A few short years ago you brought this helpless, squirming, squalling infant into the world. Now, just a few years later they have minds, dreams, and goals all their own. It would be easy to simply tell them it is my way period. On of the favorite parental sayings is; "As long as you live under my roof...". However, I ask you is this the best way to get them ready for the adult world they will be entering in a few short years? The answer is NO!
What is a parent to do?
The opening quote I used as we started this journey applies now.
Parents raise children and influence teens. Pastor John Moore, 2002
It was 2011 as I sat in the Fulton County Juvenile Court Building in a First-time offenders tribunal where I and several other community leaders were working to help keep teens get back on track. We were speaking to a 17-year-old, asking him questions about his thoughts and behavior of the night in question. His mother answered the questions before he could. When he tried to tell us where she was mistaken she would give him a cold look and he would be quiet. As this happened over and over I began to see a little of the issue happening here. This Mom had not made the adjustment her parenting needed and both her and her son were suffering from this issue. Stepping back and making room for your teen to become a rational, thinking person, with their own thoughts, feelings, desires, and dreams begins as they enter puberty. Parenting shifts from instruction to mentoring.
Instructing versus Mentoring
The basic difference between a teacher and a mentor is all about the relationship. A teacher is often the person who trains you, helps you figure out the right answer, and grades you along the way. There can be some personal interaction and it is there often. However, the interconnection between teacher and student is often less personal, than the relationship between a mentor and a mentee. Though the mentor does train, the advisory and counseling role are often much more prevalent in the relationship.
The main goal of a mentor is not to train in what to do or how to do it. Rather the goal of a mentor is to help the mentee figure those things out on their own. The goal is to ensure once they move along the mentee has grown to a point where they no longer need the mentor's continual guidance. They may often turn to the mentor for advice, when they are feeling less confident or need to bounce of an idea.
This shift is not easy. In fact it is often very difficult because along with making the shift is the realization your helpless infant is well on their way to becoming an adult. One of my favorite commercial series comes from Subaru. It starts out with an adult talking with a little child. As the commercial progresses you realize the child is actually an older teen and the parent is seeing them as they were 10 years before. I know this is how you see your teen, however at the end of the commercial the child now a grown up gets into the car and drives away. Your teen is headed in this direction. You want them to be driving away from you ready to take on the world and conquer!
By choosing to pivot now, what you are choosing is to shift the kind of relationship you have with your child and to begin building a new richer relationship based on mutual respect and understanding.
- Ask your teen what their dreams are, what they would do if anything was possible and money was no object. Really listen and ask questions about it.
- After the conversation, step back and see if ther is anyway you can support them inthe achieving of this dream. Use your journal to jot down ideas.
- No matter how unrealistic the dream seems to you. Encourage your teen to dream and work with them to see if they can achieve some measure of their dream.
- Use your journal to revisit some of your own teenage dreams. What would it have meant to you if your parents had supported your dream?
- Is there a way for you to now accomplish some measure of the dream? Or have you developed different dreams? How can you accomplish some measure of the new one?
- Write down how it feels for you to be supportive of your child's dreams? What do you feel in thinking about working towards satisfying your own?
Making this shift in your parenting is going to be a challenge. Your #1 instinct is to protect your child from everything, which could hurt them. However, as a mentoring parent you are now teaching them in a large measure how to protect themselves. If you create a relationship where your teen can come to you for advice and counsel; you will likely give them permission to come to you with all their decisions which will help you to create a more safe environment.
Believe in Parenting