Parenting Teenagers


I have often pondered my role as a mother and as a step mother (they are very close, but not quite the same thing).  I have a deep affinity with children, I have a deep concern for their welfare and a giant commitment to their character development.  I see my main role, as a human (not just a parent), to build the people around me.  To help them to see themselves as worthy of developing and growing and investing in.  

It means that I spend an exorbitant amount of time thinking about the way that people think.  Caring about the way that people care and the way that they function both as individuals and as part of a network of others (in the context of family or community).  

I don’t know why I do it, I just do.  I always have.  I guess its just how I am wired.  I read books on people and brains and self help and motivation.  I am incredibly fascinated by what makes people tick. 

As an adult and as part of the human race, I find that the balance between helping others navigate life and letting them learn for themselves is not too hard of a balance to find.  I try to keep it simple and share the lessons I’ve learned with those who want to listen.  I tend not to keep the company of people who have zero interest in personal development.  I also kind of know what I am responsible for and what I am NOT responsible for.  

BUT CHILDREN!!?  This is an entirely new thing.  As a mother of a toddler I knew I didn’t want to be one of those mothers that played that, “I make a mess, you clean it up” game that I had witnessed so often.  I was convinced the little monsters knew exactly what they were doing when their mothers were blinded to it.  When my son spilled his bottle, I handed him a cloth. It was viewed as harsh by other mothers and people around me but he NEVER played that game with me.  He knew, if I do this, then I have to do this.  There was never any “Well let’s just pull Mum’s strings and watch her do stuff for me”. Primary school was a breeze. Well, not a breeze, but small children are a different breed to the bigger ones. 

Now, however, I am faced with the quite terrifying concept of teenagers.  Next year, there will be not one, but two teenage girls in high school, and while the eldest is in year eight, I still haven’t managed to get my head around that yet.  Before I know it even the smallest boy will be in year 7 the following year. They are the size of adults.  They act as if they know everything.  But they’re not adults.  It has become increasingly difficult to guide them without it being taken as an assault on their intelligence. 

Like if I remind them of something simple, trying to help them actually avoid getting into trouble, it’s argued against.  The other day I thought “Well you know what? Stuff it. Good luck.  I can see clearly that you’re not going to have that done properly and there will be consequences, but rather than ask me why, you decide to argue the point.  So stuff it.  Let there be consequences.”  It is probably what I should have done in the first place.  Let the consequences actually exist and stop trying to convince them to do the right thing.  

I find it difficult because I don’t want to be the consequence queen every day of my life.  I don’t want to enforce the boundaries.  I don’t want to have to deal with the rolling of the eyes and all the attitude that goes with it.  If I could simply ignore them for the next ten years I think I’d be much happier.  However, that’s not an option.  They aren’t adults.  They are still children.  They need the boundaries now more than ever because it’s now, as their bodies change and their brains change, that they are defining who exactly they will become as an adult and for them, that means testing those boundaries to see what happens.  It means checking to see what they can get away with occasionally (or consistently). This teenage thing - it’s like  a whole new world for them and that means they need to check how big it is and how far they can go without being pulled up.  

The trick is probably redefining that myself.  I think it’s possible I didn’t resize the yard for them properly to account for growth and change.  I think I just hoped that they would continue to operate in the same yard and now the yard has changed, I have quite large velociraptors re-checking all the fences again.  I possibly could have prepared for that.  But I didn’t.  So now, I’m here, building up my fences again, aware that some of them have fallen into a bloody mess.  

I’m not the type to put my head in the sand and ignore this.  I’m just tired.  I’m tired of being the ‘gatekeeper’.  Sometimes it feels like I am the only one really looking at these fences and trying to maintain them. It can be exhausting.  I guess I need to remember that this is one of those moments in time that will pass.  That if I actually put the effort in to make the boundaries very clear again, and do it with appropriate consequences (that are enforced and not just spoken about)  they will get it, and they will respect that.  After all, it’s what they are craving even if they don’t understand that themselves. 

Michelle Cashman
Passionate storyteller, songwriter, writer and host of the Transformational Personal Growth Podcast on iTunes
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