Category Archives: Giving Kids Some Freedoms

Creative Consequences for Teen Behavior: More Independence


Well, you can bet that when I don’t write for over a week that I must have a pretty good excuse. And I sure wish it was a glamorous one like “I was at the Grammys” or “I got invited to the White House”.  It’s not even a dramatic reason like, “I was in the hospital all week.” Nope, usually when you don’t hear from me it’s because I’m wiped out from dealing with kid problems, and that is a mild way to describe what we’ve been going through.


I can never usually write about things in as few words as possible but I’m going to try really hard—maybe if I start by summarizing things in list form it will help:


1.)    Oldest teen gave all sorts of attitude and sass to Mom while riding home from school one day.


2.)    Mom tells teen if that kind of attitude happens again on the ride home tomorrow, teen can get their own transportation back to school at 6 for the school production teen was in (just  a background part, by the way, and several of these dancers have had to miss at least one show so if she’d missed it, the world wouldn’t have come to an end). 


3.)    Teen sasses Mom big time on the way home from school the next day, before the car is even out of the parking lot.


4.)    Mom takes teen home and says she’s not taking teen to school for the show and goes for a walk, but makes sure that the aravan is behind the “teen car” so teen can’t stupidly try to drive that car because she doesn’t have a driver’s license yet.  She could call friends for a ride, walk, or ride her bike.


5.)    When Mom (and Dad) return, they discover teen has miraculously backed the car out of the garage, around the aravan and has driven it to school.  (Later they learn she also went through the Whataburger drive-thru before she got to school.)  After retrieving the car from the school parking lot and bringing it home, Mom and Dad discover that the front end of the car is damaged, the back end, as well as the side of their backyard fence, and that other things have been damaged in daughter’s haste to back out the car, items that were “in the way”.


While it ran through our heads to have the school security guard yank her offstage, Andy chose to be waiting for her in the lobby at the end of the show to deliver the news of her consequences.  Many people thought we should have called the police and had them “pull her over”, but we chose not to go that route.  We chose to make it as close to a jail at home as we possibly could. In-room grounding (even meals eaten in room), cell phone service cut off, iPod taken away, computer on lockdown.  Driving class suspended indefinitely, at least a month, and the online part of the course is about to expire so she’ll have to pay to reinstate it.  Volunteer work in the community and extra jobs around the house; once getting her license, she’ll have to have paid for the damages to the car (and fence) or she won’t be driving it.


And how do you think she took these consequences? Contritely, with head down and profuse apologies? Remember, we have a defiant kid here, and things have not been pretty.  So as a result, we pulled a couple extracurriculars, and things got worse. “I can do whatever I want, whenever I want!!” has been the mantra coming from her. She doesn’t think what she did was that much of a “big deal”.


Just when we were about to give up and throw our hands up in the air from all the turmoil, I had an “ah-hah” moment.  It suddenly occurred to me that if this kid is “bucking the system” so hard, she must want some independence.  So let’s give it to her, I told Andy.  “You don’t like it when we take your extracurriculars away?” we asked her. “Okay, you can have all of them back.  But anything that’s not required for a grade or any part of an activity not required, we’re not going to support, not financially or with transportation.  You get to own them from now on. You have that freedom now.”   


Andy felt like we’d still given up, that she was getting everything handed to her on a plate, but I said, just wait.  If we stick to this, she’ll either get more responsible or get even angrier, and I’m ready for either one.


So far, we’ve seen a mixture of both.   She’s still mad because she’s still not going to be able to enter an upcoming solo and duet dance competition, and she still doesn’t see that what she did was that big of a deal. But I heard her make a phone call on THE LAND LINE for I think the first time ever the other day, as she arranged for transportation to the Sunday performance of the school show.  She stopped demanding that I go buy her supplies to add to her stage makeup because she knew I wouldn’t do it.  She packed her own sack dinner because I refused to “make a special trip to bring takeout dinner to her dressing room “like all the other parents do”.  And for the first time, yesterday she got herself up early enough to actually come in and wake us up, as Andy had told her she needed to do if she wanted a ride to school.


I may be a fool, but I’m not foolish enough to think this new parenting stance is instantly going to make things better.  But at least it is giving us hope.  And it sure feels good to unburden ourselves of some tasks and give them to her, which probably should have been done a long time ago. 

Kids and Summer Boredom: Should Parents Come to the Rescue?

I got screamed at yesterday.  Surprisingly, not by my teenager, but my soon-to-be teenager. And just what were those oft-repeated, often-heard-in-summer-words, this time uttered at the top of her lungs?  “I’M BORED!!!!!!!”  Followed by: “WHAT CAN I DO?!! FIGURE OUT SOMETHING FOR ME TO DO!!!!!!!  Followed by bedroom door slamming, and after that, crying.  Geesh.  I thought I was over those years of “Mommy, please fill my every waking void…”

So that I could get even a shred of work done during the summer, I used to do just that, at least two to three days a week: schedule day camps, mothers-day-outs, etc., planning far in advance to fill the summer calendar, beginning as early as late February.  But as kids get older, I think they need to be more responsible for filling in their time, to foster creativity, independence, etc., and so each summer for at least the last three summers, I’ve cut back on scheduling with Emmie, and it happened around the same age for Allison.  Yes, I offer suggestions and do help them fill in some of the time with planned camps/activities/volunteer work, but it’s definitely less scheduling than before.  As a result, I have seen some creative stuff happen– I remember a cool bulletin board collage Allison created one summer, and this summer, Emmie’s tried to do a lot of money-earning activities, like a lemonade stand with a friend, extra yard work, and last week she hand-rolled all the pennies in Andy’s 20+ year-old, giant penny jar, netting $30 for herself and $30 for charity.

Yet, why has this summer been christened by her, several times, as The Most Boring Summer Ever?  Is it because it’s the hottest summer since she’s been born? I don’t think so.  She still gets outside in this heat, whether it’s to jog around the block, or ride her bike to the neighborhood pool. Is it because we chose to take our vacation early in the summer rather than later? Maybe.  Normally, we’d be out of town during this late part of the summer, and it seems like a lot of her close friends have been out of town lately.  I keep telling her to “expand her friends list”, to not just call up girls from her school class.  What about from gymnastics? What about from Girl Scouts? What about the friends she made at past summer activities? Sometimes that works– it netted her a fun day out at an old friend’s house last week… but when no friends are returning calls, and your kid doesn’t know what else to do, and they’re tired of reading, watching TV and practicing their musical instrument, should a parent step in?

Before the screaming started yesterday, I felt sorry for her, so I stopped what I was doing and started looking up info on other city pools (our neighborhood city pool is closed on Mondays).  “I’ll take you to another pool,” I offered. I have yet to go swimming this summer, and thought it might be fun. But she said it wouldn’t be fun with just me, that she needed to have a friend go along, and no one was available.  And that’s when the screaming began.  I politely clocked out of my “boredom busters” job for that day. “You know, when you act like that, you won’t get any help from me,” I said.

I was relieved to get out of the house soon after, to go pick up Allison from a drill team activity.  When we returned, Emmie had gotten out a set of watercolors and was sitting on a stool, painting on a white piece of paper at a kitchen counter.  It was a book cover, with each word a different color.  “WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR BORED!” it read.

I can’t wait to read what will go inside…

“Good for the child” is not always good for the group

Emmie spent every afternoon last week at a girls’ science and engineering camp at Southern Methodist University (probably the best bargain on that campus—only $50 for the whole week, and two days included lunch!).  She really enjoyed rubbing elbows with professional female engineers, learning more about the different types of engineering, working on projects, and making friends with girls from all over the Dallas area and even from as far away as Houston, ranging in age from 12-18.  The only thing she didn’t like about it, which she complained to me about every day, were the girls who talked all the time to each other and didn’t pay attention, making it hard for the few that wanted to pay attention. And unfortunately, there were only a few who really wanted to pay attention. Emmie says that on the first day, when the facilitator asked each girl to tell the group why she was there, many answered with some version of “Because my mom made me.”  And of course, those were the ones who made it hard on the rest of the group every day thereafter.  Emmie was shocked that there were so many who didn’t care, because to be at this camp, she had received a recommendation from her math teacher, and she was honored and excited to be there. (“Mom, one of those girls wore a T-shirt that said, ‘I May Be Bad, But I’m Perfectly Good At It’!” she related in disgust.)

I know that parents have good intentions when they force their children to do certain group activities (“I don’t want my child to be a couch potato”,”This will be good for her”, “He needs to make new friends”,  etc., etc.) but do they ever think how their child might act once there?  Do they ever realize how much life is sucked out of a group when a child doesn’t want to be a part?

I told Emmie I could totally relate to what she was saying. I’ve been a Girl Scout volunteer and troop leader for over 10 years, and the girls who don’t pay attention most often, have the most behavior problems and cause others to misbehave are usually the ones who are being forced to be there.  When I was a kid, I remember the kids at summer camp who “rained on everyone’s parade” were the ones not there of their own free will; in college, the most messed-up students I knew had their college choice (and their major) forced upon them by their parents.

I know I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I think it’s okay to require kids to do certain extracurriculars like music lessons in exchange for letting them do something else they like, but music lessons, sports skill-building, and other private lessons are often one-on-one, child and adult, not affecting other learners—and if it was a group lesson instead, I’d definitely think twice about forcing a child to participate, especially if the child wasn’t practicing his instrument (or tennis serve, or script lines) in between lessons.  Yes, sometimes a kid can come around, and suddenly “get into it” and be glad he’s part of the group, but I think if that magic doesn’t happen quickly, it’s time to change plans, especially with older children. Unfortunately, however, with brief activities like week-long summer camps, there’s not enough time to find out if your child will “come around”, and there’s not usually an “I made the wrong parenting decision” clause in the refund policy.

Maybe summer camps and other group activity applications should include an extra line that asks, “Are you enrolling your child because he/she really wants to be a part of this, or because you want them to be?” Not necessarily with the expectation that parents would answer honestly, but simply because it would make them think.  And if they did answer honestly, it sure would help teachers/counselors plan ahead…

A Good Alternative to Preteen Cell Phones

Just wanted to put in a plug for something we’ve used when our kids get to that age when you really don’t want them to have a cell phone, yet they need to be in communication with you: good ‘ol walkie talkies.  Not the nerdy, bulky walkie talkies of yesterday– today’s two-way radio can fit in the palm of your hand, and your child’s (and some can clip on bike handlebars, belt loops, etc.).

For as little as $20 a pair, you can give your child some of the freedom that comes with a cell phone, but you don’t have all the “baggage” that comes with one (the cost of the phone, “the plan”, possible higher phone bills, texting, games, etc.)  It’s a great after-school communications tool–  when we plan ahead, my 12-year-old and I both turn on our walkie talkies when school lets out, and I can remind her to bring certain things home, she can ask me things like “Mom, can I go to a friend’s house after school?” or tell me that she needs to stay for tutoring or a student council meeting.

We’ve also used the walkie-talkies when she wants to bike to meet a friend at a neighborhood park.  Safety-wise, I think they’re even better than cell phones.  I mean, imagine this: your child is riding his bike to a friend’s house or walking to school and needs to reach you ASAP—it could be he’s fallen and hurt himself, or sees bad weather approaching, or thinks a stranger is following him…so he gets out his cell phone.  First, he has to get it out of “locked” mode, then get to the “dialer” menu or contacts list, then click on your number, and then wait while the phone rings.  It may roll to voicemail if another call has come in.  Or, as soon as you pick up, the call might be magically “dropped” thanks to your wonderful cell phone reception, so he has to start all over again.  Meanwhile, that leg is bleeding…or that stranger is getting closer.  With walkie-talkies, you turn on yours when your child sets out on his journey, and your child turns on his, and you make sure they are both on the same channel.  Then if he needs to reach you, he just presses a button and you’re talking to each other. Instantly.  And chances are you won’t get bad reception, because there are many different kinds of walkie talkies with different ranges (i.e. how far one can be from the other and still hear the other clearly) so you can find one that best fits your needs.

For sure, even as sleek and tiny as walkie talkies can now be, they can’t begin to compete with a cell phone in the area of “coolness”– but my kids have been willing to put that aside in exchange for the freedoms we’ve granted if they use them.

(To see the latest in walkie talkies, check out this link or find them at any Radio Shack store, Target, Academy Sports, or other stores that sell electronics or sporting goods.)

Just A Spoonful of Sugar…

Heard while walking out of the grocery store yesterday, spoken to me by my 10-year-old, Emmie: “You are so lucky, you get to do this all the time!”
She was talking about grocery shopping. 

It wasn’t that she’d never been to a supermarket before.  I have my share of kids-whining-at-grocery-store stories, or kids-reading-embarassing-magazine-covers-in-the-checkout-line stories, or kids-shopping-together-and-running-their-cart-into-people stories.  Yesterday was different, because for the first time, I let her take a copy of my shopping list and one of those small plastic “carry baskets” and head out into the grocery store, alone, while I pushed my cart around and got the rest of the list. (We’d planned to take along walkie talkies, but couldn’t find one of them, so I trusted her maturity instead. She also knows to scream “This is not my parent!” at the top of her lungs if someone were to try to grab her.)  I’d highlighted what I wanted her to find on the list.  She had a blast and felt very important, getting all the items and coming back to me for another “assignment”.  I asked her why she got the super-sized Ravioli instead of regular. “They were out,” she said, matter-of-factly.  “I asked someone who worked here for help.”   Wow. 

When she returned with frozen lunches for her dad to take to work, she proudly announced that she’d studied the boxes and made sure they didn’t have too much fat or salt.  I kept all of her selections, even though some were pretty skimpy for a guy’s lunch (I’ll eat them, or he’ll supplement).  I told her she did a great job.  She was so happy when she was done, she asked if she could always go to the store with me and help out like that. Absolutely, I told her.  It gave her a great “independence” experience, a great self-confidence booster– not to mention it cut my chore of grocery shopping in half!
 
Which brings me to her comment as we left the store.  Isn’t it funny how kids often marvel at what we take for granted, or find routine and boring?  I remember when I was a kid, saying to my parents, “You’re so lucky.  You get to drive a car, every day!”  I remember my cousins, when they were around age 10 or 11, standing next to my sister and watching her in the bathroom mirror, as she carefully applied mascara. “You’re soooo lucky,” they gushed.  “You get to wear makeup, every day!” If only, as adults, we could always feel such joy and excitement in doing everyday tasks.

While I haven’t mastered that kind of “zen”, I did come up with a way, not long ago, that helps routine tasks seem a little bit more important: Counting. Putting numbers to what I do.  It wasn’t that hard, one day I just kept a mental tally and then after a task was done, I’d write on the nearest scrap of paper I could find. Stuff like: number of emails dealt with; number of coupons clipped and filed; number of minutes it took to vacuum the dining room rug; number of dishes loaded and unloaded in the dishwasher.  It may sound nuts, but it was actually fun (didn’t Mary Poppins say something about making jobs a game?).  And it was eye-opening.  Who knew I drove over 40 miles a day driving my kids around town?!

I did another count today.  When my husband comes home from work and asks me what I’ve been doing, won’t it sound more impressive to say, “I washed and dried 38 pieces of laundry” rather than “I washed underwear and socks”? Or, “I unloaded 56 cups and plates, 34 pieces of silverware, and loaded in 45” rather than “I did the dishes.”  Or, “I composed and typed 636 words!” rather than “I posted to my blog…”

Postcards from Camp

Well, we’ve heard from Emmie at camp– and the verdict is…..well so far…(drumroll please)…thumbs up!!! Whew. I was just a teensy bit worried.  One reason is because she insisted on signing up for the “tent unit” at the camp (i.e. no electricity– no AC and no fans) and the forecast called for 100-degree-plus days every day this week.  The weather predictors were correct– it’s been fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot! The other reason is that our car (that would be, my glorious minivan) overheated on the way to camp and we were delayed while my husband fixed the problem (Thank you, God, that my husband is a Mr. Fix It and that my teenager was not along for the ride).  We finally arrived at camp almost at dark on Sunday night, and Emmie joined the other girls for the closing campfire circle.  We had to stow Emmie’s gear in a building near the tents, and didn’t even get to help her set up the mosquito netting that’s required around each bed.  I pictured her attempting to do that by the light of her friends’ flashlights…

To add to my fears, I received an email on Monday from Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, letting everyone know that there’s been an increase in head lice at the camps this year and to please be aware and not send girls if they show signs.  I hoped they were talking about the other three Scout camps in the region– not the one where Emmie was at.

So as you can imagine, I’ve been eagerly checking the mailbox every day, and we finally got two postcards Wednesday.  She’s having a great time and says she loves the fresh air and nature sounds, and is excited to have a counselor with a Scottish accent.  Her friend, on the other hand, wants to come home and wrote to her mom that she accidentally dropped her toothbrush in the toilet on the first night. 

I hope things have gotten better.  We didn’t receive anything in the mail yesterday (no news is good news– right?) and camp ends today. I will post a photo in this space later if I get any good ones!
 
                      
Emmie at camp departure time, working on a lanyard. She said camp was “the funnest thing I’ve ever done in my life” and that she definitely wants to go back next year.

In Defense of Summer Camp

Growing up, I was a huge fan of summer “sleep away” camp.  I went, year after year, to a small one that sat on the bluffs above a wide bend in the Mississippi River near Montrose, Iowa, and I liked it for all the reasons you’d think someone would like camp: New friends (that became lifelong friends), fun stuff to do, nice counselors, new skills (I learned synchronized swimming, macrame’ and tetherball, to name a few), campfires, crazy songs, and being surrounded by nature, for a whole week.  But when my teenager first went to the same camp when she was nine, she loved it for a different reason: “I loved the freedom,” she said.  “It was like your own little community where you could come and go as you pleased.” I’d never thought of it like that before–  but campers there were responsible for getting to meals and classes on their own, listening for their counselor’s whistle and following their own printed schedule, with breaktime in between. And they had a lot of free time in the afternoon, when they could swim, nap, go to the camp store or participate in tournaments.  Upon talking with her further, her comments underlined what I’d already been thinking: There is truly something inside modern-day, big city kids that is yearning for freedom and independence.  That even though today’s kids have never known the kind of freedoms their parents had, they miss those freedoms.   I’ve heard it from my younger child as well, when we go visit Grandma, who lives in a small town.  There, both girls get to “roam” (my hometown neighborhood is kind of secluded and almost in the “country”) and when they return back to our home in the Dallas suburbs, the little one is always bummed.  “Mom, you were so lucky when you were a kid,” she always says.

Summer days for my husband and I, when we were kids, (as I’m sure was the case with many people our age) were spent riding our bikes all over the place, finding friends without having pre-arranged “play dates”. He grew up in a big city and I grew up in a small town, and it was the same experience.  My husband would often be gone for hours and his mom wouldn’t see him until supper.  When I was nine, I’d ride my bike down the street to the pool and stay there all day.  When my friends and I turned 13, it was a rite of passage to ride the bus downtown, on our own, and go shopping.

Our kids definitely don’t enjoy freedoms exactly like that.  When you live in the “Metroplex” that gave birth to the Amber Alert system, you think differently about things.  Also, suburbs tend to have busy, 6-lane streets criss-crossing through neighborhoods, streets that are not friendly to young bike riders.  I think good parents today have to find a balance between being safety conscious and still allowing freedoms.  (Sorry, there I go again talking about balance, but this is a different kind.) Our 10-year-old can ride her bike, just not outside our neighborhood.  If she walks to a friend’s house that lives a couple streets away, she takes a walkie talkie and she and the friend meet up halfway.  She does get to meet friends at the neighborhood pool and stay there by herself, only I drive her there. And when she rides her bike to school, I ride part of the way alongside her (and, unbeknownst to her, watch her ride the rest of the way.)   My teenager definitely enjoys a few more freedoms due to her age, maturity, and proficiency with a cell phone. 

Some of you are probably thinking I am too restrictive, but the few freedoms I try hard to give my kids are considered a no-no by many area parents I know.  Letting a 10-year-old child (who is a good swimmer) stay at the small, neighborhood pool without a parent, even though she knows most of the lifeguards as well as the families visiting the pool, and even though the posted age for being there alone is 7? Horrors.  Allowing a teenager to be at the mall with friends to go shopping, by themselves? Unheard of. (And, you let her pick out her own clothes? Unbelievable.)  You let your nine-year-old go into Braum’s and order an ice cream cone and pay for it by herself, while you wait in the car just outside the door? No way. While on vacation, you let your four-year-old child have fun making friends from all over the world at the supervised, highly rated Kid’s Club at a resort while you and your husband spent a fun afternoon alone? Never.  You let your teenager bike to a nearby sandwich shop, and cross a busy street by herself? How wrong.  (One of my teenager’s friends has never even been taught to ride a bike, let alone been allowed to own one.) You let your child attend “sleep away” camp at age 9, and go to Costa Rica with the youth group on a church mission trip at age 13? Are you out of your mind?

No, as I’ve said before, I’m just trying to give our kids whatever independence I can, within safe parameters. And the naysayers can always come up with all sorts of reasons why what I’m doing is not safe.  But keeping your child on a short, virtual leash is not safe, either.  At some point, you have to ask yourself, is it worth taking safety-consciousness to the degree that it denies your child the chance to grow and develop normally?   “A Life Lived in Fear is a Life Half-Lived” is the motto from “Strictly Ballroom”, one of my all-time favorite movies, and I think it’s a good motto to live by. (And, as I’ve said many times, the kids who are the most restricted in their formative years are the wildest once they get to high school. Or college.)

Today I’m a supporter of “sleep away” summer camp more than ever.  (My 10-year-old will attend one in East Texas for the first time in July.) Even if a camp doesn’t have all the freedoms of the one I attended, it’s still good for an older child to be away from home and make decisions on their own.  And it’s a growing experience not only for the child, but for the parent as well.  The other day, one of my friends, whose daughter is also signed up for a sleep away camp for the first time, called me in a panic to ask, “If the camp instructions say no cell phones, computers, or other electronic devices– how am I going to keep in touch with my child?” I hope I wasn’t too blunt in my answer, but basically I told her that while the camp does have a telephone, parents aren’t supposed to call unless it is an emergency. (And I think this rule has a lot to do with lessening homesickness as much as it helps a child have a bit of freedom.)
“But I’ve never not been in contact with her every day!” she said, sounding a little defiant.   That’s what the U.S. mail is still good for, I told her.  You write to them before they ever get to camp, so letters will be waiting for them at the first “mail call”.  And they write to you. (Thank God this particular camp still champions “Letters from Camp”!) 
“This is going to be so hard,” she said. 
Ah, but so worth it– especially if it’s a good camp experience for her daughter.

Lend Me Your (Double-Pierced?) Ear

With parenting, the wrestling never stops.  Wrestling with what to allow and when.  When your children are younger, you ponder and discuss with other moms such gut-wrenching questions like, “Is it time for potty training?” and “At what age should they be allowed to go to a slumber party?” Last week, I got to wrestle with the questions, “Should I let my 14-year-old get her upper ear lobe pierced?” and “Should I let my 10-year-old read Twilight?” 

They were begging me.  I said yes to both, after much thought and investigation.  For the ear question, I said yes thinking it would probably happen sometime in the future, when she’d saved enough money and gotten up the courage (this is a kid who greatly hates getting shots, by the way), so I figured by the time it could happen, she’d lose interest. But, never underestimate a strong-willed child.  Lucky for her, she found an old bank under the mess of STUFF she calls her room and had enough money to get it done. And fear went out the window in favor of fashion. So not only was she ready, she wanted to go get it done NOW.  “And you have to be there,” she told me, “because it requires parental consent.”  Not being one to drop everything and change plans at the whims of a teenager, I used one of my favorite phrases of all time,  “Go ask your father.” I figured that tactic would buy at least a couple weeks.  But, never underestimate a “fun” Dad (I forgot he once pierced his own ear in the punk 80’s, with ice and a needle…) He not only took her, he drove several miles back home from the mall to get a copy of her birth certificate and drive back (he says they required it to prove he was her Dad, not a boyfriend– HAH! HAH!)  So now she has a tiny new hole on the top edge of her left ear (which she says I need to refer to as “cartilege”–but that sounds too much like being at a meat counter, or in an operating room, for me…).

We are the only parents in her circle of friends who are currently allowing it.  I honestly don’t see what the big deal is– it’s one ear, one tiny hole, and all she wants to put into it is a tiny faux diamond. Not a hoop.  Not a claw.  Not a skull and crossbones with the words “Anarchy Rules”, for goodness sakes.  And, she paid for it.  But you’d think I let her pierce her belly button or tongue (both, by the way, which I would not allow).  It’s like when I let her dye her hair.  We’re not talking pink here. It was a just a darker shade of her already natural red. And it turned out beautifully. (And again– she paid for it with her own money!) But jaws dropped and phone lines heated up…

I just think parents need to pick their battles carefully, and these were two battles that didn’t need to be fought. Do parents think if you give an inch it will open the floodgates to tattoos, mohawks, sex, drinking and drugs? I think it’s quite the opposite.  I will never forget someone I knew who was forbidden to watch the insipid TV show “Love,  American Style” while growing up in the 70’s and restricted in many other ways.  She ended up pregnant before her senior year in high school, almost losing her life in childbirth.  And remember all those wild PK’s (preacher’s kids)?!  Parents need to look around and realize that the kids who are restricted the most usually rebel and try to express themselves in ways their parents would have never imagined possible.  In ways the kids themselves sometimes don’t even like– they’re just doing it as a reaction to their parents. (Or, they keep it all inside and eventually turn out psycho.) Giving teens some freedom is honoring their brains, their individuality, their decision-making. The unspoken message is, “I trust you enough to do so and so,” or “I know you’re smart enough to handle this,” or “Your fashion sense is different than mine but that’s okay” rather than “You’re stupid, untrustworthy, and don’t have a clue what to do so I’m going to control everything.”  What a gift to give your child!  Soon, my daughter will be driving a car, and In four short years will be graduating and leaving home (hopefully!), out of my sight far more than she’s ever been before.  The “ties” need to be given more and more slack each year until then, the freedoms need to be granted whenever safely and sanely possible, so that she’ll be ready, self-confident, capable.  Sure, the “what ifs” can be painful and worrisome with each new freedom granted, but I think it’s a necessary side effect of that kind of true love– non-possessive.  Was it hard to let a 13-year-old fly off to Costa Rica with her church youth group last summer to do volunteer work? Absolutely. But at the same time, I knew that the odds were in her favor to come back in one piece, a better person for having taken the trip. I was right.

At the same time, I’m not a nonstop Yes-Mom.  Remember, I’m uncool.  If a privilege is granted and then misused, there are consequences, and the privilege might not get granted again.  And if you read this blog, you’ll see plenty of things to which I say no.  But teens actually want that, as well.  The Dallas Morning News sometimes convenes a group of teens from across the North Texas area to talk about what’s on their minds and then a story is printed about what when on– every time, a lot of the teens speak about (no joke) wishing their parents would set limits for them, follow through with consequences when they do set limits, and give them jobs to do around the house (c’mon over to my house, kids!! )

So I think good parenting is a balance between giving freedoms and setting limits. Wonder what will try to tip the scales next week…