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Parenting Super Hero or Not?
Counter to what some people might think, I find that the most irresponsible teens come from the most responsible parents...
None of us can see our own errors; deliver me, LORD, from (my) hidden faults! - Psalms 19:12
Being a super hero works out pretty well in the movies or comic books, but when it comes to parenting, rescuing your teenager every time can lead to problems. It can spoil their ability to see the world as it truly is, and it can cause uncaring, self-centered and entitled thinking in your teenager now and throughout their lifetime.
Parents are wired to protect their children. It's natural and it is needed in the early childhood years, but some parents continue protecting their offspring far longer than they should. Beginning in the teen years, kids need to begin feeling the impact of their own actions and to be given more responsibility for their own survival.
Counter to what some people might think, I find that the most irresponsible teens come from the most responsible parents. I call them "Super Parents." They are so fixated on fixing problems that they fix all of their teenager's mistakes as well. They don their cape and fly off to badger a teacher who has given their teenager a bad grade. They run faster than a steaming locomotive and bend steel bars to get their errant teen out of jail. And in everyday terms; they pick up their teen's room, manage his money, pay his speeding tickets, wash his cloths and rush him to school when he oversleeps in the morning.
When it comes to parenting in the teen years, another name for a "Super Parent" is an "enabler." They enable a teen to go right on breaking the rules and stomping all over everyone - and each time the teen is rescued it is from something a little more serious.
If you are an enabler, I'd like you to consider a different approach, for everyone's sake. Life doesn't have to revolve around chasing after your teen's problems - even if you like being the super hero! Believe me; the problems will only get worse, not better, with every rescue. You're not doing your teenager any favors. In fact, you'll likely end up with exactly the opposite of what you are hoping for - a childish adult who remains dependent on you and cannot manage his finances, his relationships, nor his life.
The only way out of this spin cycle is to bring it to an end. How? By having a good talk with your teenager to tell them you will no longer be intervening on their behalf. Then hand your teen's problems right back to them. They won't believe it at first. They'll think you'll still rescue them, but don't do it! They need to feel the bite of making their own mistakes, and they need to know you won't come running (or leaping tall buildings) to rescue them. I'm not talking about "not being there" for your teen, or ignoring them and "throwing them to the wolves." I'm talking about rescuing them from opportunities they encounter in life that will help them develop responsibility, make better choices, and mature.
Until the pain of consequences of behavior is greater than the pleasure a teen gets from that particular behavior, their actions won't stop.
Why Kids Need Consequences
It's no mystery. Teenagers behave irresponsibly when they've not had to be responsible for their behavior. They do not magically become more responsible, mature, or wise as they get older. They learn experientially, and they get wiser by living. They learn by being given responsibility and by facing uncomfortable consequences for failing in that responsibility or making bad decisions. If they put their hand in a flame, they need to learn they'll get burned. Even if you tell them they'll be burned, at some point they'll test out your theory. And if they don't feel the sting of the fire when they do test it, they'll likely do it again and again, just to show you that you're wrong!
So, what does scripture say about consequences? In Proverbs it says, "The Lord disciplines those He loves" (Proverbs 3:12a) and "Discipline your son, and he will give you peace"( Proverbs 29:17). Discipline is a principle found throughout the Old and New Testaments. So, there is nothing more loving, biblical and godly than to give proper discipline to your children.
Consequences can be the natural result of foolish actions, such as breaking a leg from jumping off a roof, or they can be what employers, parents or authorities use to bring about a positive change in behavior. For parents, the goal of consequences is not punishment; it is to help your teenager grow up. In adult life, we deal with consequences every day, and if we're smart we avoid them, but teenagers still need to learn that wisdom, even though they are capable of being adults intellectually and biologically.