As a parent, it’s often hard to know what’s important and what isn’t. Does it matter if your child eats their chips with their fingers at the dinner table? Or is it more important that they can sit and have a pleasant conversation with you while they are eating them? Should you push them to keep playing the cello when they want to give it up? Or allow them to make their own choices about how to spend their time? What’s the best balance between structured activities (classes and sports) and unstructured downtime? And does any of it really matter as long as you love them and give them your attention?
Feeling a bit bewildered by so many judgement calls (and in a bid to silence my inner doubting voice) this Mothers’ Day I decided to get back to basics and ask an expert. I’m not sure I agree with everything this particular parenting expert said, and I suspect (just like a real expert with a book to sell) he had a not-so-hidden personal agenda. But it certainly made me stop and think. I’d anticipated lots of fluffy stuff about kindness and cuddles (it was Mothers’ Day after all!) but what I actually got was an insight into the teenage mind and how it feels to be a teenager being ‘parented’.
So, here is my teenage son’s ten-point recipe for how to be a good mother to a teenager:
- Support your child’s sports and hobbies.
- Help your child when they need it.
- Supply good food and lots of it.
- Understand your child’s needs.
- Know what is fashionable and allow your child to have things that won’t single them out.
- Don’t act like you love one child more than another.
- Allow them to spend time with their friends.
- Don’t be over-protective.
- Don’t constantly check up on your child, trust them.
- Form an opinion of what is best for your child but don’t force it on them.
In essence, when you boil down this manifesto for independence, my job as the mother of a teenager is to provide food (constantly), to help and support him (when requested), to recognise his need to grow up, and to facilitate his social life. It doesn’t sound quite so complicated when you look at it like that!
For a bit more detail see the Beginner’s Guide to Parenting Teenagers!
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