other important conversations that would bring clarity to my relationship and now your parenting modus operandi. I came up with seven that I'm going to share with you today, but first, here's a short overview of adolescence to substantiate the reasoning behind the ideas I will present.
1. Priveleges ("I Don't Want to Take Your Stuff Away From You!"): I love you and want you to have these cool toys. I have my own cool toys, so I don't want yours!...It gives me zero pleasure to confiscate your property! Read more here.
2. I Want to Give You Freedom! This conversation speaks to your teen's burgeoning need to become independent. I love to expand your boundaries when I see you are mature enough to respect the limitations of your current boundaries. However, when those limitations are not self-monitored, then your boundaries are restricted to the level of your current ability to self-monitor.
3. My Parenting Methods Vs. Your Friends' Parents' Methods: "Your friends' parents will do what they think is best for their children and I will do what I think is best for you. Neither you nor I know all the circumstances between your friends and their parents...read more.
4. I Love You Unconditionally (I Love You For Who You Are—Not What You Do!): "I will not compare you to anyone including but not limited to myself when I was a teenager, your sibling's or other teenagers in general....You never need to be afraid of me. I will never judge you. I understand that you are not perfect, as no one is perfect. I will always be here to support you no matter what mistake you may have made...I will love you no matter what! There is nothing that we cannot get through together!...." Read more here.
5. Our Home is an Eco-system. My teen refers to this often still. "The rules of our home including curfews and household assignments are established for the good of our whole family. Each family member's contribution is very valuable! When everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot....read more.
6. Home is where you learn and practice interpersonal skills that will bring success, prosperity and wealth into your life. Our family rules are preparing you to have a successful life when you are all grown up! Read more here....
7. I Know That You Really Don't Need Me/Us Much Anymore Now That You Are a Teenager. For ages 16 and up: This speaks to your teen's need for independence and autonomy, establishes trust, and sets high expectations. "I recognize that you are very capable of making great decisions for your life. I am so proud of you! However, it's still my duty and responsibility as your parent to...read more....
In closing, developmentally speaking, these 7 conversations will speak volumes to liberate your ever expanding teenager. You can use the direct approach or casually work them into everyday conversations. Whichever method you choose, make it soon! After all, ambiguity can only invite misunderstandings and problems while plain talk is always easily understood.
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