WHAT ARE THEY TRYING TO PROVE?
Teenagers are trying to prove
that they don’t need anyone.
If you get in the way of this natural process,
you will face big trouble.
If you convince them that they do need you,
they may never grow up and never experience success.
If you abandon them emotionally,
they may not even survive.
Parents who can’t let go of their teens
either find that they argue with them constantly
or that their teens are extremely well-behaved.
Of these two, the constant arguing is by far the best outcome.
Teens who are extremely well-behaved
and have parents who won’t let go
have given up on growing up.
They will either try to
stay dependent on you all their lives,
or they will always be
searching for someone else
to run their lives for them.
Unhealthy families tend to say: “It’s my way or the road.”
When their teens express their needs, they are ignored.
So, since the teen world is sometimes a very scary world,
these teens get their needs met someplace else.
If they are lucky,
they find a good replacement for their abandoning parents.
If they are unlucky,
they find other frightened teens and form dangerous coalitions.
THE LOOSE ROPE
The solution is to imagine an extremely loose rope
tied between your waist and your teen’s waist.
Most of the time neither of you even notices the rope.
But once in a while you will feel a tug,
when the teen says “I need you right now.”
That’s when you can become active in their lives,
with advice and love.
When they get what they need,
they will pull away again.
The teen years are filled with experiments.
When a healthy teen tries something and makes a mistake,
you don’t have to ask: “What did you learn?”
They will tell you on their own
(for your confirmation of their good judgment).
WHAT IF THEY NEVER TUG?
It is true that parents
sometimes need to intervene in their teenager’s lives
even when they haven’t been invited.
But the only times that we should intervene without an invitation
are when there are questions of physical safety involved.
(Even teenagers can tell that you care
if your only motivation is to keep them safe!)
TEENS AND RELATIONSHIPS
As your teenager tries to be completely independent,
they will learn that the one thing they can’t completely take care of on their own
is their need for touch.
Out of this need, they will form extremely stormy relationships
in which they cuddle and perhaps have sex
while all the while denying that they need each other at all.
Parents need to stay out of teen relationships as much as possible.
They are probably right when they say
“we just don’t understand.”
If you have announced your values about sex clearly,
you have done all you can possibly do.
If the early childhood years went well,
and if your teenager can see that you follow your own values
and that they serve you well,
your words will be engraved in their minds
when they need to hear them.
If not, they will have to learn through their experiments.
WHAT DO PARENTS GET OUT OF THESE YEARS?
Aside from getting the lawn mowed and the garage cleaned
after a lot of nagging,
These years are for them.
If things went well, we had about thirteen years of enjoyment
while we watched them grow…
and we can look forward to many more years
of their friendship, love, and respect after they become adults.
But these teen years are for them.
Spend these years preparing for new stages in your own life.
Spend lots of time with your friends.
Dive into your hobbies.
Enjoy your relationship with your spouse.
(It will be much easier now,
because healthy teens tend to be away from home a lot.)