From the moment your children are born you worry about what the world might do to them, but do we ever stop to think what we might do to them, that we as parents could be our own worst enemy.
So many parents have absorbed, like sponges, the misguided idea that the goal of parenting a teenager is for the teen to be happy. With that goal in mind, they become obligated to parent with a set of behaviors and practices that won't get them to their (misguided) goal:
See if this might sound familiar.
- “I know I’m your parent; but I also want to be your friend!”
- “I want to protect you and keep you safe, free from any scratches or dangers.”
- “If it makes you happy, then I want you to have that.”
- “I don’t like that you made that bad choice, but I’ll remove the consequences, because they would make you unhappy.”
- “You’re too young for responsibility. You can think about that stuff when you’re an adult. I’m sure you’ll magically become responsible at that point.”
- “What do you mean my child is at fault, (or doesn’t deserve an A, or didn’t make the team) that’s not fair.”
- Adolescence is extending faster than Pinocchio’s nose. Young adults don’t know how to take responsibility for themselves because they’ve never been given responsibility.
- Teenagers are increasingly being treated like children, and are not encouraged to give up childish behaviors for adult behaviors.
- Teenagers are no happier than they were a decade or two ago (prior to this absurd pendulum swing).
- Parents are not experiencing more satisfaction in their roles. In fact, more parents feel like failures than ever.
I believe the goal of parenting a teenager is independence. In other words, I’m more interested in raising adults than “raising kids.” Yes, we’re not ultimately made for independence; God made us in His own image, wired for interdependence. But the dependence children have on their parents needs to shift during and after the teen years, with young adults both moving into interdependence with other people and their parents.
My kids have to experience healthy independence from Anna and me, before they can choose interdependence with God and other.
I’d love for Alethea and Andrew to be happy (in case you thought I was suggesting the opposite), and I think they generally are happy. It’s just not the goal of my parenting, and it shouldn’t be yours, if you want to see your teenagers grow into healthy adults.