As I discussed in my previous post, sometimes we just have to pause and take a deep breath when we are in the middle of a conversation with our teenager.
Let's pause now and talk about "reality checking.”
When I was in the 6th grade my English teacher, Ms. Cole, told me I was going to be an author. I don't remember what prompted this. The only thing I do remember is that my young, single, and liberated female teacher thought I had the potential to write things other people would read! I couldn't wait to tell my mom when I got home from school. This could be it- this could be the profession for me!
But when I told my mother, she patted my head and said, "You're probably not going to be an author, sweetie."
Now before you jump to the conclusion that my mom was a dream crusher, you need to remember that I was only in the 6th grade and that my mother probably recognized -and worried- about the influence Ms. Cole had over me. I am convinced that my mother was offering a reality check for me. She was doing her best to keep me from being hurt down the line if in fact I failed. She didn't want me to be disappointed or disillusioned. I know my mom's intention was a simple "don't get your hopes up because they might get crushed." This is a loving and caring response that many parents offer their children. However, the comment remained somewhere in my memory bank and it may be the audio recording that plays each time I decide to write something and wonder if it is in fact "good enough" for people to read.
Parenting positively falls somewhere in between Ms. Cole and my mother's examples. Our teenagers need people in their lives who can dream with them and open them up to new possibilities or new goals. If you tell your teens, you can't, you won't, or you aren't, then your children will have a difficult time coming to you when they are disappointed and disillusioned. If you say, I can't wait to see what the future holds for you, or, I know there are so many great things that you can do, then you leave the door open to celebrating their successes and walking beside them if their hopes and dreams do not become reality.
It’s probable that a 5'2" high school senior will not play professional basketball, but it’s best to let someone else make that clear to her, or for her to come to that realization on her own. Our teenagers need someone to turn to in the midst of their disappointment who won't say, I told you so.
For most young people, I believe in you, and, you are such a hard worker, are much better motivators than, This is just not going to happen for you. While there are some teenagers who might be motivated to prove people wrong, encouragement is a much more connecting parenting approach.
Be positive and be present. We all need that!