Fourteen is this sweet stage between childhood innocence and adult independence. I get to sit back and watch my self sufficient girl do her thing…which also scares the crap out of me.
I’m scared because I used to be a teen. I know how they think (or often how they don’t think).
So, I want to share some steps I’m taking to cope with this life as a teenage girl’s mother. Let’s hold hands, shall we?!
Step One: Establish that we are not friends. I will continue to make it very clear that my job is NOT, absolutely not to be her friend. I have to hold boundaries for her that will better serve her in the long term, which means sometimes we may give up some short term pleasures. I’m sure I will get comments like, “OMG, why not?!”, “That’s not fair!” and “You are mean”. But I can live with that. I’m not going to give in. I don’t need to win her over. I need to be her mom. She needs support, guidance, encouragement and direction from me. She has plenty of friends.
Step Two: Be the little voice in the back of her head. I will remind her so many times that bad choices lead to bad outcomes…and some of those have life-long consequences. I will give her specific examples of teenagers who decide to “just try it once”. I will be honest and blunt. I might read news articles about people killed by drunk drivers & drug addicts. I will not be subtle. I will be explicit. I will harp on about bad choices so often that my voice will come up in the back of her mind when she is in the moment of decision-making. My words may even come right out of her mouth. I want her to be prepared when it comes time to choose. Hmmm…should I call an Uber or get in this car with my friend who just tried some vodka? She’ll hear my voice loud and clear.
Step Three: Be her scapegoat. I will give her an easy out. I will allow her to use me as her excuse whenever she wants. Someone is offering you drugs? Tell them you won’t see the light of day for 6 months if your mom finds out. I’m ok with that. I don’t need to be the “cool mom”, I don’t need her friends to like me. I need her to get through your teenage years with minimal brain damage. Later on she may see the wisdom in not “taking a drag” but right now she is susceptible to peer pressure and I want her to have a go-to excuse in her back pocket.
Step Four: Exercise decision-making skills. Teens brains don’t just develop one magical night when the “pre-frontal cortex fairy” arrives with her magic wand. This is a process and the more opportunities she has to make decisions, the better equipped she will be to handle teen and adult life. I will try to offer her choices, let her make decisions and let her receive the consequences of those decisions. I’m not going away to college with this kid, so I’ve got about 54 months to help guide her in the decision-making process. I think today we’ll start with…”What should we have for dinner?” and see how it goes.
Step Five: Persevere. It will get tough. I will get caught up in the daily grind and some days will be hard. I may forget to talk to her before she takes off for a party. But topics like: appropriate clothing, sex and drugs are not a one time lecture. In fact, they shouldn’t be a lecture at all. We need an ongoing & open dialogue. I will talk to her ad nauseam throughout the teens years because I don’t know what will be relevant to her current situation and I don’t know when she is really listening. I will use every opportunity. There are stories in the news and examples on TV shows that are the perfect segue into difficult conversations. “So, what would you do in this situation?”It’s the perfect time to ask her opinion, because remember…the point is for her to make choices.
My heart is on fire for this kid. I love her so much that I might have to be the “bad guy” for a couple years. There might be some turbulence. Did I say “might”? There will absolutely be turbulence and that’s ok. At the end of the day, I want to raise an adult, a strong & confident individual who has self control and discipline. I know I have to start giving her space, start letting her take the reigns and soon I have push her out of the nest. Fingers crossed that she will fly!
Let’s take this one step at a time. Pray for me.