I have two teenagers – the girl and the boy. They are a year and two weeks apart (that’s another blog for another day), and I love them. No – that is not sarcasm. I am writing that after spending the past nine consecutive days with the huz and them – traveling to grandparents’ houses for Christmas doings, playing board games like nobody’s business (see many posts in the past few weeks for some of the best), and many hours of conversation as well as a few hours of watching TV shows.
Today we all return to our regularly scheduled lives, and I think that we will miss the hours and hours that we have become quite accustomed to spending together. I am pretty sure that around 10 a.m. today, I will think to myself that I would rather be playing Smallworld (which, by the way, I won the game yesterday!!!) than doing whatever 10 a.m. will bring. Tonight the huz and I have meetings, but the kids will hang out together prepping for a school project that the girl needs to finish.
As a teacher of secondary students, I dreaded what my children may grow into as teenagers. We have all heard of the terrible teens as well as the terrible twos. The teen years of rebellion were not ones that I wanted to come quickly. When we were in Scotland and the kids were little, I taught a class of thirteen boys who all had an emotional/behavior disorder label. Although I enjoyed teaching the class, I was quite glad to board my own bus at the end of the day while they boarded theirs. I read books, I talked with parents of older children, and the huz and I prayed.
After collecting the knowledge from every which way possible, we decided to leave behind the future worries and focus on the parenting of the day. We had high expectations. At the boy’s three year old check-up, our pediatrician had told us to engage the children in chores. We moved the plates, bowls, and non-dangerous silverware within their reach, and they were happy helpers with the unloading of the dishwasher. We left behind our cares of how the towels were folded and if the underwear was folded at all so that they could have a part in the laundry. Nearly everything we did included the children even if that meant that it took a while longer than it would without them. This has all paid off. As the snow fell on Saturday evening, the kids went out to shovel with barely any prodding from us. When we have people over for dinner, the kids put in a great deal of work alongside of the huz as he cooks and then afterwords typically clean up.
They are great kids.
As I cleaned out a drawer the other day, I found this note and asked the girl if she would allow me to use it in a blog post. The huz and I are pretty sure that she wrote it when we were in Scotland, and I was teaching the boys who needed more than me to guide them. That was ten years ago – far before the girl had any idea what a teenager even was let alone exactly what the behavior that the term itself implied.
The good news is that the girl has never said this to me…and neither has the boy!
There is a secret to having good teenagers – have good toddlers and have good elementary kids. Their behavior rarely changes much; it is simply amplified. What guidance they needed when they were young they continue to need today. What they did well without much help is what they continue to do well today. Some undesirable behaviors have gone away, but that is only because we have targeted those behaviors, discussed them, and disciplined them. Good teenagers are not born – they are parented.
I do want to mention this: some kids become more difficult during these years. Good parenting is not always a formula for easy years. In fact, there is a good likelihood that some years will be very difficult. In the same way, bad parenting might produce an odd good kid. We have all see examples of both of these. These are the exception to any rule, however, and I for one do not want to leave anything to chance by giving up my parenting too early. This is what I am here to do right now. My children are on loan to me right now, and there is an expectation that I raise them to the best of their abilities so that they can become revolutionary young people.
In over ten years in education, I have seen some great kids come across my path, and I have seen some real losers. I know that sounds mean, but let’s face it – they are. Our society needs more great kids so that we can continue to have a great society. Parenting is hard work, and fewer parents seem up to the task or willing to do it. This needs to change. Our country will not be able to sustain itself if we have more losers than we do greatness. I do not have the answer to this overwhelming problem because irresponsible kids are becoming parents, being poor parents, and raising lazy kids. The cycle needs to stop.
The question is how? The question is when? The question is who?