After a glimpse into our family life, you may or may not accept our parenting techniques. Some friends and family are accepting of our style, but I also know at times that we are being judged … trust me I feel it and know it.
As a family, we have had the most success raising our fifteen-year-old son by “striking the balance”, which simply means letting him grow into a healthy teen, have commitments, take school seriously and having fun. Sounds easy? Not really. I’d like to share what has worked for us and I’d love to hear from you. Of course, I recognize each child is different, but the more we collaborate, the more supportive community we can build around each other.
I am not telling anyone what to do, only what has worked for us so far. By no means are we perfect and we have had our share of challenges. I am optimistic enough to look ahead and be confident that things will be good, but I am also not in denial that things will and could change. I am not telling you what to do, just sharing what has worked for us.
One of the strongest rules we have doesn’t even involve our home. The rule is: when you go to someone’s house you follow their rules whether we like it or not. You don’t ask to change them, you just follow their family rules. That is, it! Plain and simple. Other rules in the house seem obvious, but are in place: you are not allowed to swear or yell at your parents, for instance. We are not overrun by the rules in our house. Some are more like life guidelines than rules. For instance, showing respect for each other is an unspoken rule.
This has been a part of our son’s life since grade 7 and he does it without hesitation. The opportunity to give back without anything in return is a beautiful thing to teach our children. Our son had completed all his required high school volunteer hours in grade nine.
Yes, I feel sometimes my son is on electronics too much, but instead of getting angry at them, set some rules ahead of time and invite them to help set the rules. Also, why not join them in a Wii game? If you can’t beat them, sometimes joining them is a better option. Who said quality time had to be limited to sitting around a kitchen table? The Norman Rockwell days are over. My husband will often drive my son to gaming competitions in Toronto for an entire day. This has become an interest for my son and he almost won a few times. Why not follow their interests? Who knows, they could be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.
Yes, one day of the week we eat together as a family. It could be Saturday or Sunday, but we do it. The rest of the days we eat at various times and we survive! I am not saying I love this concept, but it is what it is! With working and social activities, it just works for us.
These are important to us as parents. My son puts his laundry away and soon I am going to teach him how to do the laundry. My daughter with special needs does the same. My son vacuums, walks the dog and feeds the cats. On the list for next summer is teaching my son how to cut the grass. My daughter is learning how to make her own Kraft dinner. Chores are not just a parent task and it takes a team effort to make this family function. Mom and Dad are not the only ones on the team.
Dr. Phil has said it – the best thing we can give our kids is resiliency. I do agree with this because I see so many teenagers and youth not coping with life. Of course, there is no quick fix for this and there are many reasons why teens are struggling. So, how do we help develop resiliency as a family? One example I can give you was when my son was due to have a friend visit for a sleepover and the friend canceled. He was young and very upset. I could have scrambled to find another friend to come over and fix the situation, but I didn’t. I took it as a learning opportunity. I acknowledged how he was feeling and told him that life has disappointments sometimes and he got through it. We have also been through tough times as a family and he has seen we do get through it, I believe this models resiliency.
I now chuckle at all the people that have said to me “my teenager will never sleep for hours and hours”. Thank goodness, I had a good friend who had older teens and could prepare me. There are all kinds of research on the teenage brain that supports this behaviour. On school nights, bedtime is early and set. On the weekends, he sometimes (get ready for it) goes to bed at 2 am and sleeps until noon or one pm the next day. You may not agree, but it’s okay. We found that by giving him slack around weekend bedtimes, we are more able to apply the rules in areas we find more important.
My son will be starting his first job bussing tables at a banquet hall. Demanding work for sure, but truthfully, it will also be hard for us parents because we need to pick him up at 2 am! I want him to learn the value of challenging work and earning a dollar. So many of our kids in Suburbia are growing up in large homes and our kids just think the houses, cars, and stuff just show up. Like magic! I lived in an apartment building for 8 years, then a townhouse and then the house. Blood, sweat, and tears were part of the journey for sure. It’s time our children started learning a bit of this.
So far, he is taking school seriously. When he seems a little less motivated we prod him along. He knows that if we find out that school work is not getting done that there will be consequences. The other day he came home at lunch because he forgot to do an assignment, so he did it at lunch. You could see the panic, but he got it done at the end of the day. I was happy to see he decided to do it and not stay out with his friends. I showed an intrinsic dedication and commitment to his school.
This is the best thing we got him into. It has taught him discipline and he is strong! Wow. I also think nobody will mess with him in high school, knowing that he is getting a brown belt this year.
I have seen a lot and so has my husband. I am happy to know that my son is home every night and not taking drugs or disrespecting girls. I am not pretending to have all the answers, but so far, we have a well-balanced child. Our style may not be yours, but so far it seems to be working. I believe that is the key: find out what works for your child and do it, be proud of your system and don’t judge others for theirs.