For the last few weeks, I've been through Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee, talking to parents about the current trajectory of teenage culture. I spend a great deal of time working with teens, but recently, I have found myself smack in the center of answering parent questions. I guess that's what happens when you start seeing grey hair appear on your head in the mirror each morning.
In any event, I'm pretty sure most parents are living life in a state of overwhelming.
Early morning practice.
Oh yeah, and those other three children need to do the same stuff!! What are we becoming? It's almost like our world is consisted of running from here to there in order to keep our kids on the track for success. But is it working? Are they more successful?
I guess that's another article for another day. Today, I just want to help parents come back to earth, see life through the lens of reality and take a deep breath. I'm worried for this generation of parents, as it seems the stress of being a parent is grinding. So, here are a couple of things I've learned as a husband of one, father of five and full-time author, president of a small company and friend to many.
1.) You're raising adults, not kids.
I think sometimes, we get this backwards. Sometimes, we have this notion that it's our job to raise children, but in reality, we are raising people to become successful adults. From post-puberty until the full logic formation of the frontal lobe of the brain, it's a parent's duty to put our children in places where they can make decisions and understand the consequences of their decisions in real time.
If they forget their homework, let them forget. One or two bad grades won't keep them out of Harvard. If they forget their lunch, don't take it to them. Let them feel hungry. One meal won't make them starve -- AND this way, they won't forget tomorrow. If the earn a bad grade on a test, don't call the teacher. Let your teenager figure out how to resolve the mistakes they make.
Coach, train, mentor and love; but don't let the burden of their success fall on you picking up the pieces all the time. I think lots of parents are stressed because they're living their own lives AND living their kids' lives. Remember: You are raising adults, not children.
2.) You're the parent. You decide!
I've been working with parents on the effect of social media and mobile communication on their homes. It seems their kids might physically be in the house, but with a cell phone or a laptop, you're actually sitting with all of their friends too.
I heard a parent last week say, "Well, we decided to wait and give our kid an iPhone when they're 11." I laughed out loud. Once, I recovered from my embarrassing moment, as I was the only one laughing, I realized this group of parents had no idea they could hold out on giving the cell phone and just be a parent.
"Did you know there was a time if you were carrying a cell phone, you were considered a drug dealer?" I remarked. "I didn't have a cell phone till I was 30, and I turned out OK. You're kid won't die without one."
I think too many parents are taking parental cues from other parents around them. If you want to hold out on the cell phone, good for you. If you want to help coach them how to use social media and take it slow, CONGRATULATIONS. You're being a parent. Don't let your community ramp up the stress, and then get swallowed in the black hole of activities. It's OK. Parent how you want to parent, and forget about what everyone else is doing.
3.) You're kids are going to be OK. Find their gift.
I know many parents who run their kids from event to event, returning home late at night only to fall into bed, exhausted. "We've got to be on the traveling soccer team," one said. "If he doesn't get into the right school, he won't be..." another commented.
It was like life was just pressing in tighter and tighter, and the vice of performance was squeezing the joy from the families I was talking with. They would look me in the eye with a wayward smile, but I saw in their eyes a place working to just survive.
I believe every kid is given a gift. Some are athletic. Some academic. Some are born engineers. Others are artists. Find what THEY are good at, and stick to that for a while. They don't need to be running around to all these different events. They'll find the one or two things they are passionate about, and then just sit in confidence they're going to be OK.
I believe there are steps to getting off the rat wheel of parental stress, but we all have to join together and stop trying to out perform each other. Rest. Relax. Take a Deep Breath. The world is still spinning. The sun is probably going to come up tomorrow. And everything is going to be OK.