Remember that funny little Louis Jordan song, "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens"?
I was thinking about it the other day when the line about "... it takes a lot of sitting, getting chicks to hatch" popped into my head and stayed there. Coming off a discussion with some moms about the challenges of raising pre-teen and teen-aged daughters, it seemed particularly appropriate.
A lot of times the best thing to do as a parent is...
Wow is that ever hard. We're trained to act, to do, to pre-empt, to save our kids from their own mistakes.
But sometimes, sitting on our hands, and biting our lips, is exactly what's needed.
Why do I say this?
First off, with pre-teens and teens who are seeking their own independent identities, and more control over their lives, our actions are seen by them as a power threat, as us trying to control them-- and regardless of how sensible it seems to us, it generally brings about rebellion. So you get friction which adds fuel to the fire and is usually totally unnecessary.
Worse, when we show and tell them exactly what they need to do-- or try to-- we are robbing them of the opportunity to learn for themselves. To learn that they have the resources to solve their own problems, that they can fix their own mistakes. And that we have inherent faith in their ability to do so. Giving them the exact prescription and demanding they follow it undermines their feeling of control and is hugely discouraging.
Usually our impulse to control comes from our feeling powerless in a given situation. But we need to remind ourselves who has ultimate authority. We do. We can let out the leash a bit without harming that authority. And don't we have the car keys? The back account? The final say? Don't be fooled into thinking you are browbeaten just because your teen is pouting or throwing a nasty tantrum. While it's not fun, you'll survive it. And so will the relationship if you refuse to get reeled into it.
So, the next time you find yourself in a tussle over who gets the last word, and who makes the final decision about something, think about sitting on your hands. Do nothing except outline your kid's choices and the consequences of each choice, good and bad. Yes, you can help by exploring alternatives with them, but give them the power to implement the decisions. Do it calmly and with reasonable choices. And then---let them live with it.
Those chicks are hatching regardless of what we do.