The answer may surprise you. (Part 1 of 4)
Harmony in the home is a vital first step to raising globally minded kids. So, yes, a strong marriage matters. But so does the way we relate to our kids.
Is there lots of malicious screaming and shouting? Or, is there an eerie lack of communication? Either of these extremes can stand in the way of your family being able to truly be a light for the world, to be and do good in a world desperately hungering for it.
The early teen years, in particular, present challenges galore. My husband Dale has taught high school students for almost 30 years. Together, we have successfully navigated the teen years of parenting ourselves. Our three emerging adult kids continually amaze us; they are simply incredible human beings!
Today’s post is the first in a four-part series in which Dale introduces his new book, Parenting from the Periphery, now available on Amazon in paperback and digital. See details below.
Almost three decades of experience in the classroom and in my own family has taught me a thing or two when it comes to navigating the tumultuous teenage years as a parent. I’m excited to share with you some lessons I’ve learned in this series. I hope they’ll help you with this awesome – and challenging – job!
What is the main job of a teenager?
You may think it is to pass his or her classes or to be responsible to get to sports practices on time. The teenager may think his or her main job is to hang out with friends and have a good time. Sometimes, a teenager may simply aim to irritate his parents as much as possible.
The reality is the main task of adolescence is differentiation from parents.
Sorry, but the main thing your teens are doing is figuring out how they want to be different from you, the parent. As they work on that job of differentiation, the voices of peers and other adults draw them. The only adult they have no interest in hearing is you, the parent.
Don’t be discouraged by this. If you’ve raised them with love and values, they will most likely come back to those good things you’ve taught them. But they have to be the ones to choose. The most valuable thing you can do for your kids during this time is to subtly encourage mentors in their lives.
Here’s an excerpt from my book, Parenting from the Periphery, on this topic:
In adolescence, kids care more about their peers’ input than their parents’. I have no scientific evidence of this, but I believe there is some kind of inhibitory hormone that prevents kids from hearing their parents’ voices between the ages of 12-16. The strange thing is that this hormone just affects the kids’ ability to hear the voices of their parents; they can hear other adults’ voices.
That’s why it’s so important to subtly encourage your child to find a mentor.
The reason I know this is because, over many years of teaching, I have been that other adult whom children can hear. As a high school English teacher, I have spoken numerous times with parents who ask me to communicate something to their children. The conversations go something like this:
“I have tried to tell Andy to do his homework before dinner, but he won’t listen to me. Is there anything you can do?”
Later on I have a conversation with Andy.
“So, Andy, you haven’t been getting your reading done lately. What’s up?”
“I want to do it, but I keep falling asleep while I’m reading.”
“When are you reading?”
“While I’m lying in bed before I go to sleep.”
“That doesn’t sound like it’s the best time to have an alert mind for reading. Why don’t you try reading first thing after you get home, maybe before dinner while you’re still alert and awake?”
“All right. I’ll try.”
A few days later, his mom calls me.
“What did you do? He’s doing all his homework right after he gets home without complaining!”
“I think he hears me better than you.”
It’s true. Budding adults want to feel like they’re adults. They hear the voices of many adults around them and want to be like them. The two adults in their lives that they literally can’t hear are their mother and father because the life task they’re working at right now is differentiation from their parents.
The mentors in your kids’ lives might be teachers, coaches, youth leaders, or just family friends, but subtly seek to encourage friendships with role models who will lead your child in a good direction.
Even though, your kids may not want to hear your voice during this time period, there are techniques that increase the receptivity of teens to your voice. I’ll talk about one of those in the next post.