By Petra Laila
Now that my oldest, Chris, is 13, I have found that I need to change in how I communicate with him. He is not the child he was a few years back. All of a sudden, he is taller than me. How time has flown! It seems like just yesterday he was a constantly active two-year-old, getting into everything.
Like most parents, I suppose, my tendency has been to think that I instinctively know what’s best for my children, and to take action accordingly. That worked well enough when Chris was small, but now that he’s reached a stage where he wants to make more of his own decisions, I’ve found that I need to take a different approach and involve him more in the decision-making process—to treat him less like a child and more like a teammate.
When an issue comes up, it’s more important than ever that I take time to listen to his ideas and understand both his viewpoint and his needs, as well as to explain mine. Then we try to come up with a solution together that will be good for both of us, as well as for anyone else involved.
When I fall into my old habit of trying to tell him what to do without considering his side, he feels squelched, pulls away, and misses a learning opportunity—and I lose his full cooperation. But when I remember to consult rather than give orders, things go well, he takes another step toward learning to make wise, responsible, loving decisions, and our bonds of love and mutual respect are strengthened.
Making the transition from childhood to adulthood can be like walking a tightrope, and teens need someone there, a parent or other strong role model, to help them find their footing and steady them as they cross over.
When my children reached their teens, I tried to guide them through the decision-making process, but then I’d have them make their own decisions. They’d often try to get me or their mother to make the decision for them, so they wouldn’t have to take the blame if things went wrong, but I would tell them, “Don’t ask me. You know what’s right and wrong. What do you think you should do?” Afterwards they were usually glad that we made them decide, because they knew that was the way it was supposed to be and it helped them feel trusted and respected, which is a very important thing at that age.—D.B. Berg
Excerpted from Activated magazine. Used with permission.