Jun 7, 2012

Parenting Graduate Course


I decided I needed to enroll my self in some graduate level studies on the topic of parenting.  It seems that overnight my world has turned upside down.  Even though this handsome young man in the above picture turned 13 six months ago, it apparently hasn't dawned on my until just this week.  I'm realizing that everything I thought I knew about parenting and have experienced as a parent thus far is ancient history.  I can no longer parent this blossoming adult like I did when he was a child.  Apparently I walked into a wall.  Or I've had headphones on with my music up too loud to hear his deep voice.  Or I must be wearing magic glasses that make me see him as the 8 year old he just was last week.  Does time really go by that fast?  Because all the sudden, one day I woke up and my firstborn is taller than me, bigger than me, can lift me off the ground, is stronger than me and probably smarter than me.

Time to reevaluate.

We had been butting heads quite a lot lately.  Which is rather strange cuz Gavin is an awesome kid.  Very well mannered, considerate, polite, obedient and intelligent.  So why are we getting our wires crossed?  Why aren't we able to talk like we used to?

That would be because of me.  I haven't grown with him.  Not cool.

After some hard core studying and evaluating my current parental practices, I have come to learn that I need to change with my sweet boy.  When I want to tighten the reigns, I need to loosen them instead.  When I want to give an order, I ask a question instead.  When I want to protect him from failure, I back off and let him fail and learn on his own.  Such control only pushes them away from you.

You see, I found I was actually doing him a disservice by always giving him a suggestion (very helpful ones I might add!) or reminding him to do this or that or hovering around to make sure something was done the way I wanted.  Me. That's what it all came down to.  I wanted things done my way.  And because of that, I wasn't allowing him to fail and learn and think through situations on his own.  If he just would listen to me and do things my way (or by my suggestion) the first time, he (and me) can avoid the awful inconvenience of wasted time and have everything done right.  The problem with that is, he doesn't learn.

In order to learn he has to make the decisions, own the problem, own the solution, own the responsibility and own the failure or success that comes from it.  That way he his packing his mental bag with tools on how to handle problems on his own so he can be a healthy adult.

The problem is, I've never been a parent to a teenager before.  I'm a first time mom here.  I'm scared to mess up...mess him up...scared to fail.  Sounds an awful lot like fear based parenting to me.  Fear causes you to want to control, not trust.

By not letting him fail, I've hurt both of us.  But at what magic point does the parent go from being the one to own the problems of their children and fixing things to passing the ownership over to their teen? That day in history would have been nice to know or anticipate.  We could have planned a lovely ceremony.

But as with all things, life is the teacher.  If I want Gavin to learn from his mistakes and mess ups, that means he has to see me learn from mine.  So, I chalk all my parental failures up to an awesome learning curve and go forward thanking God for his grace and patience in my life.  Because that's what I want to see him do.

Yesterday when he came home from school I told him, "Honey, I need to apologize to you."

"Why?"

"Because I have been disrespectful to you."

"How?"

"Remember when I told you that if you were going to act 5 years old I'd have to treat you like a 5 year old.  And then I started getting more rigid and putting more rules out there for you and taking away your privileges."

"Ya."

"Well.  That was wrong of me.  I should have done the exact opposite.  I should have given you more opportunities to show me you do know what you're doing.  I should have given you more chances to mess up and learn.  But instead, I got mad at you when you messed up and it didn't make learning very fun.  And I bet it made you want to do the opposite of what I was asking of you."

"It sure did."

"I'm sorry.  I've learned my lesson.  Now I promise to let you learn yours."

You would have thought I just told him, "Honey, I just deposited a million dollars in your bank account.  Feel free to use it as you wish."

I think I floored him that I actually understood what he was thinking and feeling.  I'm learning, slowly, but surely.  That makes two of us now (acutally 3 because Chuck is on this path with us).  We learn from our mistakes, move on, and show love to each other no matter what.  No more manipulating his choices with our disapproval or anger, no more nagging or reminding, no more trying to control him.

After all, that's not how God parents me.

I recently played this song for him and told him I hope he hears us encouraging him through these words as he grows into adulthood:


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