I’ve had a lot of experience as a parent. In fact, you could say I’ve seen it all. I’ve been in a marriage where I had to be both mom and dad, I’ve been a single parent, a stay at home parent, a stepparent, a co-parent in a terrific marriage, and finally a parent who is learning how to step out of that role since my kids are 23, 25 and 26.
I know I made plenty of mistakes, but the problem is that often by the time you truly learn how to do a parenting thing well, it no longer applies because your son or daughter has passed that stage in their development — and as the parent, you now have to learn to deal with something else!
Here’s a good example. One of the things that used to drive me nuts was getting the kids on time to the dinner table. I would get very upset about this because I would spend time and energy preparing a nice home cooked meal. My repeated shouts for the kids to come down from their rooms would be in vain. Meanwhile, the food would be getting cold and I would be getting hot under the collar!
My wife Linda finally got it through my thick head to let the natural consequence of having to eat cold food or warm it up themselves be the lesson for not coming down when called.
With teenagers it is useful to ask yourself this question: Whose problem is this? Eating cold food was not my problem. The great thing about natural consequences is that they teach a direct lesson much more effectively than a parental lecture. If I forget to pay a bill on time there is a late fee. If losing the money is important to me, than I will make darn sure that I pay my bills on time.
Now, if someone else were to pay my late fees, then I would have no urgency about paying my bills on time. In the same way, it is far better for kids to develop independent habits as teenagers than to struggle with more serious consequences as young adults.
So here it is-my best advice for parents:
* Love your kids with all your heart
* Provide strict structure and discipline (I use the word strict because by today’s standards strict has de-evolved into reasonable rather than the excessive permissiveness that permeates our society.)
* Give them as much affection and time as you can
For parents of teen-agers, I’d like to say this: you will survive the teenage years — and the other side can really be wonderful as your kids take on their own independent lives. (We can all drink to that!)