By Sue Kranz
What’s a parent? And who gets to decide? In other words, who writes your job description?
I’m stunned by the number of parents who explain, “But my teen says it’s my job!” Expectations include, but are not limited to:
- driving them out of town to a friend’s and picking them up again – at the teen’s convenience
- waking them up in the morning, packing their lunch and driving them to school (even when the parents know they’re not going to school)
- buying them designer clothes
- cooking all their meals
- waiting on them hand and foot
- picking up after them
- doing their laundry
- giving them money
- letting them use the car.
The irony, of course, is that we’ve taught our kids that they can reasonably expect to get whatever they want, with no effort on their part, because it’s the job of others to provide it.
The result? We end up with self-absorbed, demanding and ungrateful teens who suffer from low self-esteem and monumental entitlement.
So let’s rewrite your job description. What realistically can your teen expect from you? YOU decide! Here’s a start. As a parent, I commit-
- To pay the bills – mortgage, utilities, car payment and insurance, etc.
- To buy groceries (real food, not junk).
- To buy household supplies (laundry detergent, cleaners, toilet paper, etc.).
- To cook meals from time to time – or every night, if that’s what I choose.
- To keep the house the way I like it – i.e., clean, tidy and free from clutter.
As a parent, you may also recognize that there’s value in fostering a meaningful connection with your son or daughter – not to control, but to support and encourage in order to influence. So to this list you might add the following:
- To recognize and accept you as a unique individual.
- To teach you age-appropriate life skills that you’ll need when you move out on your own (cooking, laundry, etc.).
- To support you in your right to “own” your own life and make your own decisions around friends, education, career path, etc. – whether or not I agree.
- To trust in your ability to learn from your mistakes.
- To listen and understand – without judging, blaming or criticizing.
- To do with you – not to you or for you.
- To support your growth by not doing for you what you can do for yourself.
- To offer advice and opinions only when asked for.
- To help you build self-esteem by offering you opportunities to contribute to the family in a meaningful way.
- To practice a co-operative model of living together, where everyone’s opinion matters, everyone has a say, and everyone has the freedom to get their own needs met – but not at anyone else’s expense.
- To stay out of your relationships with others.
- To encourage you to think for yourself and evaluate what you do in terms of the results you get.
- To define and solve problems with you – not to see you as a problem to be solved.
- To negotiate everything else!
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 email@example.com, I always welcome your comments and questions!