Thursday, 05 March 2009
I am going to touch on a subject of real concern here: Children - specifically teenagers - of middle class divorced parents. These teens are the largest group of underachievers in America today. They don’t hold part-time jobs. They don’t help out around the house. They often have an attitude of entitlement because their parents give them everything they want and more.
And why is that? These parents are guilty. They are guilty of not holding their children accountable. They are guilty of feeling guilty about asking their children to contribute. Oftentimes they believe they are helpless to do so.
Listen closely parents. This is the hardest, most important job you will ever do. This is not just about you feeling wanted by your teen. (Even in the best of situations, teens tend to dislike their parents at least 50% of the time!) This is about truly loving your child - not about taking care of your feelings.
When you love your children you do what is best for them - not you! Your child is everyone’s future! Stop it! Stop raising selfish, spoiled, lazy children now. Take a stand and do what is right because it is right. If this blog is striking a chord in you, then review my suggestions below so you can turn things around for a child you love. This is just a start. You can implement these suggestions with or without the help of a spouse, whether you see your child on weekends or every day.
Teaching Responsibility to Your Teen:
1. You have to be strong - remind yourself everyday that you are doing this for your son or daughter - not for yourself. It is easier to throw up your hands or give in to the natural selfish demands of a child than it is to truly love them.
2. Validate your teen’s feelings: That’s right - this may seem like it came out of the blue but this is paramount to raising a responsible teen. When she says she is sad you do not say "There is no reason to be sad." Instead you say, "I hear you that you are sad right now. I’m sorry you are feeling sad. "
3. Teach your teen that feelings are not always the reason why… In other words, when your child says, "I feel too sad to take out the garbage," you say, "I know you feel sad and do not like taking out the garbage, but you have to do it anyway."
4. Assign one reasonable chore to your child which he/she must complete on specific days. The chore should last no more than 30 minutes. Listen up mom and dad, if you are working long hours and very tired at the end of the day (or week) when you finally see your teen, the inclination is to not deal with any chores. I am saying you assign just one chore - something simple. Tell your teen this chore must be completed by a certain time or they will experience consequences.
5. Create easy to give consequences and expect your teen to object to them. Does your teen love to text, play on MySpace, or drive around in his car. There you go. Take it all for one day only. Seriously. All pleasure and play privileges are gone for the rest of that day. All means all. Your child is not experiencing consequences if she can hang out with friends because you disconnected her computer. Let me repeat: They do what they need to do and they may enjoy all the benefits of relaxing at home. They don’t do it - you disconnect, take the keys, take the phone, turn off the TV etc. - if your teen does not participate in this little chore then they don’t get to play for a day. Mom or Dad - if you are going to be lazy about implementing consequences then expect your teen to be lazy too.
6. Don’t yell. Do not yell. If you do, you must apologize. You say, "I am sorry for yelling at you." That’s it. Do not give back the keys, the X-box, the Playstation, the phone until the next morning - even if you yelled. Remind yourself to stay neutral. This consequence is just for a day - your teen would probably find fault with you even if you didn’t provide a consequence. That’s how they are.
7. Some teens are so spoiled they will actually try to wrestle their phone and car keys out of your hand after you take them - they may try to plug their computer back in or find another way to avoid your consequences. This is not OK. Remember, eventually they will go to sleep. Then you take it all back again - this time for a full week. Find a safe place to hide these items.
8. If your teen decides to be really horrible and behaves violently - call the police. You may not lay hands on your teen and your teen may not lay hands on you.
9. Show affection. If (this late in the game) you are finally asking your teen to become responsible, then he has probably told you he can’t stand you. This is normal. Your teen will get over it. You are the parent. Tell you child you love him anyway and always will. Every day show your child some affection. Do not withdraw your love from your child no matter what he/she says.
10. Mediation - This is a magical word for divorced parents. Did you notice I did not say "Custody Battle?" If your child threatens to no longer see you anymore because you are implementing a simple chore into their schedule then call a mediator. Better to nip this one in the bud. Choose a mediator who has experience in Parental Alienation Syndrome. I am not a mediator, but I have seen a good mediator in action and it is impressive. The great thing about mediation is once you get started, the mediator will ask each parent to sign an agreement stating they will always attend mediation whenever there is a problem. This is a great way to avoid custody “situations” forever. Another great thing about mediators is they respect all parenting styles and firmly believe that children really need to spend time with both parents. If you get involved with a mediator right away, your child no longer has the option to jump ship when a few chores are needed on deck.
We all want to be proud of our children when they grow up. Remember, no one is proud of a spoiled, selfish, lazy adult. When it is all said and done and you look back at your life and what you contributed to the world, you will see that it is your children who are your greatest contribution.
Do you have any other suggestions for divorced parents of teenagers?