Married to the Empire

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Works-for-Me Wednesday: Accepting Teens

Today's Works-for-Me Wednesday over at Rocks in My Dryer is themed, "The Great Parenting Edition." If you know me, you know that I don't have kids. HOWEVER, I work with teens and have for years. So here's my parenting advice based on what I've observed over the years:

Accept your teenager for who he/she is.

That sounds so simple, yet too many parents seem to forget that. I've talked to countless kids over the years who feel that their parents don't like or accept who they are. I'm not talking about bad or wrong behaviors, as those definitely need to be corrected. I'm talking about things like having an artistic kid, but wanting a jock. Just because you were one way in junior high or high school does not mean that your kid will be just like you. If you've always desired Little Miss Preppy and Popular, but instead you wind up with Miss Has Her Own Quirky Style and Only Wants/Needs 3 Good Friends, please please PLEASE do not try to make her into your idea of The Perfect Teenager. You can't give her a personality transplant, so don't try. She may already be feeling awkward enough (remember how you felt as a young teen?), so if you don't seem to like who she is, she'll become that much more insecure and distrustful of you.

Also, please get to know their friends. Make a genuine effort. Just because the new friend he brings home is covered head-to-toe in piercings, it doesn't mean that he's automatically a bad influence. If you actually talk to him, you might find that he's a good, sweet, ambitious kid who just happens to have a lot of weird metal things sticking out of him. Now, if you get to know him, and he truly is a bad influence, then by all means, guide your kid towards other friends! But don't automatically assume that every weird-looking kid who crosses your path is bad news.

The thing I've learned through observation over the years (and from sometimes being the only adult that a kid feels like she can talk to) is that your kids WILL listen to you and your advice, but you have to actually cultivate a relationship with them of accepting and loving them for who they are. (Again, I'm not talking about accepting sin, just personality, sense of style, activities/hobbies, etc.)

I know this must sound like the most basic advice, but from what I've seen over the years, it's advice many need to hear.

Check out Rocks in My Dryer for other ideas.


Georgia Mom said...

That's great advice. I've often times seen parents drive a wedge between them and their teen because of the vary reasons you've listed. Over something silly like a haircut or the music they like. We can all learn from this advice.

Georgia Mom

ellen b said...

Very true. We have 3 kids (all adults now) who were very different from each other. My daughter is very different from me. I had to accept this very early and praise God I accepted her creative, artsy, unique ways. She is a lima bean trying to fit in a pea pod society! Blessings on your work with teens!

Jen said...

It's hard for a lot of parents to take advice on kids from someone who doesn't have any. Having said that, you are right. Gaining two stepsons when I married my husband put me through a crash course on parenting. Today, I tell people that my two oldest sons raised me well and never gave up hope that I would turn out halfway decent! Don't get me wrong. We have had many moments where we argued over the little things, learned from it and talked it out the next time it happened. All 4 of my sons are complete opposites and I love it! They each have their own hobbies and goals. I have learned to let more of the little things go and deal with the bigger issues - grades, homework, attitude, and what is really causing the problem. So long as we talk to each other, check in, make sure we know who is where and doing what with whom, it's all good. We are not a perfect family but we are perfect in our imperfections. I like it that way.

Gingerthecatholiclover((lol ^^)) said...

Sometimes just sometimes i open my email((heh)) and when i do i get directed to wonderful little websites to see bits of information like this that warm my heart..finally someone who gets what us teenagers are trying to show you!!!!* ((i bet you know who i am if you read my name^^))((that veggie soup and stuff sounds great..and OMG i love your strawberry cake..and your starwars comments^^))

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

Ewokgirl said...

Jen, I know full well that parents tend to be irritated by parenting advice from non-parents. (It's kind of like how I get irritated by people who have never had a migraine telling me how to get rid of them. Drives me nuts!) I don't pretend to know how to raise kids, but after years of observation, this is an issue I've seen crop up again and again and again. Sometimes outsiders can see things that those right in the throes of it cannot. :-)

Ewokgirl said...

Ginger, yes, I know who you are! :-)

Your response has me a little worried. Don't write your parents off as useless. It's their job to guide you and give you rules and boundaries. And God has commanded you to honor and obey them. Keep in mind that the relationship works both ways.

Jen said...

Too true. Too true. My kids amaze me with the strength they have to face what is ahead of them. Life isn't as easy as it used to be and they take it head-on. A few years of struggle, letting them grow, getting to know who they are, with smiles at the end...yeah, I'll take that. Any day of the week , I'll take that.

Anonymous said...

I never would write my parents off thats just a poem i found one day that expresses that parents must be open to their kids as much as the kids are open to sharing with them..^^

Ewokgirl said...


It had a poetic feel to it, and I wasn't sure if they were your words or not. But when I read it to Ruf, he was afraid you were saying that your parents didn't matter. Just had to make sure!