Letting your kid grow up can be one of the hardest things a parent has to do. It can also be hard to know how to balance when and where to let go as they age. But as the popular song says: you know you love her when you let her go.
There has been a shift in the adolescent culture over the last several decades. Kids are not as in a hurry to grow up as they used to be. They are ever anxious for the freedoms of adulthood, but not anxious for other parts of it. Kids are taking longer to grow up and there’s many reasons for this. We don’t have any control over a lot of those reasons such as the need for higher education or the affect of a technological world. Other things we can try to balance out by making sure we are sending the right messages. Our kids need to sense from us a confidence in and excitement about their emerging adulthood.
I remember my mom telling me once when I was about 14 or 15 that I needed to stop calling her “mommy” because I was too old. It took me off guard and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that at first. I had never thought about that, that’s just what I had always called her. But in that moment there was an awakening to my own emerging adulthood. I’m thankful f
or my mom telling me that, even though to some degree I’m sure it made her feel good to still be my “mommy”. I was her last child and she would never be called “mommy” again once she set that boundary. But she loved me selflessly enough to seek my best interest and communicate to me that I was growing up and it was time to talk like it.
What are some ways that you can communicate to your teen that you are confident and excited about their maturation? How can you help them be excited for growing up?
And how do we know how to balance this? We don’t want to make our 14 year old feel “too big for his britches” but we don’t want him to delay his development either. Overall I would suggest erring on the side of growth oriented parenting. Rewarding mature behavior is just good parenting anyway, and if they get rewarded for growing up they will probably do it at a good, healthy pace. Watch your heart for areas where their growth threatens you emotionally. If you feel threatened by their maturation and you end up inadve
rtently punishing them for developing then you can set your child behind. I’m going to say something that could be offensive, but try to hear this sentence without a sarcastic or judgmental tone, but with kind sincerity: One reason kids are becoming adults slower is because their codependent parents need them to stay dependent. If that applies then pray about that or talk to a friend or a therapist. I say it with love for this generation and a sense of brokenness over seeing this way too much in modern culture and with the families I work with.
I should probably stop there, but I can’t help touching on one more thing parents can do to help their kid stay on a steady incline to healthy independence: Stop buying them top of the line gifts. Many of you know your 17 year old has the best of everything and you bought it for him. He has the latest model of smartphone, his laptop cost over a grand, his shoes cost over a hundred dollars and he has several pairs, and he’s driving a brand new something. This is unrealistic when you put it in the grand scheme. We know that a young man just leaving college and starting at the bottom of the corporate ladder is not going to be able to maintain that standard of life. That teen is going to do one of two things: 1. He’s not going to want to grow up and be independent, or 2. He’s going to go into severe debt as a young adult because he feels entitled to that standard of life. When we give our kids the world, where are they supposed to go from there? What’s left to look forward to? Give your teenager a more realistic experience. Make them pay for things they value. If they really feel that the $130 pair of shoes is worth it then make them pay for it. Create age appropriate ways for them to learn how much work it takes to earn those shoes as an entry level worker. They will grow up faster and they will be more likely to be able to enjoy the simple things in life.