One of the hardest things about being a parent is acknowledging that in order to grow up with any kind of insight into who they are, our children need space to be themselves. Nerds like myself may get an athlete such as my middle son, and athletic parents may get a child who trips over her own feet because she walks around with her nose in a book. That’s going to mean some stretching on our part. We may do our best to suppress their behaviors we don’t like, but suppressed behaviors always surprise you. Learning to accept our children for who they are is a very good thing, for them and for us.
We are required by Love to be deeply and genuinely interested in our children and what is important to them–while our greatest need is to prepare them for life with what we’ve learned. They go through stages when they reject us and our “wisdom.” Then it’s about knowing that what we’ve taught them is in place. They need boundaries, but they push against them. How do we know when to hold and when to give a little space? I wish there was a manual that told us, but there’s not. We’re on our own, us and them, trial and error.
Most of my teen-parenting mistakes happened with my eldest because of all the firsts we faced together—the poor guy. One of my biggest blunders was reacting to surprising news by jumping up out of my seat and shouting, “You did WHAT?”—as opposed to remaining calm and saying, “Let’s sit together and you can tell me what happened.” After I went into upset-overload a couple of times, he stopped telling me things he needed help with, things I later wished I had known. People make mistakes, especially inexperienced people. I highly recommend staying as composed as possible when bad things happen, so your children will continue to come to you when they most need your assistance.
The bottom line is, if we don’t give our children a little freedom to make mistakes and learn from them while they still live with us, they may “go wild” once out of our homes. We will worry constantly and they will suffer tremendously because they don’t have an experience-based foundation. My advice: give a little space. Communicate how much you love them, and they will know this, even when yelling and slamming doors. Don’t give in when you have a feeling something isn’t right, because it probably isn’t. Confirm with other parents. Just love them, be with them, listen to them. This makes so much difference in the quality of their adult lives.
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