Parenting. It only gets better.

This editorial column was written by Dusty Takle, and previously appeared in print.

Before I began parenting during the teen years, some parents told me, “Just wait. You think parenting is hard now…..”

I always wanted to respond, “Do you not remember what it is like parenting two- and three-year-olds? That’s hard.”

I never responded, though. I just continued chasing toddlers in stores, managing tantrums in restaurants and cleaning up the flood in the bathroom floor after nighttime baths, and paid no attention to their warnings.

I’m glad I did because there were some parents who told me, “Just wait. You’re going to love how your relationship with your teen develops.”

I chose to listen to them, and so far, they are right. Granted, I’m just getting started with an almost fifteen-year-old and thirteen-year-old, but I’m here to tell you that if you go into parenting these years thinking it’s going to be rough, chances are, they will.

We usually get exactly what we look for and expect, but if you enter these years with the expectation of your relationship growing, and you treat it like you would treat most any other relationship, then you may find yourself actually enjoying parenting teenagers.

The key is the word relationship. We throw the word around in parenting like it is something we treat differently. There are boundaries; there are rules; there are expectations, but parenting teens means you coach and guide, and more than anything else, you listen, just like you do in your other relationships.

You respect the fact that your teen isn’t exactly like you. She’s going to like different clothes than you, and he’s going to appreciate different music, and in as much as you immersed yourself into the years of Barbies and Hot Wheels because they were their passions, you immerse yourself into whatever it is that inspires and drives them now. You care about whatever it is they care about. Listen to them tell you what inspires them. Invest in it with them.

Listen to them tell you what is bothering them, even if it’s something you are doing. In order for them to do this, they need to know you’re a safe place. That means no freaking out is allowed. No defense is allowed. You just listen, accept and change.

We have family meetings from time to time. They aren’t always planned. It’s usually when we need to regroup as a family. Sometimes, we let our teens write down three things they feel we are doing well in our relationships with each other, and then we have them write three things they would love for us to do differently. Our teens know they can say anything without repercussion or even a response from us. We as parents read them privately and make some changes.

These are always eye-opening moments for us. I remember over a year ago, my oldest wrote to me, “Please, don’t look at me like I’m a boy.”

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, he felt like I treated him like he was boy instead of the young man he was. I began to make conscientious efforts to change this, and our relationship has benefited greatly.

Be a safe place. Listen to how they feel. Honor the relationship by not defending anything.

They need to know you’re safe. They need to know you’re not going to freak out. They need you to trust them to make some decisions on their own. I’ve said it before that we oftentimes judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. I think the same can be said for how we treat our teens.

Treat them with the same respect you treat your spouse or your friend. Watch it develop into something that is fun and hilarious and deep and real and safe. Watch it keep you young. Listen to them. Laugh with them. ENJOY them.

Just wait. Parenting children only gets better.

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Comments

  1. artlady00 says:

    Sheila, this is awesome.  If you have not posted on Facebook, please do.   Lot of parents could use this.

    Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device

    • Thanks so much! Dusty is seriously awesome, huh? I’ve just posted it online and shared it, so hopefully her sage advice will be seen by those who can be uplifted by it.

  2. Gidget Puckett says:

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS. THANKS FOR THE TIPS.

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