October 06, 2014 —
Last summer my twelve year old daughter decided to let her big sister cut her hair.
All year I have heard the statements, “I wish I didn’t get my hair cut. I miss having long hair. It was so much easier to fix!”
Recently, as she was getting into the pool, trying to arrange her short hair into her goggles, I heard a new one.
“It is amazing how much one decision can affect your life.”
It was so profound. Such a huge concept: some of our choices really do affect us for a long time. Some of them, the rest of our lives.
As I continue to navigate through these very murky waters of parenting, as the seasons and challenges change… one thing stays consistent. I find myself reminding my kids on a regular basis that their daily choices affect their future. Especially in academics, relationships, health and careers.
As they are traveling through their teen years, we are intentionally giving them more opportunities to make their own choices.
We are also helping them think through the consequences of those choices.
Here are some of the questions to ask to get their "thinkers" going:
- Does your choice hurt someone?
- Does your choice hinder you from a goal you have set?
- Does your choice hinder a relationship with someone you really care about? Can this choice be avoided?
- Does your choice cross boundaries that society has established as wrong, unacceptable or illegal? (Practical examples include prejudice remarks, pirating movies and not following teen drivers license restrictions.)
- Do you realize you lose privileges if you make this choice?
- How you use your time and money now affects future plans and opportunities. Is this choice hurting your future plans?
- Does your choice offend someone you deeply care about? Are you willing to risk that relationship for a preference?
- Does this choice represent you in the way you want to be seen by others?
I have been pleasantly surprised by the good decisions they can make when it stops being about me vs. them. (I do have to remind them, “I’m not the enemy here!)
However, to clarify, there ARE times where we have stepped in and said, “We are going to make this choice for you.”
You know the choices… the big ones… ones that would affect their futures and relationships in ways with lasting consequences. Those are what we are here for as parents, right?
As a teen, “real life” seems so far in the future. In our house, we often remind our kids that this teen life is so short. Soon they will be on their own, making all their own choices.
It is a sobering reality. And it helps all of us keep their choices in perspective.
We can help them learn by letting them flap their wings a bit and make some of the smaller choices.
And we don’t need to rescue them from their failures.
They need them.
Just like we did!
So let them test drive on the little stuff. Let them be a little cold because they didn’t dress warm enough after you warned them. Let them feel the loss of their hair. Let them wish they had spent their money more wisely. Let them miss out on going somewhere because they didn’t plan well. Let them pay their late fees.
It’s all part of growing up.
They have to learn.
Cause the big ones are coming.
The ones that really matter.
Jen Burns is a mom-of-six living in Nashville, TN. She blogs about intentional parenting at sotheycanfly.com. Her book Helping Your Kids Be Creative and Change Their World is available on Amazon.com. Her newest illustrated children’s book: James and the Big Battle: A Children's Book about Allergies, gives children confidence that they can live full lives in spite of the obstacles they face. You can connect with Jen at Facebook.com/sotheycanfly or firstname.lastname@example.org. She would love to hear from you!