Switching Gears – Parenting A Teenager

Being a mom since July 2004, I have walked through many different stages with my boys throughout the years. The very hands on, tiresome, cuddly infant stage. First steps. First foods. First words.

The calorie burning, I wonder what time they are going to climb into my bed tonight, take a deep breath as they shout “NO!”…again, toddler years.
Starting school and learning to read. Forming individual personalities. Finding personal interests and hobbies. Scrapes, cuts, hospital visits.
So many seasons in what turned out to be a very short amount of time.

By the time my oldest turned 11 (he is now 14), we had walked through many of these early year experiences with him (and repeated the same thing several times over with his younger three brothers as well).

I ever so cautiously began to believe I might possibly have things under control, and could navigate some situations pretty well. (I know…very wishful thinking!) Certain things were even getting easier as he entered into the double digits in age. He was becoming much more independent, we could have healthy conversations, discipline was far less of a struggle, he still actually liked me!!!

And then. Puberty. That just went right on ahead and threw everything I thought I knew straight out the window!

First of all, I thought puberty was going to come quite a while later. He was my first so I had zero experience and was completely unprepared. I didn’t realize that puberty actually starts, before puberty actually starts!! There are…symptoms…that slowly creep in and you realize this is only the beginning so it’s time to brace yourself for impact.

The thing I remember most about when we first entered this new stage was thinking to myself…Oh crap. I do not know how to parent this!

I literally did not know how to parent this. Every method that worked before wasn’t working anymore! I quickly figured out that I had to re-learn how to parent my child.
To me that was so frightening. Right when I felt I was finally getting the hang of things, I had to start all over!

Our role in our son’s life was changing. Shifting from a place where we say yes or no and have the final say, to more teaching and guiding and trusting, rather than deciding for him.

Understanding, and fully accepting this truth really helped both my husband and I begin to navigate what our role should look like at this point with our son.

I took a step back and saw things in a whole new light. I really thought about our place in all this and what this turning point actually meant. We were transitioning from raising a small child to make good choices, and learn, and basically just not hurt themselves on the daily, to assisting in this human person’s journey from a boy into a man.

I suddenly gained this heavy understanding that we are not just “raising kids”, we are creating people! Good, healthy, beautiful, productive people.

I know it sounds very strange to say that I finally realized my child is a person.
But for a long time there, I felt like all I was doing and all I would be doing for the rest of my life was just raising these kids! It can be extremely hard to see into the future where these tiny babies of yours really do turn into responsible, self sufficient humans who often times are a little bit taller and a lot a bit smarter than you!

We have had so many ups and downs putting into practice what we were beginning to understand. We have had some really high highs, and some really low lows. But as we work our way through, we are learning a lot (often times from our mistakes) and growing in our ability to transition our parenting.

The main thing we have learned is the simplest. COMMUNICATION. And not just what we are communicating, but how we are communicating it. Also, understanding that communicating means talking AND listening! That way you are creating a home that is a safe and comfortable space for them to walk and talk through the many trials they will face over the next several years.

We have realized we need to harness and honor his newfound desire for independence, as well as him becoming his own person (who may see things differently than we do) rather than fighting against it. In the beginning we were really exhausting ourselves trying to retain that same control over his choices and even his perspectives and opinions.

I realized I needed to transition from being used to having the final say, to sharing my wisdom and offering guidance but allowing him to make the right (or wrong at times) choice and having the freedom to do so.

Now I am not talking about non-negotiables like drinking, or parties, or straight up stupid decisions, or anything harmful or dangerous. I am talking about personal choices that I really shouldn’t be making for him at this point anyway.

Continuing to communicate, and teach, and guide, and listen, will foster the right character while building his belief in himself to be strong and independent and capable of making great choices. Building on his self esteem is huge to me.

We do have some tangible things we have put into place.
One of the most important things for me is finances. We are very big on teaching, and involving him regularly in all things financial. Banking, credit, spending, saving, bills…
We are training him to set himself up even now as a teenager to always make his money work for him, not the other way around.

A lot of people have different methods for how they do banking for their kids, but this is what we do that is working SO well for us.
We have our own accounts with a bank that allows us to open as many sub accounts as we choose. Then we are able to access them all from the same page of the bank’s app.

This makes transferring money and separating our finances a breeeeze. (But I’ll save that info for another blog.) After opening our own checking and savings accounts (as well as several other for budgeting reasons, but again, that I will save for another blog), we opened an account for each of our boys. When they get money, we immediately deposit it into their account. That way they are not walking around in life with their cash literally burning a hole in their pocket. It also eliminates the risk of them losing their cash which we learned the hard way was something we should be careful about.

When they do decide there is something they want to buy, I open my app, transfer that amount from their account into our checking, and make the purchase on my credit card. An added bonus to doing it this way is getting the extra cash back on our credit card for their purchases!
For my teenage son, this gives him freedom to choose when and where to spend his money, but with an umbrella of protection from sharing that responsibility with us.

Another really wonderful tangible thing we have done financially is to add our son as an authorized user to our credit cards. They send a card with his name on it and we use it instead of ours. That way these purchases (and payoffs) are going on his record to build his credit, and he is also piggybacking on our credit to help boost his score. This way when he is ready to fly the coop he should have a solid financial foundation to start his adult life off with.
We plan to add each of our boys as authorized users on our credit cards as they turn 14.

Lastly in the financial, when our son gets his first job with a steady paycheck we are going to start charging him rent. **gasps** A lot of you probably just stopped and thought “She had me up until she said she was going to charge her son rent.”…
There is purpose to it though! First and most obvious is to teach him responsibility and financial management. To introduce him to the weight and obligation our bills have on our income.

But the most important thing we will be doing is putting that money aside for him. Every payment he gives to us will be saved for him to have a cushion to start his life with when he moves out of our home. We will still be encouraging him to save from the remainder of his income and build up a cushion that way, because that is another financial lesson that is important, but his rent savings will be a bonus.

It’s not much, and it’s not magic. But we know from experience how quickly your little can add up to something great so we are hoping this can be just the beginning steps to build something great for him!

Every parent, teen, family is different. What works for us may not work for you exactly as it does for us. I have spent a lot of time praying, researching, and changed my methods a million times over!

This parenting thing is hard! With each new season comes new trials filled with heartache and triumph, doubt and confidence. I am constantly failing, then apologizing, and starting over. I want to encourage you that as long as you are open to trying new things and learning as you go, you are going to be okay!

Filling your home with love, and honesty, and support is the very most important part to this journey. You got this.

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