Show me the grit! Parenting teens is hard work.

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?

Comments (12)

  • Wow ..great read and you summed up what I’ve been living with lately…
    I agree why is it so e of my sons friends are do gooders and strive to be great at whatever they do and my son has the i don’t give a crap attitude ….
    I have made up my mind to let him figure it out…I will be there to guide him but he needs to learn that actions have consequences good and bad …

    Lisa Neutel
  • It is hard for me to step back, but there is more then one way to get from A to B and I hope that my kids will get there eventually. Lisa – United we stand! LOL

    Cathy Canton
  • I am in the same boat as you, Cathy! I feel as though my daughter needs to have that desire to do just that little bit more than what is expected of her where her school work is concerned.

    Sometimes I also feel as though I have to sit on my hands, and to let her make her own mistakes. It’s hard, and I feel as though I should help her, but I also have to let her know that I am not always going to be around to help her. If she asks for advice as to the direction she should go, I make sure she has put a lot of work into what she has done before I add any garnish to her work (sorry, I’m hungry), but I will not push her to get things started.

    Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in this struggle!

  • So true Cathy – as my eldest is getting older I have been struggling with how much is too much (in regards to guidance, actually doing for him, etc..) I want him to succeed because he wants to and I want him to be happy. It’s figuring out the how tos that I find so hard. I definitely want him to be full of grit (I love this term!). I want him to go for what he wants, accept failures and learn from them but be able to move forward. It is so great to hear from others that are in the same position!

  • Yes that is exactly where we are/were My Husband and I started to bicker because we were always having to be on them, and so tired of it all. Now we don’t. We spend the time watching a show together, or going for a walk. We are always there for help, but will not do their work. With assignments or essays, I won’t proof read until I see written instructions, rubric, and essay outline. This ensures they care enough to have the instructions, and have done the work, and I am checking flow, spelling, and grammar only.

    Cathy Canton
  • Thanks for sharing Carla, I find this gets harder as they get older. Also you have less insight into their school work (no one is calling you to tell you they missed an assignment) My youngest tends to choke in tests and sports competitions. It is hard to watch since he is extremely at many things. I know this, and so do all his friends, but on the day, it often goes very poorly for him. Teaching him to work on that, and at the same time keep getting out there is rough sometimes. My other son is the glass runnith over. He always thinks he is doing well, even when he is failing. LOL Both will need to figure this out for themselves.

    Cathy Canton
  • Great post, Cathy! I love this movement towards (or back to?) children and teens taking more responsibility for setting their own goals and defining their success BEFORE they leave home.

    When I was an academic advisor at an Ontario university, it was painful to watch first, and even second year students go through the culture/lifestyle shock of not having decisions made for them by parents, or a daily agenda sent home from their teacher.

    Good for you for letting go …. (and now that darn Frozen song is stuck in my ear again!)

  • I agree Cathy, I think we spend so much time making decisions for our children that in fact, we do not end up setting them up for success. They need to make decisions independently if for no other reason than to gain some self confidence and have the opportunity to learn form their mistakes!

    Sharon Vinderine
  • I remember what it was like at that age. I had to go find my own way. I eventually came back. Why? Because what my Parents told me was the truth and the right way to do things (for me).

    You’ve done a great job. You’ve taught them well. When they do come back, I hope they don’t stay for too long 🙂

    Besos, Sarah

  • What a great read, Cathy! Speaking from the other side of the fence, I totally relate to your kids. I had all the support in the world at that age, things taken care of for me…and had so much more potential than I ever showed in school. My parents never really pushed me, they let me make many of my own (wrong) decisions. I’m sure they struggled with doing that, but I think they made the right choice. If we could only go back in time and do it over again, I would do so many things differently. But, as they say, hindsight is 20/20. All I can say is, I made it through that period of time in my life and finally started to live up to my potential. I’m sure it will happen for your kids too.

  • Great post Cathy 🙂 While our little guy isn’t a teen yet we have the same problem with telling rather than guiding. It’s something we’re trying to do more and I honestly find that it works better than us telling him what to do. He gets that from the both of us! Ask/guide me to do something DON’T tell me to do it as we will more than likely clash!
    I think you made the right choice as it’s their responsibility now! Work hard and prosper or falter and become a statistic, consequences of action!

  • Oh, the joys of parenting a teen! I agree Cathy it is hard work. My daughter will be 19 this month and is still struggling in high school. I stepped back a while ago because of course anything I had to say she knew better. Not to long ago she was doing math and asked me “how many weeks in a year is bi-weekly pay”, my jaw dropped to the floor. For me at her age and working this was just basic life information, it pains me to see her failing to apply herself but again if I were to speak up she would know better.

    Denise Berube

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