Our Job as the Parents of Teens, Part 1

When our kid is furious with us for actually calling that other parent to see if they’ll be at home for the party at their place on Friday night. . .

When we are stunned to see the conversation our child has on her text messages. . .

When he swears under his breath as he walks away from us, or she rolls her eyes in   disgust at our suggestion, and deep in our hearts, we wonder, where did they get that sense of entitlement?


It’s a good time to remember . . .

The three primary jobs of the parent of teens are:

Bringing them safely across the finish line;

 Developing in them a sense of decency;

 Getting out of their lives.

When we keep these jobs in mind, many answers to day-to-day hassles are clearer. For example, it answers why our son has to wear a helmet on a motorcycle, or not ride one at all! Safety can extend to curfews and why it isn’t safe to be on city streets in the wee hours. Kids can dream up an outstanding and frightening array of dangerous “fun.” While we cannot control for every possibility, it is our job to do what we can to provide for and promote their physical safety. Our role in their safety helps them stay in one piece while their judgment matures!

Decency comes in many different sizes from the little stuff like, “Why do I always have to rake Grandma’s leaves, anyway?!”

“You have to help them because young, strong, healthy people help old, infirm, weak people. It’s what our family does!”

Larger issues of decency might include what’s wrong with porn sites on the web. One of the reasons that parenting a teen can be so exhausting is that virtually every day is chock full of wrestling with issues of decency: helping a friend to cheat; borrowing a sister’s sweater and returning it messed up; spending all his money on a concert ticket but not having enough to give his dad a birthday gift. By the end of adolescence, if we’ve done our job well, our kids are able to encounter a wide variety of values and challenges and still manage to keep their balance.

The last job of parenting a teen, even if you choose not to let your teens know, is to get out of their lives! Increasingly, parents are becoming “helicopter parents,” hovering nearby to be certain that their child’s each and every action are done to specification. Still, if most of us were honest, we’d acknowledge that we always learned Life’s most difficult lessons through trial and error.

          So today, if there is a question of doing it for her or teaching her to do it for herself, looking toward the time you’ll be exiting, teach her to do it herself. From doing laundry to balancing a check book to learning to read a bus or subway map, your goal, and theirs, is to help them be ready to move away from you. As my mother used to say, “A good mom’s job is to work herself out of a job!”

The next blog will continue with “Our Job As Parents of Teens, Part 2”