As parents, we are busy. Our day to day schedules and routines make it difficult to think about making a whole lot of changes, especially if it’s adding more to our plate. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start or what to change, take a deep breath and begin with one thing that is in your control—your perspective.
Perspective is a powerful thing. The way we see something can change our whole experience! Imagine you’ve had a hectic morning (you may not have to put a lot of effort into imagining this!), you’re running late, and you’ve finally gotten everyone in the car to get the kids to school and yourself to the job. As you are about to pull out onto the road, one of the kids yells, “Dad, stop the car! I forgot my homework!”
In that split second. as you are beginning to move your foot from the brake to the accelerator, your first reaction may be one of annoyance. In that split second, you must decide what the next course of action will be. Will you yell at your teen? Try to teach them a lesson by refusing to go back and get it? Turn the car around and head back home?
As your blood begins to boil, a little girl that you didn’t see before walks in front of the car. In that instant, your perspective changes. Your child’s emergency, an annoyance that frustrated and exasperated you a second ago, is now seen in a whole new light. It has saved you from running over a little child.
If there’s only one thing you can do, begin with perspective.
The most important job you have as a parent is to do your best to raise your children to become honourable adults. You can’t control the outcome. In fact, it would be wrong to try. Your job is to see the target (honourable adults) and point your arrows (your children) toward the target. Childhood is where you aim the arrow. Adolescence is where you hold steady as you release the arrows.
The bow and arrow metaphor, borrowed from ancient wisdom (Psalm 127:4-5), provides a wonderful perspective for parenting teenagers.
Your job now, as a parent of a teenager, is not to control your child. If you try to control teenagers, you are working against them and doing more damage than good. However, at the same time, they are not ready to be released. They need boundaries, and you do not need to offer any apologies for being the parent and providing boundaries that protect and guide your children.
This balance between providing freedom within boundaries is difficult, but beginning with the perspective that you are not responsible for every choice your teenager makes is important and freeing because it begins the process of releasing your child to make more decisions and become their own person while maintaining your parental authority.
With freedom in place protected by boundaries, you give your teenager choice and responsibility – two things they need to learn in order to become mature and honourable adults. They can choose within the boundaries given. They can even choose to go outside the boundaries. However, when they make their choice, they are responsible for the consequences (you need to explain the boundaries and consequences for crossing them as you set and adjust them).
If you can only do one thing, begin to broaden your perspective from the daily grind to the end goal of an honourable adult who makes wise choices and takes responsibility. This perspective will guide you in preparing your teenager for freedom and responsibility. It will help you establish meaningful boundaries and consequence (that you need to follow through firmly yet lovingly). It will give your teenager the ability to choose, and it will free you up from feeling responsible for the choices your teenager makes.