No single theme dominated your responses. You mentioned a variety of approaches, including the following:
- Talk a lot with your children. Discuss important life issues. Teach values and skills. Start when they are very young and continue until the teens become convinced you don't know anything anymore. Then you must step back and trust the foundation you built.
- If they still live under my roof then they must live by my rules.
- It is important to encourage good behavior in teens, not just to prohibit the bad.
- Once they move out, young adults have a need to assert their own control.
- At some point you need to give more control to the teens. Several respondents mentioned a message like, "That is not what I would do but it's your decision. I'm here for you if you need me."
- Ban the big no-nos and don't sweat the small stuff.
- It's not the job of a parent to be a friend.
- Some parents are tempted to be strict because they fear the child's behavior might reflect poorly on the parents.
- Being firm and setting limits has a subtext; we love you and we want you to be safe.
- Parents must show by example, not just tell.
My kids are 15 1/2 and 17. I've worried all the time about letting my boys go...when is the right time? What if something happens they don't know how to handle? What if they get in with the wrong crowd? God forbid, what if they decide to experiment with drugs? The list is endless.
I feel I've done the best I can at teaching my teens the differences between right and wrong, good and bad. As far as I believe, we instill these traits into them from a very early age. It's been a rocky road for me to let them slowly go over the years. But I grit my teeth and try to show that I have absolute faith in their decisions. I have to trust that I've taught them well, and I have to have faith that they will follow through with that, putting their own unique spin on it.
I say "It's not something I would do, but if that's how you want to do it, then ok, it's up to you." I think this lets them know I'm not keen, but they have a right to do it their own way. If they fall on their faces, they know it happened because of their choice and hopefully learn from it...and it stops me from coming out with "I told you so." Because by twisting the words a little, I didn't lol
Besides the 'typical' teenage changes and angst, and the battle of testosterone going on between my boys during their respective puberties...we haven't done so badly really.
And saying that, I don't think I've ever questioned my own parenting ability more than I have in the past 2 years.
I suspect Lisa's willingness to question her own approach is exactly the strength that allows her to figure out what her boys need most.
Thanks again to everyone for pitching in.