What I’ve Learned about Parenting Teenagers Might Offend You

Part of parenting is giving these humans enough space to let them be their own people. It’s a delicate balance of guiding them, equipping them, teaching them social graces, and setting them free. I’ve always felt like it was an honor to be the one to guide these lives but I’ve never felt like I owned them. I’m still very much responsible for holding a position of authority in their life but I also respect their autonomy and personhood. This parenting philosophy has allowed me to learn as much from them during this time as they do from me.

Another of our children crossed over into “teenhood” this month. Thirteen always seems like a monumental year in the life of any child. Lots of parental commentary during the teen years will equate to telling you :”Parenting Teenagers Is the WORST”. I call B.S.

B.S. because unfortunately, Parents, it’s not them. It’s you.

I can say this with confidence because I have been the problem in the past. We’ve gone through the teen years with two children ( 1 boy, 1 girl) already and two more ( 1 boy, 1 girl) to go. I’ll be the first to admit we made mistakes during the first go around, plenty of them if we are being honest. Nobody really knows what to do with the first one, amiright??? We made fewer mistakes during the second attempt and our hopes are high for three and four that we continue to improve. This is not to say that we’ve mastered this teen parenting thing by any means. No, each teenager is their own unique enigma that you will have to figure out the key for.

Each child, and parent, will present their own set of strengths and strongholds. It’s kinda like the freakin’ hunger games, actually. Here’s the thing, teenagers aren’t actually awful. Teenagers are just trying to figure out life, just like you. They are being put into all new situations that they’ve never encountered before. The world is telling them to “grow up” and behave maturely. It’s throwing vocabulary and scenarios in front of them at a rapid pace, none of which they have been trained for, in fact most have been sheltered from any of this in their previous years. P.S. YOU did that.  I know it was in an effort to keep them safe of but you can’t expect them to just magically excel at something they haven’t been trained for.

Their physical bodies are growing like adults but they aren’t adults. Yet when they act like adults they are reminded that they are children, and when they act like children they face consequences for acting as such. Parents, WE are the ones getting it wrong.

Instead of frustration and disappointment, offer grace and patience. Over the next few years you and your children are going to make some mistakes. You might make a lot of them. It’s OK. Allow yourselves the grace to fail. You are all going to be OK. Fewer people are judging you than you think. The parents that have done this before know what you are going through. They are not judging you.  Honestly, anybody participating in parental judging is a jerk. Don’t be a jerk. Parenting is a tough gig no matter what stage you are in.

Toddler to Teenager

Good News! Do you remember the extreme amount of patience that the toddler stage required? THAT was your parental training for now. I tell you this not to worry you but to encourage you. You have already trained for this. You are going to experience some of that craziness again but you are both going to do better this time. Here’s why… Remember when your toddler was throwing a fit, screaming, crying, over who knows what insignificant thing back then? Remember that when they behaved irrationally and you knew it was because they were just hungry/tired/needed your sole attention? (pay attention here.) IT’S THE SAME THING NOW! Their behavior isn’t personal. So much of what’s wrong can be solved with good nutrition, a nap, and knowing that they can have your attention when they need it.

Parenting teenagers is a lot like parenting toddlers

You may not be changing diapers anymore but those same basic toddler issues are the root of a good deal of what is upsetting your teen as well. This is not the time to overlook those things.  Now, I do not approve of the hover-parent lifestyle. You’ve done that. We’ve all done that to one extent or another. Give them the space to put in motion what knowledge you’ve already given them. You tell them you trust them, prove it.  Equip your child to take ownership over their own sleep, nutrition, and attention needs. This may seem simple but it’s not. Teach them about the needed amount of protein in the body, why sugar causes emotional crashes, and how water can literally refresh their mind. Do it in a way that isn’t patronizing. Don’t be manipulating but allow it to be “their idea”. They want to make good choices but they are in the “I do it myself” stage again. Make it easy for them to grab high protein bars, nuts, fruits, healthy fats, or shakes instead of sugar to refuel. If they are going to be successful adults they are going to have to make these choices themselves.

Everyone needs a nap sometimes. Even you parents. If you feel like you might lash out, take a quick 10 min rest time before responding. Things will look different after you’ve slept.

Be the example of not being ruled by your emotions. I was terrified when I had daughters that they would be girls that made decisions led by how they felt. For the record, that’s a behavior that is not exclusive to one gender. This season of parenting is going to be scary. You both are going to be a little apprehensive about what happens next, day to day, minute to minute. Don’t make fear based rules for your children. Make smart ones. Trust your intuition.

Do not forsake a future relationship with your adult children for fear based rules today.

Be available for them. No matter how much you may think they don’t want you around ( they might even say it) they need you around. They need you more than ever. They need your approval, your reassurance and your unconditional love. They don’t need you because they aren’t capable, they need you as a safe space in the world. Every day they are encountering literally hundreds of people at their school just like them trying to figure out who they are. By pure percentages, they are sure to encounter people who have behaved poorly to them that day. They have to figure out how to respond. Some days they’ll get it right. Some days they’ll get it terribly wrong. All of that weighs on their mind and emotions.  Wait until they come to you to offer advice. When they come to you to talk, ask them if they just need a listening ear or if they want advice. Most often they don’t need you to fix it, they just need to get it out of their head and when they hear it all said out loud they have the solution.

Last piece of advice, over the next few years when these teens seems to have lost their minds, try to see back to the sweet tiny person you knew a decade or so ago and handle this person with the same amount of love and patience. Don’t scream back. Don’t allow these actions to determine your reaction or rattle your emotions. Just know that you are the perfect parent for this human in front of you and they are the perfect human for you.

You are both doing a great job and It really is going to be okay.

If I Knew Then, What I Know Now

Graduations, growing up, moving on…. lots of changes in the Chase household lately.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what bits of wisdom I still want to share as our “big kids” get ready to go off to college. No one tells you about this part of parenting. It’s a bittersweet, emotional time to say the least. It feels like the last grains of sand slipping through the hourglass from childhood to adulthood.  In some ways, it feels like a race against time to give the best and most useful advice. In other ways, it feels like just moments ago it was me in their place, equally full of questions and confidence.

(For the record-18 year old me hates that I’m posting this picture. Pretty certain that was prom hair.)

18 year old me hates that I'm posting this picture.

I think we all have those moments of ” If I knew then, what I know now “. If only. So many things I would do differently. So many things that I’m grateful I took a risk and did anyway. I’m still not exactly sure what advice I want to give as the birds leave the nest. Sometimes we just aren’t ready. Sometimes life takes your breath and your words away.

I’m glad I have so many great people I can rely on in times like this. I believe we can learn a lot from one another, our victories and our challenges. So I reached out to several others in my circles and asked them what advice they would give to their 18 year old self. It’s pretty great advice whether you are 18 or beyond.

If I Knew Then, What I Know Now

  • Work hard, but it’s ok not to have it all figured out. Be patient with yourself and others. Heartbreak hurts… Love is still worth the risk.
  • Give all your problems 3 days before you act on any of them . Three days later, your problems, perspective, and priorities are likely to change.
  • Everything that you are going through will be worth it. That time in your life that you’re going to go through where you were so sad, where things were dark, where nothing made sense, when you had no direction: I promise it’ll all be worth it. Don’t try to force yourself to be someone you’re not, don’t hide behind your smile, give yourself full permission to hurt, be angry, be sad, embrace all of your feelings! You’ll want to try to get people to love you, feel like you have to earn love from people to prove that you are worthy: girl you are soooo worthy, but most importantly of all you are worthy of your own love! My last piece of advice: have fun, travel, don’t worry about what you are “suppose” to do, do what inspires your soul, what drives you to become better, do what your passion tells you to do.
  • Sleep around more. I stuck with some guys out of misguided “sex =love” guilt for way too long in really damaging relationships. I think if I’d had more experience I could have been able to tell the difference between love and a good time.
  • Study abroad at least one semester or summer during college! There’s not another time in your life when you can do something like that so easily! See the world!!
  • Life can be incredibly short. Love more. Forgive quicker. Take more pictures WITH your mom. Make memories! Having lost my mom unexpectedly, it changed my world forever.
  • Don’t compromise your potential future for what is in front of you. And to value the losses as much as the wins because there are lessons within them.
  • Run after God! Find your identity in Him and not in guys. Stop being stupid and go from guy to guy. Finding out who you are by yourself won’t kill you.
  • Always believe your dreams are attainable and worth pursuing.
  • Be yourself. If that doesn’t fit someone else’s definition, that’s ok. Move on. There is someone perfect for you. Don’t settle. And that includes friends, communities, and careers. Stay true to yourself. Be open to what the universe has for you. And you’ll find yourself in an amazing place.
  • If someone doesn’t love you for who you are, the only change you should make in your life is to let them go. Make room for the people who will love you like you deserve. You are enough!
  • It’s never as bad as it seems, and things always get better.
  • Love yourself and love yourself hard, girl. Learn the lessons. Be good to others. Don’t be so angry. Smile. Laugh. Enjoy life. Travel. Eat. Repeat.
  • Don’t let others dictate your future! Dream big and seek it out, no matter what others say. I had big dreams, but they were crushed and now I’m finally following them! Oh, and don’t go for the bad boy, LOL!
  • Save a portion of each paycheck, enjoy each day, and be kind to others!
  • Don’t hold on to relationships because you feel you have to. People should earn entry into your heart and if they don’t it’s their loss.
  • If you only knew how “not fat” you really were! Enjoy life. Be free. Have fun. Travel as much as you can! Stop caring about what everyone thinks. Learn to love you and be comfortable being alone. Remember your morals. Try lots of new things. Take lots of pictures. Write it all down in a journal.
  • Do NOT sign up for all those credit cards at the booths all over campus! No matter what they’re giving away! Learn to use cash and budget with what you have.
  • Wait at least 5 years to get married. 18 is the next step in a big life- enjoy it, your friends, your family. Right now is the time to live it up!
  • Go to summer school, finish whatever education you want before you have children. Take a big trip somewhere.
  • Experience life. Take chances. Do what makes YOU happy, not what you think others expect you to do. Simple as that.I lived many, many years (even into adulthood) pleasing people and wondering why things never worked out for ME…the answer is because I was too busy doing what everyone else thought I should be doing that I didn’t allow myself to grow, experience, learn, create my being.
  • When I was 18, I met my husband. It was terrible timing but it worked out since today is our 19th anniversary. So my advice to my 18 yo self would be “trust yourself”. Also I would steer myself away from paying for college classes on reading Mayan writing, calendaring, and mesoAmerican anthropology and into accounting classes because: job prospects
  • Choose your friends wisely. You should put more thought and care into that decision your first semester of college than any other decision you make.
  • Put God first…always and everything else will fall into place. Focus on having “experiences” and creating memories in your relationships not collecting “stuff”. Don’t sweat the small stuff and always find joy in everything you do!!
  • Take your time and slow down, just because you’re 18 doesn’t mean you know it all and it doesn’t mean you’re completely independent. Stay in the faith and follow Jesus. Don’t let boys become a distraction, and stop being a people pleaser. Focus on the good and ignore the bad, and a bad choice doesn’t define you, we all make them.
  • Don’t let other people influence your decisions. Go with your gut! It’s usually ALWAYS right.
  • Don’t open those credit cards! Also, stop trying so hard to make everyone like you. Eventually you’ll find your people.
  • All the things that seem to “ruin your life” don’t really matter. What matters are friends that truly care about you. Not about their image. That’s true throughout life.
  • Take your time, don’t rush. Don’t settle, you are worth so much and can conquer the world if you set your mind to it. And, always, always trust your instincts!
  • Seek out a mentor or two in the areas of work that interest you. Ask questions of successful people in those areas, such as “What can I expect from a career in this field?” and “What skills do I need to develop to be successful doing this?” If you start your adult life asking “Who can I help today?” you will never run out of opportunities to be of service. And it turns out that being of service is really what this life is all about. No one is ever on their death-bed wishing they had achieved less or touched fewer lives.
  • Respect yo’ self.

What advice would you add?