Parents, take this short quiz:
- T F When my kid has a paper to write, I love when I, I mean when he/she gets a good grade.
- T F When my teen is having a problem with a teacher, a friend, a coach or the other "parent" I love to provide the solution to make his/her life easier, and have them benefit from my experience.
- T F When my teen is looking for a job, a summer program, or community service, I do everything I can to help by calling everyone I know.
- T F Now that my teen is ready for the college process, I do all the research about the colleges, visits, and requirements, because I know how busy my teen is.
- T F When my teen doesn't know how to do something, I love telling him/her how to do it, because I know they appreciate and expect my help.
So, how did you do?? If you even had one "T" you might unknowingly be preventing your teen from developing resourcefulness and resilience, two personality traits that are present in very successful adults. Getting straight "A"s", graduating at the top of the class, or even going to an Ivy League college is not what guarantees success in life.
Most teens demand to be in charge of their social life, not wanting help from you at all. But when it comes to the parts of their life, they feel less confident in, they may demand your help. And what parents doesn't love it, when your teen asks for your help. It's like a drug. It may not happen often, but when it does, you are primed and ready for action. If feeds your need to feel like a competent and supportive parent, especially if your relationship with your teen has been going through a rocky spell. But what makes kids feel confident and competent is moving past frustration to success.
Think of it this way. Perhaps recently you bought a coffee table for your family room from IKEA. In the store the table looked pretty simple to put together; A few slabs of wood, some glass, a couple of screws and bolts...piece of cake!! Then you get the big brown box home, enthusiastically throw all the stuff on the floor, with the expectation you will have your beautiful table up and usable in an hour or so. 5 hours later, sweat pouring off your brow, swears emanating from your mouth, you kick the stupid wood, throw the screws against the wall, ready to "cry uncle". You get up, stomp around your house, curse IKEA and the directions that seem to be written for someone with a PHD in engineering, and then you get back down on the floor, and start again. And finally, because the only choice was to figure out how to put the damn table together, the table comes together, almost magically. And you stand up, puffed up with pride and look at your "baby". And every time a new person walks into your house, and they compliment you on your cool coffee table, you say proudly.. I put that table together. And honestly it feels as important to you as almost anything else you have accomplished in your life. And why is that? Is is because you persisted through your frustration, your feeling of incompetence and what felt like the impossible, to your ultimate success. It is a feeling you don't forget.
When you solve your teen's problems for them, even if they ask you too, when you give into their frustration because it feels unbearable to you, you take away the opportunity for them to have their IKEA moments. The ability to delay gratification, develop frustration tolerance, and figure it out, is something that will follow them all the way through their life. Through relationships that go through hard times, to jobs that aren't working out the way they anticipated, money problems, housing issues, and their own ability to parent. An A in English will not be helpful in those situations. There is truly nothing more important to teach your teens than the ability to accept and deal with disappointment, that they can't have or do anything they want to have or do just because they want it, or that when something feels just too hard, that you will rescue them from their pain.
So the next time they come to you for help, start first with a "so what do YOU think you should do? The process will take a lot longer, but when you can say to your teen, I am really proud of you,I know that was really hard for you to do, but you stuck with it, and "just look at your table!"