By BARBARA ESTEVES-MOORE
During parent night at my teen’s high school, the head of school spoke briefly to parents about a message that has stuck with me.
He told the parents they needed to move from being managers to consultants when it came to parenting their teens.
- Don’t wake them up in the mornings; make them set an alarm.
- Don’t do their laundry; show them how to use the washing machine and dryer.
- Don’t arrange all their after-school activities; that’s their job now.
OK, this will take a minute to sink in. At least that’s what I thought. I’m very aware that in just two years my child will be heading off to college. My husband and I, as her parents, still have a lot of work to do to prepare her for that moment. But I wasn’t thinking of it in these terms. I am still very much a manager for my teen. I organize things, clean things up, do laundry, schedule things, oversee. I clearly need to rethink this.
What is great about parenting is that nature seems to help sometimes knowing exactly when to kick in and help you make transitions. Just as I am hearing this advice from the head of my teen’s school, things are shifting in our family.
My teen is now driving and I am working at home. So, I don’t get up at 5:15 a.m. every day now. She now has the earliest wake-up call in the house. I don’t take two or three trips upstairs to wake her up in the morning. She’s setting her alarm – something she started on the first day of school because she wants to eat breakfast before she leaves if she is taking the car. And, most importantly, she wants to be at school early enough to see her friends before her first class. So, she is getting herself up in the morning without my prodding.
My daughter has two trainers she works with for her sport who both now communicate largely through Facebook groups. This is where they post lesson times, information about events, schedules for barn chores, general messages students need to know, etc. Years ago my daughter asked for a Facebook page and we said no. She then lost interest and moved on to bigger and better things like Instagram and Snapchat – mostly Shapchat (but that’s a whole other column). This summer, in a strange twist of circumstances, we made her get a Facebook page so she could keep up with her trainers. I had enough of being her personal secretary and it was time I didn’t do that anyway.
Michael Riera, Ph.D., head of a private school in California, spoke online about this very topic of managing teens vs. being their consultant. Riera said our children actually fire us when it’s time to stop organizing their every move. They don’t need us to sign them up for playdates anymore and they don’t even really need us to do much to manage their school work either. They push us away. Riera said it is our job as parents to not get too upset with the termination but instead to “get rehired as a consultant.”
That half-step back, as he labeled it, is where we want to be. It is a position where we have more influence than control. It allows our children to grow while we’re still around as a resource on all matters big and small.
I am still trying to identify the ways in which I manage my teen: I still clean her laundry and ask her if she has enough money for stopping at Sonic after school and I often remind her to check Facebook for information she needs to know from her trainers. But I recognize now the things that I am doing are managing her instead of acting as a resource. I know I’m helping by doing less and I kind of like the idea of doing less in general.
My husband and I are here for anything she needs and are always more than willing to offer sage advice. So it’s now her job to seek out her consultants as needed.
Barbara Esteves-Moore is a journalist, editor and the owner of Two Roads Communications and an editor for Home Page Media. She has been married for 20 years and is the mother of an active, opinionated and very lively 16-year-old.You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org