Recently, a friend in an online group posed other mothers a question. She had concerns about her daughter’s first boyfriend.
It generated great discussion regarding rules, boundaries and values. Moms are usually happy to offer their own perspective. Advice flows freely even from those who haven’t crossed that bridge in their own lives yet.
It isn’t always helpful, just as it isn’t always bad. You just have to learn how to sift.
Thankfully, this was a place I’ve experienced with both success and failure. As I thought more about it, I realized that my philosophy reached beyond the teen years. It starts early with foundations we lay every day. Like adoption, if you always talk about it, you don’t have to sit down for the BIG talk.
My friend, Sherry, taught me early: “Make the big things big and the little things little.” If we treat minor, temporary actions the same as major infractions, nothing will be a big deal. Our children won’t be able to differentiate between long-term consequences and short-term inconveniences.
Your home and your heart should be a safe place to land when they fall. Making mistakes is part of maturing. If we have them continually in bubble wrap, they’ll never spread their wings, they’ll never soar. You can let them know you’re disappointed when they make a poor choice, but they usually already get that. If you live out the principles you expect from them, it will be much louder and go deeper than your words.
Be willing to admit when you’re wrong and ask forgiveness quickly. They already know when you’ve blown it. Admitting to your children the same thing doesn’t make them think you’re weak, it shows them you are human. It develops the trust they need to lean on you when those things come up that they don’t want to face. I was raised in an era where parents didn’t admit their mistakes. It was confusing to say the least.
Don’t threaten things you can’t follow through with. You will never rip your child’s arm off and beat them over the head with it so don’t even say it. They will never be “grounded for life” and it won’t make you look more serious, just less believable. Let the consequence fit the infraction and keep it consistent. Don’t say something you won’t do and don’t do something you haven’t said.
Most of all, be honest with your children about who you are and where you’ve been. I was one of those who worried that my kids would think that my teenage decisions would give them permission to walk the same path. The only thing it would have done was shown my empathy. On the list of things I would do different, being forthcoming would top the list.
I’m not a parenting expert, I’m a fellow sojourner on this road of parenthood. The knowing nod you see from me is meant to say, “You will get through this stage, too. It will never be what you imagined. With determination and a whole lot of faith it can be even better.”