Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments.
I have always known that each child is a unique individual. I looked at my two who are as different as night and day. Then I consider my siblings and we are a texbook example of different.
But, now that I have three grandchildren, all the same age the differences from their births has been striking. Just before they were born I was thinking about the two movies about Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and this also caused me to think about the differences of people who live together.
The result is the e-parenting mini guide: Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments.
We also need to learn to adjust our parenting styles and expectations when our children become teens. But they still need and want parenting.
Teens Need Parenting!
“She’s fourteen years old. She’s going to make her own decisions and there’s nothing I can do about it but pray.”
“He’s fifteen and totally ruled by hormones. There’s nothing I can say or do if I see him making bad choices.”
“By the time they’re teenagers they’re raised. A parent can only stand by and watch and maybe be a friend.”
“ I dread the summer because he’s got so little to do and I worry he’ll get into trouble.”
These are comments I’ve recently heard from friends and workshop participants and I have one response.
Teenagers are our children. They may be big, outspoken and quite independent but they are our children and we are their parents. Teenagers not only need parents and parenting, they need it desperately. But dealing with teens is different from parenting kids in the early years.
Teens behave as if they don’t want or need their parents and too many parents today are buying it. In the excellent book Hear Me, Hug Me Trust Me, Dr. G. Scott Wooding points out that “while teens may be more knowledgeable, and often more physically and emotionally tense, their emotional needs and control valves are no different than we their parents’ at an equivalent age.” In other words, they’re not so different than we were at their age so think back to your own adolescence.
Over a four year spam Dr. Wooding, a counselor and teacher in a Junior High School, asked students to write down the characteristics of an ideal parent. He expected to see characteristics such as generous with allowance and slack on rules. But, teens are smarter than that and they know what they need. Four years of questionnaires came down to twelve suggestions to parents from teens.
They want parents to understand their issues, to improve communication, to provide appropriate discipline, to be fair, demonstrate trust and be respectful. They also want help in developing responsibility, want parents who care and are honest. A sense of humour, spending time together and being an appropriate role model were also included.
This column is too short to discuss these twelve characteristics, but I think it is necessary to put to rest the myth that teens do not need or want parenting.
When people ask me, “What’s the matter with teens today?” my answer is likely to be that they’re missing the supervision, direction and stability they need to get on with the task to reaching adulthood. In other words, teens need parenting.
It is typical and healthy for teens to be separating from their parents achieving increased independence. Remember when he was a toddler stating with absolute assurance, “I can do it myself!” We knew he wanted to do everything for himself but we also knew he just couldn’t and our job was to help him to do what he could and create a safe environment while he moved from infancy to preschooler.
Our role is identical with teens. They need a safe environment from which to launch themselves into adulthood. Like their younger selves they can become victims of their own impulses and desire to be independent.
But it’s also very different from parenting younger children. Younger children need direction and while they should know why we have rules, they are more ready to accept our explanations and behave in a reasonably acceptable fashion.
Teens are ready to have some input into the rules and will want to be consulted and heard. They are ready to negotiate. This doesn’t mean there should be no rules, no bottom-line, no clear expectations. The challenge for us is that we also need to be ready to negotiate. We need to be crystal clear on the bottom line rules about which there is no wiggle room (ie: never get into a car if the driver has been drinking, it’s never okay to physically hurt another person) and those open for discussion (curfews, allowances and chores). Once we are clear on where we stand we can engage our teens in a discussion, make joint decisions and watch our teens flourish under a clear and appropriate parenting style.
Parenting teens can be frustrating but also joyous and exhilarating. Give your teens the gift of leadership the security of knowing they have the support and guidance of you their parents.
Parenting Today is keen to speak as part of your professional development event, parenting workshop or workplace wellness support program. I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters. And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:
P — is a parenting plan
U — is unconditional love
R — is respect for your child as he is right now
E — is encouragement
These make up the framework of any resources that will come from Parenting Today. These four pillars are the essential ingredients for raising healthy children who will develop into capable young men and women.