Monastic Mom

Expect Independence

My high school daughter's school sends a bulletin home on parenting tips every quarter. My daughter cracked up at one newsletter which states the number one tip in dealing with teens — expect conflict. It tells how you'll be taken off guard if you don't expect conflict from your teen, so expect it. My daughter and I concur that if you expect conflict, that's exactly what you are going to get. Which is not to say that you won't get conflict if you're not expecting it — you may. But, understand that conflict is only a symptom.

What is behind conflict between parents and teens? Quite often the conflict is the result of the parent expecting the teen to still be dependent and the teen is striving for independence. Expect independence. Grant independence.

Allow teen independence particularly in activities at home. Don't dictate whether or not their room is clean, or how many hours they spend on the computer or playing video games. Educate in a lighthearted manner about the possible negative effects of their behavior. "Gosh, how am I going to rescue you in the event of fire when I can't find a free path through your room" or "Wow, I'd have a headache, too, if I played video games for three straight hours." If home is not a battlefield, they won't mind spending time at home.

Outside the home, allow independence but have rules. Keep rules to a minimum and every rule should have a good reason. Give the reasons as well as the rules. Lead by example; follow your own rules. If you don't want your teen to drink and drive, then don't drink and drive yourself.

If you've done your job as a parent, you've already instilled the values that your teen will need to make smart choices. If you've led your life as a good example, then your child will follow. Expect independence. Enjoy your teen's independence.

June 7, 2005

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