I am a mother of two teenagers. My boy turns sixteen in less than a month and my girl is in the first half of her fourteenth year. This fact does not make me an expert, however it does qualify me as a mother of our current generation of teens.
While my teens disagree with non-family adults at times, they are quick to apologize if they should act in a rude manner. What I mean by this is that they speak their minds, defend their beliefs and apologize later even if they were in the right. They are good kids, they show respect for me and my husband. They argue with us, as I believe they should because each argument leads to a lesson taught and learned. They have said they are sorry for their attitudes more times than I can count and so have I (just not as often). They have learned to respect people who deserve respect and have tolerance for those who do not.
I have the testimonials of others to confirm what I know from experience – I have good kids. However, my kids didn’t get this way by chance and I didn’t win some good child lottery. I worked diligently every day. I went to bed praying every night to have better skills to teach my kids with, and forgiveness for my own shortcomings as well as theirs. Too many days I yelled, too many times I became distracted, too often I waited longer than I should to give hugs and kisses. I didn’t read to them enough, I didn’t play with them enough, but I did listen, observe and act. I was in their lives, their faces and their business. I still am. I sacrifice for them. I give them all the tools they could possibly need to succeed. I drive them crazy with lectures, discussions and evaluations. I am their mom, their confidant, their counselor and maybe just a tiny bit their friend.
It has not been, nor is it my goal to be their friend, but somehow, they like me. Go figure, they like the grumpy, annoying, and nearly always right teacher, their mom.
So how have I managed this miracle? Am I a Tiger Mom, or a French Mom or a Soccer Mom? I am none of these things. My success comes from spending endless hours talking to my kids, analyzing what they need, and acting. In essence I parent them.
In 2004, Bill Cosby gave a speech in which he said, “We are not parenting.” He also says that all the children “[know] is ‘gimme, gimme, gimme.’ These people [the parents] want to buy the friendship of a child….and the child couldn’t care less.” He was talking to a very specific audience, an audience bigger than the one in the lecture hall that day. His comments, which I advise all to read or watch, were directed to the lower and middle class black community of the United States, and he started a firestorm of fury.
However, I would like to direct his words to all of the middle and upper class of this nation, maybe even to the world. I hear so much about the problem of youth entitlement, and how this is a “give me” generation, but where are their parents and grandparents in this debate? Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that the idiocy of the youth must be addressed, just as I have addressed my own children’s idiocy. I have also addressed their grandparent’s idiocy of excess. Excess money and toys do not make a child feel loved; only time and attention can generate that emotion. Money and toys are easier to give and are a balm to the grandparent’s consciences when distance or busy lives keep them away from their posterity. The child, old or young will not remember the money or toys when grandparents are gone, they will remember the games, stories and most of all the smiles and hugs that they shared with their “gramps and nanna”.
If it holds true that time and attention generate love, fondness and respect, then this recipe should work for parents as well as grandparents.
Often I have been told by working moms that they wish they could homeschool their kids as I do. My answer has always been that they should use the hours of the evenings and weekends to work with their children. Now, I don’t mean by heaping on more school subjects or doing endless housework (although working alongside your child is encouraged). I mean that moms (and dads) should find a common interest or intrigue and pursue it together. Yes, the zoo is fine or the museum, but unless you have a young biologist or artist in your home, try to find something else; something that you have to learn right alongside them, something new. It is amazing how much more open kids will be with you when the playing field has been evened. Of course, word of warning, just like when teaching a child the game of chess you must help them win sometimes, while learning new skills and hobbies you should not outshine your child too much, let them compete with friends not parents for the blue ribbon.
When I hear adults complain about the “entitled youth”, I wonder about the parents and grandparents. I wonder about the neighbor lady who is grandchildless, and the older gentleman whose children live far away. How are they helping this generation? I don’t think that the youth are the problem of today, I believe they are the byproduct of the problem. Parents not parenting. Grandparents spoiling rather than interacting. Adults with kids grown, not volunteering in youth groups. Society blaming the lost and not those who lost them. Yes there will be some youth who will rebel or get lost regardless of the attention they recieve, but the effort should be made while there is still time left to make it.
I was brought up by a community of family and close neighbors. When I had my children, I was not fortunate to have family nearby, so I found “family”. I found aunts and uncles, grannies and grandpas, and even a few older cousins. When someone moved away, I found a replacement. I ensured that my children had a community of caring people in their lives. I did this while I still worked full time and maintained it afterwards. When my son faced a devastating internal struggle and his parent’s counsel did not help, we brought him to a loving “uncle” who spent time with him, listened to him and was always available, despite his own busy life as a father, husband and provider. When my daughter struggled with self-doubt and low self-esteem, I found a bunch of “aunts” and “grandmas” who took her under their wing and nurtured her.
You will notice the word “I” was used quite often. These are my kids and therefore I am accountable for them in their youth.
So what is the secret of my success, I spend time with my kids and I don’t do it alone – I don’t try to do it alone either.
(Just a note to the dads out their – all that I have stated, my husband agrees with, as parenting truly is a group effort.)