As a parent, are you invested or involved in your child’s or teen’s life? They may seem similar, but they aren’t.
Invested parents are focused on the child’s goals: outcomes and achievement. The parent has an agenda that is more concerned with the destination than with the journey.
Involved parents are focused on the child’s role: identity and character. The parent has no agenda and is more interested in the journey than the destination.
Invested parents concentrate on the flowers, nurturing for results – goal oriented. Involved parents concentrate on the roots, nurturing for character and a sense of self and their place in the world – role oriented. While not everyone has the same opportunity to achieve, everyone does have the same opportunity to create a role and an identity.
If you’re dealing with an acting-out teen, being goal focused will get you nowhere fast because acting-out teens are in pain, and it’s hard to set goals when we’re in pain. Teens who are unhappy, angry and frustrated, who feel unheard and unvalued by those who matter most, who are more closely connected (albeit superficially) with friends than with parents, who are doing drugs or who are involved in other self-destructive behaviour can’t set goals because they can’t look to the future. The furthest down the road they can look is the next few minutes.
Parents who are involved will find ways to engage and interact with their teens no matter what their teens are doing because they don’t take it personally, unlike invested parents who take everything personally. Looking back, when I was at my worst as a teen, my parents never suggested that I was doing anything to them. They never made it about them. It was always about me.
“If you don’t do your homework, you’ll never amount to anything,” sends the message that their value is in what they accomplish, not in who they are. It’s also untrue.
So what can you do to become less invested and more involved?
Demonstrate good behaviour, don’t nag. You can’t teach responsibility, but you can demonstrate it. Create an environment that promotes good behaviour. Care for yourself. Model self-reliance.
Never mention anything that’s ever been contentious – curfew, drugs, alcohol, school, friends.
Don’t give them power over you by giving them your buttons to push: “This is important to me. This upsets me.”
Don’t accept excuses or condone, but don’t condemn either. Keep your opinions to yourself.
Make your position clear – then drop it.
Ask your teen’s opinion on news, books, and movies – then listen. You already know what you think. This is an opportunity to learn what your teen thinks. Remember that small minds discuss people, mediocre minds discuss events, and great minds discuss ideas.
Introduce humour to lighten situations – but never to diminish or humiliate.
Instead of asking, “What kind of kid do I want to have?” ask “What kind of parent – and person – do I want to be?” Now work on that. If you’re like I was, that should keep you busy for a while!
Want to know more about Choice Theory? My PDF booklet Who’s Driving YOUR Car? and handout Six Things: How to create healthy boundaries are now available for download on my website at www.sanerparenting.com/downloads/. And if you want to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I always welcome your comments and questions!