I was privileged enough to be asked by my daughter to take her and friends to Atlanta to see some obscure band play at the Mascarade. I say privileged because I think she and her friends are comfortable enough with me to be ok with me listening in on their conversations and they trust me to keep them safe. I know this is a privilege that teenager type people rarely bestow on adult type people.
I would argue that spending time with your teenage people is as important if not more so than spending time with your little people. This is when we can really begin laying the foundation for the adult relationships we hope to one day have. Now is when these almost adults are watching us and filing away those little decisions they see us make, marking them as future guidelines. Eek!
Working with this fabulous age of people for so long has made me hyper aware of this. I demanded respect of all in my classroom just as I do in my home, and I am always hyper aware that it should go both ways – I give the respect I expect. But I’m talking about more than this type of thing and more than the normal “I always put my grocery cart back” type decisions.
How do you handle the kid who is making poor decisions? How do you handle the kid with a gross attitude that makes you want to pinch their mouths closed and glue those lids before you watch that eyeball roll again? I believe that my reaction in these taxing situations speaks volumes to my kids.
When I respond to a terrible attitude with a calm warning – bringing attention to the behavior, having grace and assuming the kid was not aware they were being disrespectful shows my kids that I love and respect them – even if I’m not feeling the same from them. I take care NOT to reflect the attitude I’m receiving but reflect the one I expect. It is sometimes difficult. Assuredly. The second time the kid mouths off they get a second warning but with a future consequence attached and perhaps a bit more stern reminder on the expectation of respect as a way of living. If we get to the 3rd infraction- the consequence is exacted and there is no wiggle room to get around it. What I hope my kids learn from this type of example in conflict is that 1) respect is a foundation for good relationships 2) grace and benefit of the doubt should always be given to loved ones 3) you should always mean what you say and follow through.
I do not want my kids to fear bringing their troubles to me – I want them to understand that my love for them means I will see the best of them even when they are at their worst.
I want my kids to come to me if they are faced with something frightening, frustrating, heartbreaking, etc. and if they do not believe I will hear them and only reprimand and punish when they bring these things to me then they most likely will not confide in me. If they don’t confide in me, they must deal with whatever it is on their own, or with the guidance of other teen people, or an adult more trusted. And, as the mom, I want that coveted spot of “trusted adult” to be mine as often as it can be. Or, I at least want to be in the running. And I want to continue to be in the running well into their adult lives.
I am not naive enough to believe that my kids come to me with everything. I know they don’t. But, I do think that if they needed an adult they most likely would feel comfortable choosing me to confide in, ask advice of, and trust to hear and not judge them.
I am also not ridiculous enough to claim myself a perfect mom. I get it wrong alllllll the time. But I get it wrong out of love. That has to count for something.