My Child is not doing what is best for their future!
Often when parents come to me with a troubled teen there are a lot of built-up resentments and fears. The parents have usually tried everything to get their teen on the right track and they have had countless arguments and lectures trying to reason with the “not fully developed” teen brain. By the time the parents sit in front of me, they have usually tried every punishment and reward that they could think of. The parents are usually afraid for the teen’s future and resentful that the teen seems to not care or even notice how hard the parent has worked to give them everything and to set them up so that they can have a happy life.
In many cases, the teen is struggling in school, making bad choices, and/or hanging out with others who are not considered good influences. The teens will often seem to ignore the bad choices and all the chances the parents have given by flipping the narrative to “whatever I do I can’t please you”. In talking to the parents, I do my best to help them get focused on the relationship first and let go of the things that they cannot control. This is a hard shift in thinking to make. As parents, you naturally don’t want to miss a parenting opportunity and you feel like you cannot let your troubled child get away with anything. Putting the relationship first is a spirit and an attitude that helps in the long run. It might mean that your children get away with something without getting lectured a time or two, but it will not lead to you having less influence over your children in the long run.
One of the areas that parents get stuck is grades and school. School is important, however, time and time again I discuss with parents that for all their arguments and punishments they don’t feel they have made a dent in persuading their teen to try harder or do better in school. Often their failed attempts to set their children straight through traditional parenting wisdom have resulted in exhausted parents, fractured parent-child relationships, strain on marriages, a lot of wasted miserable angry moments, and worse performance in school.
I propose that in this situation parents take a step back, let go of everything that is not working (even if it should be working), and get focused on repairing the relationship on their end first.
With many parents the conversation goes something like this at first:
“Brandon, I understand everything you are saying, and it makes sense. I do need to lay off and not focus so much on everything they are doing wrong.”
Then I wait for a moment…
“But if he/she would just wake up on time and do just a little bit of their homework, I wouldn’t get so angry, and I could lay off. We are not even asking for very much from them”.
Parents have a hard tie wrapping their heads around not focusing on the issues at hand with their children. That is one of the reasons I developed the “90/10” rule at Inspired Resolutions. This rule says that parents spend 90% of their time engaged with their children doing and talking about fun and surface-type things and only 10% of their time engaged in parenting-type things.
Often parents will report to me that their children are more focused on something other than school and the things they should be focused on. Some of the recent common examples have been skating, surfing, video games, technology, working on cars, and selling things like shoes online. Now I agree that your children should be focused on school and some of the other things that traditionally set them up for success in the future, but how many times are you going to nag and remind them of this point? While it may go against traditional parenting wisdom and it may even feel like you are almost enabling or supporting the thing you believe they are doing wrong, I challenge you to not only show interest in their alternate focuses but also acknowledge their successes and passions for these alternate focuses. Your parent brain will tell you not to do this and that this is somehow you are enabling or giving permission for the behavior or lack of that you are bothered by. This shift will make it more likely that you build and heal the relationship and that you become someone they are influenced by. It is hard but it is important to on the one hand not enable and acknowledge that there is an issue while on the other hand being in the relationship in a way that you can acknowledge other parts of their life.