Personally I’ve never herded cats, but I’d like to think I could if called upon. The reason I feel I would be qualified to do this task is because I did raise (with the help and majority of work from my bride) teenagers. I remember thinking having teenagers in my home would be a breeze, because kids up to this point hadn’t really been too much of a challenge for us; of course there were the opportunities for discipline and both my wife and I to grow in patience, but we had really good kids who for the most part were just that…kids
Something happened one day when my oldest son had been thirteen for a few months; I’m not proud of it, but it changed the direction my parenting skills would go for the rest of my life. We were cleaning the house in preparation for a get together with friends; it was something the entire family was looking forward to, and as I passed Micah’s room I heard some awful music playing. Turning to see what he was listening to, it turned out to be some type of screaming style of something people refer to as music but to me was crap and I said as much.
Not to bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say Micah and I had our first knock down drag out fight that day. There was a lot of screaming and yelling and even a little cussing on my part. Yeah, great Christian father there right, but don’t judge me too harshly, I’m sure you’ve done the same (or worse) and yes I did fix it with my son later asking him to forgive me for losing my cool with him.
What this taught me was the importance of walking in patience and learning how to choose which battles to fight; because if you were unaware of this, not all of the things you dislike about your teenager are things you need to discipline and change. Sometimes they need the opportunity to learn about these things for themselves, so back off and let them grow into the adults they are going to become.
Most parents of teens I see have a hard time letting go of their parental expectations. What I mean by this is when your kids were tiny, they looked to you to make decisions for them; what to wear, what to eat, etc. But as they hit the years when their hormones start to rage they are going through so much inside they don’t need you pushing them from the outside. Of course there are things which are non-negotiable; respect for others, authority and themselves, the basics. But something which always helped me was a quote from Princess Leia in Star Wars when she was a prisoner on the Death Star,
“The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”
Mom and dad, the tighter you try to grip your teenagers world, the more they will slip away from you. I know it’s hard to admit, but you’ve got to give them a little bit of freedom. I’m not talking about letting them experience things which will hurt them like partying, having premarital sex and things like this, but give them the opportunity to experience freedom for themselves a little bit.
One of the things which happens when you hold on too tightly is when they do find a little freedom they go buck wild and end up hurting themselves. I know you want what is best for your child, but doing everything for them or sheltering them from everything doesn’t help them, it causes them to be bratty or unable to interact with other people well. They become unproductive citizens or just selfish.
One of the keys to herding cats is backing off and motivating them in the direction you want them to go; not by pushing but guiding. It’s up to you mom and dad to be a guiding influence in your teens life now, not the dictator who makes them tow the line and be like you. Just like cats, teens don’t respond well to this either.