A young mom recently commented that she wasn’t looking forward to the tween and teen years. Many parents of young children feel that way as they look toward the future. I know I did. We’re accustomed to the innocence of our youngsters, the close bonds, the control!
A lot can happen during those turbulent teen years, but I assured her it doesn’t have to be as bad as she expects. Many of those teen and tween conflicts have their roots in the preschool and early elementary years. Here are some actions we took to help us prepare our kids for growing into responsible adults.
- We knew our rules, and the reasons behind them. I never liked the phrase “because I said so.” I wanted my kids to know why I expected certain behavior. They had to hold my hand in the parking lot because “you’re small and if a driver can’t see you, their car might hit you. That will hurt you really, really bad and I won’t be able to stop crying because I don’t want you to be hurt.” I took every opportunity to explain my reasoning, because kids are more willing to submit to rules that make sense.
- We set firm boundaries and enforced them consistently. If we hadn’t done this, our children would’ve observed that we didn’t seriously believe that the boundaries mattered. They’d figure there was room to question, to test those boundaries. When we consistently enforced the boundaries, our children grew accustomed to obeying. And the best part is, it usually (but not always) gets easier with the younger kids. They watch what happens when their older siblings test the limits. If they see it’s unpleasant, they’re less likely to test the boundaries themselves.
- We showed them the same consideration we expected from them. Honesty, trust, respect. Unlike many kids I hear about, my kids called to let me know where they were and what time they’d be home, right up to the time they left for college. At a young age, I’d explained the importance of knowing where they were, and I made sure they always knew where to find me. Additionally, we tried hard not to scold them in a harsh or demeaning manner, and we never used foul language. In return, they were free to say almost anything to us, as long as they said it in a respectful manner. Respect goes both ways.
- We kept a sense of humor. We came up with a funny word or phrase to utter when things got tense. When my young daughter didn’t get her way, she’d sometimes cross her arms and pout. In a confidential tone of voice, I’d say, “Whatever you do, don’t smile. Because smiling ruins the whole act. Don’t let the corners of your mouth turn up, not even a little bit. No, don’t do that. Don’t smile.” Before long, a smile would break through and we’d both have a good laugh. I’m convinced the family that laughs together can endure most anything, including the tween and teen years.
If your kids have made it through the teen years, leave a comment and tell me something specific that helped smooth the path?