I didn’t see it coming … the point in time when I would start sounding like my parents. A day when I would say things like, “You have so much potential, but are not living up to it.” or “If you just applied yourself more you would see much better results.” or even “You can do better than that.” This coming from someone whose high school marks were not spectacular, and who did not live up to her academic potential in high school. So in fairness it was true when my parents said it, and it is true now in the case of my kids. I am telling you this parenting teens is hard work.
As parents it is our job to help teach our kids life skills like organization, time management, and to develop what I like to call grit. I keep waiting to see the grit. Show me the grit! We want the best for our kids, and success in their lives. We want our kids to show signs of character and intellectual growth. We want to see the grit, some stick to it-ness and tenacity. The problem for me is these things are never black and white. Mixed in with my teaching responsibilities, are a mash of other emotions, and influences like worry, my own failures and successes, a preconceived notion of what defines success, and how my kids should attain that success, all from a distinctly adult perspective. My husband and I have a plan for how our kids should progress from child to adult, and we would really appreciate it if they would stick to the plan, ideally on our schedule.
I am the mother of two very bright teens, who are definitely not living up to their full academic potential. I see their cousins, who are self starters, and excelling at sports, and school, and I wonder, what makes them different from my kids? What have I done wrong? On paper they have been raised in similar circumstances, so what makes the results so different? Why are some kids so self motivated to do well, and give an honest effort to everything they do? Why do some kids have grit?
This is something my husband and I struggle with every day. We know that education is very important, and our children’s ability to find meaningful work, have options in life, and support themselves depends on it. This had became such a concern and stressor for us that it started to impact our relationship. After what seems years of worry we just decided that our kids needed to want it more than we did. My kids needed to decide if they wanted to succeed, and what that meant to them. Don’t get me wrong, all the tools and resources are made available to them, but I will not pay for a tutor as a homework babysitter. I will not chase them to get their homework done anymore, and I will not pay $20,000 a year per kid for a university education they are not willing to work for.
The day we decided it was their responsibility, and not ours, we became much happier people. I think in the long run the same is true for our kids, since they now own their successes, and their failures. I still struggle with not telling them what to do, rather than guiding them and pointing out consequences to a decision, action or lack of action. There are always consequences to decisions and actions, some are good and some not so much, and my kids need to learn that.
I hope for my kids all the successes and life experiences that will make them happy and a good people. I hope that they love themselves, and find someone to love. I hope the careers paths they choose are ones that provide them with satisfaction and meaning, as well as enough income to support themselves. In the long run it is for them to decide what their life’s five W’s + H are: what, when, why, where, who, and how. And like my parents before me I “hope you have kids just like you” followed years later by a “Sorry I was only kidding” Tee Hee nice one Mom!
No doubt about it parenting teens is hard work. Anyone else in search of their teens oh so elusive grit?