“Who in the world told my kids they could have a life of their own?” I remember chronically thinking this while ours were teenagers. Just when we hit a parenting stride that was awesome (awesome… meaning I was pretty much in control of their schedules and daily details, and made sure none of it actually conflicted with MY important plans), they started individuating and making plans of their own.
As parents, this is the season we begin to battle two conflicting emotions: the urge to take back control and the desire to become buddies. Both usually originate from legitimate motives. One, we don’t want them to fail and we believe we hold the keys to that. Two, we want them to like us during a chunk of years when they possibly won’t. Both are a disservice to them.
Since our kids are entering a new season of life, a new parenting approach has to be considered. We loosen the tight reigns of the training years and move to the sidelines for coaching. Coaches don’t the leave the field. They don’t get distracted with other stuff. They watch carefully, call some plays, and pull their players off of the field from time to time. They have no immediate goals of keeping their players happy. Mostly, they encourage their players to run the plays and respond to situations according to the training they’ve received.
Transitioning to the coaching role wasn’t intuitive for me. Disciplining and training had become engrained. What helped me most was thinking about it in terms of “I’m for you.” I’m for your physical safety. I’m for your emotional health. I’m for your relational success. I’m for your mental and spiritual development. I’m for you making it to the end of these middle school years, or high school years, with as few regrets as possible. You’re the player, but I’m not afraid to pull you aside for tweaks, corrections, and sometimes sitting out a game. I’m for you. I know you can do this, and I’m here to help when you need it.
Resisting the urge to control and not caving to the desire to prematurely make friendship a priority brings health to a family. Coaching our kids through those middle and high school years, in spite of a few regrets here and there, is the stuff rich relationships are made of later. In hindsight, my kids gaining “a life of their own” has truly broadened and enriched mine!