When my kids were little, it was as if someone fed them truth serum. If they were trying to get away with something it was written all over them. Sometimes I had to dig into the situation a bit, but most of the time I followed my gut instinct.
Younger kids are able to paint a very clear picture. Like the time my daughter came home after stealing fifty silly bands from our neighbor. Before she pulled off her jacket revealing her new plastic jewels, I could see the evidence. Her nervous, jittery and red cheeks were a dead giveaway that she was up to something.
As they get older, our kids are tempted to test the waters in other areas. They desperately want to do things they know they shouldn’t do. They become aware that they can lie, manipulate and sneak around and they become adept at it. We may still be able to read them at times, but they hone their “sneaky” skills.
Together with all the other “firsts” of being a teen, our kids’ desire to step over the line and their ability to cover their tracks, makes life a little dicey for us, their parents. It’s as if we hit a fork in the road every day with so many different directions we could take, it’s hard to know the right way to parent.
From hovering, to letting them figure things out on their own, I think most of us would agree that we want to find a middle ground and relax into it a little bit.
Easier said than done.
Often I find myself looking to other parents of teens to see what they are doing. I’ve asked questions, taken and refused advice. I’ve tried things that didn’t work for me, but worked beautifully for other parents.
Through it all, I’ve learned that my gut is the only thing I need to listen to when it comes to raising my teens with integrity, period. There have been too many times when I knew in my soul that I wasn’t doing right by my child but proceeded because other parents were, or weren’t, allowing it.
I let them do things that I knew they weren’t ready to do or I held them back simply because no one else was doing what they wanted to do. Every damn time I’ve been able to look back and say, “If I’d only gone with my gut this would have worked out so much better.”
That’s not to say that I am always right. I’m not. But I know my child better than anyone else does. The bottom line is that when I stay in my lane, I’m a better parent.
It may feel more comfortable to look around and see what everyone else is doing but, for me, it’s not my best parenting.
I’m a better parent to my teens when I follow my gut.
When I look at my child and get real about the kind of person they are, I’m a better parent.
When I take a step back and think about what our life has been looking like, how my kid has been acting, and how they’ve handled similar situations in the past, I’m a better parent.
Our gut-feelings rarely lie. No two teenagers are alike and it’s really okay to go against the grain and listen to your inner voice, even if it makes other people uncomfortable. Remember, you were a teen once and even though it was decades you know the signs, you know what to look for. But, most importantly you know your kid. You know when to say no and when to say yes.
When you look at your son or daughter, you see yourself at their age. They aren’t going to do all the things you did and screw up in all the ways you did, but you will certainly pull from your own experience.
I have three teenagers, and thus far my gut has been my most reliable source and I’ll continue listening to it no matter what everyone else is doing.
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