I had a little extra time this past weekend as the hubby and I were traveling back from Mexico. As I was airport watching, I started thinking – What is our job as parents? Actually, this was sparked by reading an article on education in the Spirit magazine on Southwest airlines. In the article, a teacher was asked “What use is today’s teacher to students?” His answer, “To teach them to think.”
I actually agree with him wholeheartedly. I also think this sums up our job as parents too. We can list the normal things like to love them and nurture them, but in the end I think this educator hit it on the head. Our kids can be the best behaved, the best dressed, get straight A’s, have great self esteem, but if they can’t think for themselves they will have a hard road in front of them.
I see teens who can’t make simple decisions for themselves. Why not? Because every decision about their lives has been made by someone else. Then at 18 (this is a whole blog topic on its own for me) they are “adults.” If they have never made their own decisions, who can expect them to start making good ones just because someone has said they are an adult now.
So what do we do about it? Start letting them make decisions young (this is a huge premise in parenting with love and logic). Make these decisions something you can live with – Do you want to wear the orange blouse or the white one? Sounds a little simplistic, but our brain is a muscle – it learns by using it. Decision making is part of a logistic process. If there are consequences from a decision let them feel the pain (or gratification). Don’t step in and try to fix everything. Make them responsible for their own “stuff” – homework should not be your problem (this is much easier with girls than boys for some reason). You have enough on your plate without worrying about every little thing. Once it becomes their problem, it frees you up to take care of more important things (like lounging on the porch…just kidding). If we expect these things from our kids, they will step up – but we have to expect it when they are young and not just flip a switch on them when they hit their teens. Make sense?
I can tell you from experience that this really works. My girls are now 13, 14 and 16. I don’t worry about their homework and they don’t often forget things (and I don’t remind them, remember it is not my problem). Sure they are not 18 yet making decisions, but I know from watching them now that they know how to think through situations and I feel confident that when faced with a decision they will make good ones. If they are unsure and ask my opinion, I make sure to talk them through it instead of just making the decision myself. This also gets me off the hook so I don’t hear the – well you made me do it… I also get a chuckle out of telling people I have 3 teen girls at home. They often get a look of horror on their face and apologize to me or make some comment about drama. I tell them it isn’t a problem. Really – I have a blast with my girls. Do I want to get our the duct tape on occasion – you bet, and when I need to I do. After all, Michael’s crafts has it in all colors so you can coordinate it with any outfit…..