“I thought I knew how to handle parenting teens. My daughter has perfect grades, has always been very responsible, all her teachers love her and then last week the wheels fell off!”
Parenting teens can feel like driving the Autobahn blindfolded. One sharp curve and it's a crisis! How can any parent feel in control when they are driving with their eyes closed? They can't! Yet I coach many families that are under the impression that parenting teens is like cruise control and once set, the road ahead will be paved with love and lollipops. Once the teenage brain is in full gear, that bubble of bliss will burst like a balloon on a bed of nails!
In reality, the wheels don't just “fall off” a car. Somewhere, sometime, a lug nut loosened just enough to give way to a really big problem. It is a gradual, ever so slight quarter turn of events that might go undetected for months, maybe even years. It is often very hard to pinpoint the cause or when it happened; the important thing is to perform frequent evaluations to make sure no screws are loose. Look for evidence of things that need to be tightened up and then make the adjustment. Maintenance is ALWAYS better than repair!
It is the same with parenting teens. Josh didn't just accidently, one day, out of the blue decide to smoke pot. His friends helped loosen the lug nut, “Come on, Josh! This weed is sick! Totally makes you chill and nothing matters, dude!” Josh has been exposed to the idea of pot for years and secretly wants to see what it's like to his teenage brain. And so the loosening begins.
So how do we go about parenting teens and minimize the risk of having the wheels fall off? Can we ratchet down the screws to insure our teen is safe? Will too much tension to the teenage brain only create another problem?
Think of it this way…when a wheel is loose, a good mechanic doesn't tell you the little noises you hear are just in your imagination. By getting “up close and personal,” he will perform a thorough inspection to diagnose the problem. Most likely he will go to the extent of disassembling some things to really get to the root of the problem before something major happens. He might even point out that the lug nut was not only loose, but that it was missing and then caution you on how dangerous that could have been. “Well, Mrs. Reynolds, if Josh kept hanging around those friends who were smoking pot and you didn't take a closer look, he could have been in real trouble. Just a little adjustment and now you are good to go!”
By routinely going over a safety checklist, identifying the problem and not over-correcting, parenting teens can become a series of minor adjustments instead of a complete overhaul. The key is to stay tuned-in to the little rumblings that indicate there is a screw loose somewhere in that teenage brain and not parenting teens by simply waiting for the wheels to fall off.
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Remember – safe teen dating does not happen by accident!
Lisa Jander – The Teen Whisperer In the book Dater's Ed, Lisa Jander, the Teen-Whisperer, helps parents teach their teenagers to learn how to “date defensively, navigate safely and steer clear of unhealthy relationships.”DatersEd.com