Parenting high school children is at least as challenging for most moms and dads as was handling infancy, toddlerhood or the early school age years for most parents. When done well, what was once control has morphed into respectful listening and influence. Done poorly, heads bang and all anyone gets out of the exchange is a sore head. This is, without a doubt, one of parenthood’s most extreme challenges.
Parenting teenagers, if it were an Olympic sport, might well be named “Extreme Parenting.” Unlike the basic training, socializing, structure and loving that parents offer their young children, children between 13 and 18 years old require something quite different. The challenge is an extraordinary one matched, or perhaps even exceeded, only by the challenges of actually being the teenager!
Kids change as they get older and the ways in which we parent them need to change along with their growing abilities to manage themselves.
When children are very young, they require a lot of direction and instruction. After all, they are not born with some instinctual knowing about how to be a civilized and socialized human being. This job, in most cases, falls to the parents and it is really quite a challenging and often difficult set of tasks.
Babies are the raw material of who and what they may become and much of the foundation for those potentials that is not physical and bio-genetic, comes from the way they are raised.
Children change as they get older and the things they need from the parenting people in their lives changes right along with their own development.
If (when!) a child says to a parent, “I’m not a little kid any more. Please stop treating me like one,” it is important for the parent to fight down the normal defensive reaction and lo listen to and consider what the child is saying. Has the parenting kept pace with the child’s development or is the kid right ?! Sometimes, it is difficult for adults to change along with the child’s needs for us do.
As children get older, the parenting process begins to shift from controlling and teaching the child to helping them by reinforcing a capacity they have hopefully already developed to a degree. This particular skill is one that they will need to be successful in life. It is the one that gives them the inner resource they need to self-monitor themselves and self-regulate their own behavior. Mom and dad will not be there forever to tell them what and what not to do!
This is why it is usually wise to encourage children to take increasing responsibility for themselves and their own behaviors and choices as they get older. Parents whose parenting strategies develop right along with their children’s needs, often find themselves in the role of adviser, counselor or ‘˜thinking-it-through’˜ assistant to the high school age child.
Trying to directly control the thinking or choices of a high school adolescent rarely does anything but diminish the relationship between the parent and teen.
Parenting remains actively necessary but it becomes, when done well, a type of collaborative effort!
Way back when, it was about control and instruction. Along the way to high school, the child’s needs morphed into those of attentive listening, advice (when asked for) and supportive suggestions — all delivered as non-judgmentally as possible.
Resist banging heads: Share thoughts instead.
Avoid being the judge: Become counsel instead.
Transition, gradually, away from the controls to allow the high school teenager to get the practice they need being at the controls of themselves. That is the aspect of parenting they integrate, the part they take with them as part of themselves and use for the rest of their lives.
After all, that is the ultimate goal of good parenting. Is it not?