In years past, the teen years were looked at as a time of “finding oneself.” Behavior, dress and poor choices were even excused by this. It was expected for teens to act out or push back because this time period was a time of exploration to find who you were. Today the focus has shifted to not finding oneself or finding your skillset but to getting into the best college or getting into college. Now not that this isn’t a worthy goal, because it is, but we need to evaluate how it is impacting our parenting.
There is more pressure than ever on today’s teens. It is no longer just a high GPA that schools are looking for. Not even killer ATC/SAT scores. They are looking for a “well rounded student.” So our children are having to deal with the pressure of amazing grades, volunteer work, student government, sports teams and church thrown in.
For example, one family’s schedule… the teens got out of bed at dawn, caught up on remaining homework, threw down breakfast on the way out the door and raced to school. One got up even earlier to get to swim practice. After school, more practice, race home start homework and then to bed before midnight. Then the blinding routine began all over again with a sprinkling of other activities such as church, dance or music lessons thrown in.
Watching these teens was exhausting. What is the goal of parenting a teen today? There have always been many things for high school students to do. In the past they raced home to help their parents with the farm or general store. But those chores made sense. Those activities helped the family and made the teen feel like a member of something larger and more important than them.
The sole goal of parenting was not to get them into a great college. The goal was to raise an adult who knew who he was, not just how much he could accomplish in a day.
For today’s teen everything boils down to “A’s.” Perform perfect in school to make “A’s”, be an outstanding athlete, and excel at something cultural such as playing the piano. An existence that values the teen by his performance.
Could it be that we are afraid there actually might be a verse somewhere that says, “Idle hands are the devil’s tool.” But constantly busy hands raise young adults with idle brains.
The more likely answer is that we aren’t sure what to do with our teens. Or we are afraid that if we don’t keep them busy they’ll spend even more of their lives online and be unduly influenced or tempted by people we don’t know. Or are we keeping them so busy that they don’t even have the time to learn how to cultivate relationships “In Real Life” so they are having to do so via online.
It’s time for parents to get their teens off the hamster wheel because, like the hamster wheel, that gets them nowhere. It’s time to buck the horrendous schedules and say enough. It’s time to admit that “getting into the top college” isn’t really the goal. It’s time to develop the whole teen rather than just the body and the intellect.
Parents have been duped into believing that the only things they bring to the teen’s training process is transportation. Arrange our schedules around the teen’s performance activities and get them there on time.
Little wonder parents are losing their teens when they go to college. We never had them to begin with. When our teens have been led to believe they are valued by performance, they will get to college and perform for liberal professors, fraternities, peers and the people they date.
Back up, look at what your teen really needs and change your schedule accordingly. Your teen needs you. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes a parent.
What if we made choices and said that one sport a year was all each child was going to participate in? What if we really believed that being family was important, and we decided to have a family night once a week? What if we played games and laughed as dad lost in a game of Monopoly? What if we spent time together rather than racing our children out the door to nowhere?
This will take focus on a parent’s part. It will initially be awkward for teens. Awkward because they don’t know how to be a family member. They just know how to perform. But it is SO worth the effort. It is not by accident that Psalms reminds us to be still. “Be still and know that I am God.” He is reminding us that to know anyone, family members, friends, yourself. We need times of stillness. Take a step back and evaluate how you can take times of “stillness” for your family’s and teen’s sake.
Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.