We officially have four teenaged sons as of this week. We still have two younger daughters, but much of our time and energy lately has been focused on the teens. Are they making good choices? Keeping themselves out of trouble? Are they learning the skills they will need before they head out into the world? These questions are on the mind of every parent of teens, and it’s hard.
It’s hard because they do mess up, and they do make poor choices, and they do get into trouble. It’s hard because we don’t know for sure if they’ve learned everything they’ll need. It’s hard because it makes us wonder, “Have I been doing a good enough job as a parent?”
That’s what I’ve been pondering this week—“Have I been doing a good enough job?” It feels like I’m doing my best, but it can be tough to see my kids make mistakes. It can be tough to hear their criticisms and complaints. Though I know, especially for the teens, it’s kind of like their job to complain and criticize; it also gets to me. Don’t they appreciate what I do for them? Don’t they see how hard I work to ensure they become the best people they can be? Don’t they realize how tired I am and how much I deserve a break?!!
That’s what I yelled at them this morning. All six of them—because the younger ones, while not causing nearly as much trouble, are picking up the same habits as their older siblings. I called them together right before they left for school and yelled many things that sounded something like this…
“You have no clue how hard Dad and I work for you. Why do we work so hard? Because we love you! And what do we get? Whining. Complaining. Criticizing. Well, guess what? We deserve your respect! And that means you don’t talk back, and you do your chores even if we don’t ask you or force you to do them, and you obey our rules, and when you mess up and get in trouble, you suck it up and take the consequences! And you realize that you’ve got it good, and you have no privileges unless you earn them, and we decide if you’ve earned them, and you don’t criticize us! I can’t take any more criticisms! Do you want to tear me down? Because I feel torn down. It’s not my fault if you’re getting a bad grade or forgot your lunch or if you’re grounded or you didn’t wake up to your alarm. Do you want me to show you what you’re taking for granted by blaming your problems on me? Because I can stop all the cooking, cleaning, driving, money-giving, homework-helping, problem-solving, listening, hugging, and loving I do every single day, if that’s what you really want. Maybe then you’ll see how clueless you’ve all been lately! Dad and I deserve respect! Do you hear what I’m saying? Do you get it?” They nodded silently. I asked my husband to please get them out the door, and stomped into my bedroom, where I did some deep breathing and said a prayer for help!
I’m not proud of yelling. It always makes me feel terrible after. I work hard to control my emotions and express them in healthy ways. But sometimes I just lose it, and today was one of those times. I felt embarrassed as I came out and watched them all walk out for their day. I don’t like making them feel bad. But, as my husband said after they’d all left, hugging me, “Thank you for handling that, dear. All those things needed to be said.” They did.
Sometimes tough things do need to be said, especially with teenagers. We’re parents, for goodness sake! Not their friends. We don’t need them to be happy with us all the time. We need them to learn from us, to obey us, to let us love them and help them and guide them so someday they can do these things for themselves. Sometimes, the best love is a firm “no,” or a tough talking to, or a hard-to-bear consequence. Because if we don’t do it, who will?
As I said in my rant this morning, “It is my job to raise you guys with morals and standards and to teach you how to be good people and inspire you to live up to your potential, and I take my job seriously! If you don’t like how I do my job, well, tough! I’m doing the very best I can.”
After writing this out and giving it some thought, I believe it’s true: I really am giving this my best. I make mistakes and mess up, but I open my eyes and learn as I go. I correct myself, and I keep on trying. I may have let my kids have it this morning, but I did so out of love. When I check in with myself on how I’m doing as a parent, I can feel that love working in me—pushing me out of bed early in the mornings, driving me all day long—working to grow me into a better person so I can be a better parent. That’s the best we can do as parents, I believe–keep checking in, correcting, and striving to do and be our best.
How do you know if you’re doing a good enough job parenting? How do you handle parenting teens? Leave a comment, below, and share your wisdom. We can use all the help we can get!
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