Springtime and graduations bring many philosophers out of hiding. Here are several quotes, some familiar and some not, that can summarize some helpful points for parents of teenagers to remember:
• “If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning” (Catherine Aird). This emphasizes that the old “Do as I say, not as I do” mantra that parents may utter doesn’t work out very well. Our teens watch us and we teach by our examples — whether we intend to or not.
• “Raising teens is like nailing Jell-O to a tree” (unknown). Children of all ages have free will, and “control” doesn’t describe what parents can actually do in the parent-child relationship. “Influence” is a better word; we can teach our children why it is best to choose correct behaviors and reinforce those choices. In the teen years, this is certainly true.
• “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak” (Epictetus). Couple this quote with Stephen R. Covey’s “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” to emphasize the most essential communication skills needed for successful relationships. Listening in silence opens the door to mutual respect and invites problem-solving.
• “The way you treat any relationship in the family will eventually affect every relationship in the family” (Covey). In Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Families,” he outlines “A Day’s Input to a Teen” of typical parent-to-teen comments made for a day. The reader cringes when recognizing how easy it is to fall into a pattern of ordering, criticizing and nagging for most of our daily exchanges. Spending time together is important, and inviting that connection means paying attention to the words we choose.
• “We are, each of us, odd” (Wally Goddard). Goddard wrote this as part of an address at the 2010 National Council on Family Relations conference titled “Getting Beyond Skills in Family Relationships.” He asserts that we tend to see things as we are, based on our own needs and biases, so we often don’t truly understand each other. He recommends that we use our hearts in family relationships and practice compassion. This is the best way to be open to other people’s perspectives.
• “Your children need your presence more than your presents” (Jesse Jackson). This pairs nicely with, “If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders” (Abigail Van Buren). In order for teens to successfully learn, grow and develop, beware of overindulging children by giving them too much of things that they don’t need. One of the developmental tasks for teenagers is to gradually take more steps toward independence, doing more for themselves and learning needed skills used in adulthood.
• “Setting a good example for your children takes all the fun out of middle age” (William Feather). OK, this one is here to see if you’re still reading. Best wishes.