We all struggle through teen years. Then we must experience it all over again when our maturing children face the same challenges. Parents have to be loving and understanding, while at the same time honor our responsibilities as advisers and disciplinarians.
My growing-up experiences: My teenage years were controlled by rules I couldn’t question. From age six in a residential school for fatherless boys, each daily moment was decided for me. Then, in World War II, I joined the Navy. Until age 20, I was thoroughly indoctrinated never to challenge authority.
How tough teen years affected my role as father: With fatherhood, it was natural for me to apply my growing-up experiences to raising my children. At the same time, I was aware we were in a more permissive environment and they needed to make some of their own decisions. However, it was also absolutely necessary to set and enforce rules.
These are some parenting challenges and how I met them.
Set definite limits: Before they reached their teens, we made certain our children knew how they were expected to behave. Through early years, they learned rules of right and wrong. When unacceptable actions warranted, they knew there would be consequences. We applied discipline with love, but also established boundaries.
Be available for discussions: What I missed as a teen were adults who weren’t absolute authority figures. With my children, I was always available and understanding, especially when tough decisions had to be made.
Dinnertime was for discussions about daily happenings, and each child could bring up any concern. They knew what was expected of them, while at the same time, they could rely on sympathetic adult advice.
Teach responsibility: In our home, everyone had daily tasks. As toddlers, our children kept their rooms neat, put away toys and cared for pets. Into teen years, there was lawn mowing, kitchen duties and caring for younger siblings.
Strengthen togetherness: At home we listened to music, read books aloud and played educational games. Into their teens, we shared experiences beyond the home, traveling everywhere from the nearby library to faraway national parks.
Final word: No matter how tough the struggle through their teens, I was always there to express love, give compliments and offer encouragement.