As parents, we are first leaders, trainers, advice givers, and boundary enforcers. However, I also want to focus on the profound impact that our relationship, not just our leadership, can have on our children.
We have the incredible responsibility to teach our kids what we believe they will need to know as they grow up. This role will not always be fully appreciated by our kids, especially in the moment. I believe that as we consider our authority over our kids, we have to think about our attitude. If we approach authority from a mindset that we are infallible, our kids are certain to recognize our hypocrisy. They will come to resent our leadership style because we have missed attuning with their heart. When we lead from a heart of appreciation for their efforts and encourage continued maturity in a calm and matter-of-fact way, our kids can more easily understand that our authority is steeped in love.
As our kids mature, we can offer more trust and autonomy, with less direct oversight. When trust is broken, boundaries need to be established. We use our authority to correct and encourage. As trust is rebuilt, we can give back their autonomy.
Apologies and Forgiveness:
We don’t need to apologize for being an authority figure. However, when we abuse our authority by punishing our kids out of anger and hostility, we need to consider what this does to our kids. Every child longs for their parent’s approval. When our anger gets the best of us, we damage the relationship and teach our children that they can do no right. For a lot of kids, this turns their heart bitter and rebellious.
Our humility is powerful. When we recognize that we lose our stuff, admit to our kids that we were wrong, and ask for forgiveness, we have the opportunity to teach some valuable lessons. For one, this gives our children the confidence to know that mistakes are normal and acceptable. We also are modeling important social skills for repairing relationships that they will need. Additionally, we create an opportunity for them to know that we have considered them and value the relationship. Please note that I am not saying to go back on established consequences or let our kids off the hook. I am only recommending taking responsibility for our own behavior.
Being a Confidante:
We have the incredible opportunity to connect with our kids’ hearts through our parenting role. I am talking about developing a relationship that goes beyond friendship. It is never too early or late to open up lines of communication about tough subjects. In our family, we try to provide an environment where our kids know that they can come to us about anything, and we will still love them.
We establish this openness by striving to understand our kids’ thoughts and feelings, offering validation and sound instruction as needed. It is easier said than done, but we strive to eliminate shame and condescension from our approach, even when our kids are wrong.
A Note to Parents of Teens:
I have worked with teenagers in a counseling setting for well over a decade, and I have consistently realized these truths:
As teenagers grow, they want more autonomy. This may look like they are pulling away. It does not actually mean that they no longer need your feedback or your relationship. Quite the contrary! If you feel like you are losing your teenager, continue to pursue them. Provide opportunities for intellectual conversation and find out about the topics that are important to them. Share your concerns and offer feedback when necessary. Assure them of your love and acceptance. Your relationship with them in this stage of parenting will influence adult relationships they have in the future.
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