If you’re just joining us, we are reading the book Boundaries With Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No by Dr. John Townsend. We are talking about the first two chapters this week. If you would like to join us, the reading schedule is here, and you can download the book for Kindle through my affiliate link: Boundaries With Teens to get started right away. Come back every Monday from now through the end of July, as we cover 2 chapters per week and discuss them in the comments of each week’s post.
Every one of us, when we were teenagers, had our own ideas about what we would be like when we became parents. We wouldn’t say NO all the time, we’d give our kids later curfews, fewer rules, and we would be “just really cool parents”, unlike OUR parents.
Then I became a parent. Oh what a game changer that is! All that stuff we swore we’d never do, never say, and never try, we find ourselves DOING.
And how soon we forget what it was like. I have always tried really hard to remember what it was like for me, a troubled teen myself. If I can remember how certain things made ME feel, I’m less likely to repeat the mistakes of my parents–in theory anyway. But it never hurts to remember your teen years. This is what Dr. Townsend talks about in our reading today.
Remembering helps us empathize with our kids. Yes, even when they do dumb things. Or should I say especially when they do dumb things.
“Teens need parents who “get it”, who haven’t forgotten their own past but instead have grown from it.”
Let me ask you this: do you like your teen? I am talking about genuinely liking her… as her own unique person? She needs to know that. Some ways Dr. Townsend recommends showing her are: to listen more and lecture less; ask questions that require dialogue and more than 2 word answers; don’t pressure her to talk “right now”. Give her the time and space, with the expectation that you WILL talk, and then follow through with it.
Following through with plans to talk with your teen is one way Dr. Townsend says that you are a boundary for her. Do what you say you will do.
Are you known as the “easy mom”? In one illustration he talks about a mom he knew that was known among his kids and their friends as “the easy mom”, because she would drop everything and cater to what ever whim her kids had at the time. The example talked about her cancelling plans made ahead of time to drive her kids different places they decided on at the spur of the moment. This hit me pretty hard, because transportation is one area which I know that I had major struggles setting boundaries with my teens. And it’s hard.
It’s very hard to draw lines in tilled soil.
He talks about Four Key Capacities, and how they define the way we parent. This was a hard chapter for me to read because I see so clearly the areas where we have failed with our older kids. These four capacities set us up to be successful parents, or unsuccessful, depending on how we view things.
We parents need to define ourselves by our plans, our desires, and our goals rather than our kids’. By defining ourselves, we maintain separateness from our teens. Not distance or isolation, just separateness.
“Parents with separateness can stand apart from their kids’ demands, anger, and behavior and are able to respond appropriately without getting caught up in the drama.”
The other two keys are honesty and persistence. Let’s face it: most typical teens can smell a double standard, a shadow of a doubt, or a white lie a mile away. Your honesty in your everyday life will be reflected in your teen’s valuing that characteristic in himself and others.
Persistence is the ability to keep going even when you haven’t gotten what you want. Teenagers are the ultimate test of patience for us parents, because they are the most persistent people on earth! They’ll work at it until they wear you down. But this doesn’t have to happen. You are there to protect him from himself, whether or not he appreciates it!
“God made parents to be the guard rails on the twisting road of life. You need to be strong enough for kids to crash into over and over and over again. You must stay strong, so that your teens will learn to stay on track.”