For Me or Against Me?

This guest post is by Professional Parent Educator, Vicki Hoefle helps improve family relationships by offering a uniquely proactive and sustainable parenting program. For over 20 years, Vicki has been helping to enhance the development of strong, healthy parent-child relationships while supporting parents as they prepare their children to enter adulthood with confidence and enthusiasm. Vicki is the mother of 5 & Creator of Parenting On Track™

Once upon a time about 20 years ago I attended a NASAP convention and was fortunate enough to attend a talk given by Dr. Frank Walton, http://drfrankwalton.com/ known for his work with adolescent children and their families.  My own daughter was only 2 at the time, but I was fascinated by the subject, in part, because my own teen years were less than stellar and I wanted to hear what he had to say on the matter of teens and their parents.

 

Dr. Walton shared powerful stories about his work with teens and their families and how easy it can be for parents and teens to find themselves on opposite sides of an issue, a challenge, an idea or a value.  He talked about the mistakes parents often make in their attempt to “help their teens figure out life” and what parents can do to re-establish a healthy relationship with our kids if it has been fractured in some way.  He talked of pro-active steps parents could take if their children were still young, so as to avoid some of the pitfalls so many families fall prey too when they are ill-informed about adolescents and their drive for independence and autonomy.

 

As the talk came to a close, Dr. Walton asked us to imagine ourselves as 13-year-olds again and to recall our lives as teens looking to define ourselves and the relationship we have with our parents.  And then he summarized the teen perspective and said, “Amazingly, most kids can sum up the relationship they have with their parents in this way:  “if you are for me, you can’t be against me, and if you are against me, you can’t be for me.”

 

That stopped me dead in my tracks.  This piece of information became a foundational piece of my parenting and I referred to it again and again as I raised my own 5 kids through adolescence and into young adulthood.  To gain further insight as a new parent, I spoke with 10, 11, 12, 13 & 14 year olds, and asked them what kinds of things their parents would do that would send the message to them, that they were – for them and what kinds of things their parents might do that would send the message to them that they were against them.

 

Here is what I learned.

 

How do you know your parents are for you?

 

  • They accept me for who I am today and they don’t use the word “potential” to describe me to their friends.
  • They value my idea of the world, even though my experience is limited.
  • They refrain from commenting on my friends, my hair, my clothes or anything else that helps me define who I want to be.
  • They give me the space to try new things and the freedom to make mistakes.  And, I know my parents are for me when they hold me accountable because they hold the other people in their lives that they respect accountable.
  • My parents seemed more interested in how I was making my decisions and less interested in the decision itself.  This taught me to analyze almost all the choices I make in my life.
  • I could feel my parents’ acceptance of me.  I never got the feeling they were waiting for me to turn into someone they could be “proud” of.

 

How do you know parents are against you?

 

  • It’s that look they give you that says “I am disappointed in you.”
  • They make negative comments about me, my friends, or whatever else they don’t approve of and say they are trying to “help” me make decisions that won’t ruin my life.
  • They act like I can’t handle any of life’s hard knocks.  I get the feeling they have no faith in me at all.
  • They talk about my life as if it is their life.
  • They treat me the same way they did when I was 5.

 

 

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the often murky waters of teen-hood and ensure that you and your child arrive on safe shores when you pass through this tumultuous and energizing time of life together:

 

  • If a child is moving toward independence, self-reliance, and self-confidence anything we do that interrupts, interferes or delays this process is interpreted as against, not for, by the teen.

 

  • Teens learn through trial and error and anytime a parent tries to circumvent this process, we inadvertently stop it entirely.  Which means the teen must try it again until they complete the process and can draw conclusions that will illuminate a new path.

 

  • The goal for an adolescent is to know beyond a reasonable doubt that they can handle all that life throws his/her way. When a parent saves, makes excuses for, lets the child off the hook, and fails to follow through on agreements this is seen as the parent working against the child.

 

  • A teen’s goal is to trust himself, above all others. When a parent doubts, criticizes, manipulates or causes the child to second guess his decisions, this is seen as working against.

 

 

 

 

This guest post is by Professional Parent Educator, Vicki Hoefle helps improve family relationships by offering a uniquely proactive and sustainable parenting program. For over 20 years, Vicki has been helping to enhance the development of strong, healthy parent-child relationships while supporting parents as they prepare their children to enter adulthood with confidence and enthusiasm. Vicki is the mother of 5 & Creator ofParenting On Track™

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