My kids tell me that I brag about them too much. I’m sure my friends would probably agree. Know what? They are absolutely right. I do brag about my kids. I’d like to tell you why, and encourage you to do it, too.
Consider, if you will, this website, which is all about Empowering Parents. Wonderful! Let’s teach the people who already hold the power cards how to handle the brats they were dealt! Or maybe this one who thinks we should teach kids to “avoid negative thoughts”. All of them? How are kids supposed to learn to handle adversity, to persevere when their life gets tough? How can we expect kids to “grow up and act like adults” if we don’t give them the tools to do so?
Teenagers are barraged on all sides with negativity. The media, the stresses of school, work, family dynamics, peer pressure, it all adds up. Society has drilled it into our heads that teenagers are a pain in the ass – does it not stand to reason that teenagers hear it, too? Why shouldn’t they fulfill what “everybody” knows to be true? That one blog I referenced above even goes so far as to call their page “My Problem Child”. Maybe it should’ve been, “My Problem Parenting”.
Like anyone else, if we hear something enough times, it becomes the Truth. (Yes, I meant to capitalize that.) I grew up with my father telling me that I was a mistake, a regret, and a few other things I won’t repeat in public. When he died, I did attend the funeral and the burial, out of respect for my mother. However, I have no clue where the cemetery is now. I know what town it’s in, and I know a vague direction within the town. Other than that? Nada. I couldn’t find the place without a gps if my life depended on it. Are you really surprised?
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if there was a way around the misery?
If our teenagers hear their parents tell other people how lucky they are, how proud we are, how happy we are that these teens are in our lives, they believe they have worth. And they do! Teenagers, if you just stop bitching about them for a second, have amazing insights. They observe their world from such a perceptive place; the information saturating their minds. So many different perspectives are thrown at them: political views conflict with religious upbringing, people they meet are different from what they’ve been told. How can they possibly make sense of it all? The overwhelming input leaves them dazed and confused.
You are the adult, right? You are the older, supposedly wiser person in the relationship. So use your superior cognitive skills and reshape your own words. Does your child dress “weird”? Why not value her sense of individuality and style, and be proud of her ability to go against what everyone else is wearing? Is she opinionated? Be proud that she can stand for what she believes in. Instead of barking, try asking. You want politeness? Say “please” and “thank you”. Respect your child, speak to him like a person; it’s amazing what you’ll get back.
I promised to tell you why I brag about my kids, and I know I haven’t yet. The answer is really quite simple. I want my kids to know for sure, every second of every day, they are valued and prized by me. I do not want them to ever doubt my love for them, my pride in the person that each is becoming. Because every day that I am so blessed to have my children in my life, another mother is grieving, wishing with all of her being for one more day with her own.
I’ve attended two funerals inside of two weeks for teenagers. One died of an overdose, and one from a brain tumor. The anguish and grief in the mothers’ faces tore my heart out. I have cried more in these two weeks than I have in years. It isn’t that I was close to either child; I wasn’t. But I am grieving for the heart wrenching loss that my son is feeling. I am grieving for those two mothers who will never again see their children smile, hear their children laugh, or hold their children in their arms.
If for no other reason, consider this: if you knew that the teenager in your life (and I know there’s one somewhere, or you wouldn’t be reading this!) was going to die next week, would you want that teenager to die knowing in his heart that he is a “pain in the ass” or would you want his last thoughts be to know that he is loved, valued, and respected as a person?
The next time you speak to or about a teenager, stop and think first. What is your goal, here? Change your own paradigm and you can change a teenager’s world.