Last week, Lynn Wicker covered the preparation dads need to face to make it through the earlier years of parenting. This go-round, tweens and teens are the topic.
In my article last week, “How Did You Prepare to be a Dad?… and Other Questions You Never Thought You’d Be Asked”, I shared some lighthearted questions dads might want to ask while parenting kids from babies through elementary school age.
This week, I’m continuing the conversation with even more questions a dad may ask while parenting preteens through high school.
I absolutely love to laugh and looking at parenting challenges from a humorous point of view can be a great strategy for facing some harsh and difficult realities.
The issues definitely tend to get more complicated during the preteen (or “tween” years) and through the high school years, but staying intentional in your parenting will allow you to “prepare on the front end” instead of “repairing on the back end!”
- There is preparation for a dad as their child enters into the preteen and middle school years. It is during these years that many parents often began to wonder many things about their children.
Dads should wonder: Where is my REAL child and who is this horrible imposter living in my house? Is it unlawful to nail your 7th grader’s bedroom door shut while he’s inside? If I never have the “sex talk” with my middle schooler, does that mean I don’t have to worry about her ever finding out about the birds and the bees?
American humorist Arnold Glasow quipped, “Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath.”
If my 8th grade daughter calls her mom the “B” word, what are the current sentencing guidelines I can expect for what is going to happen next? And, finally, how many part-time jobs will I need to keep my 15-year-old son adequately supplied with Twinkies and milk?
I was fortunate enough to be an assistant principal at the middle school level for eight years. Those years taught me a lot not only about that age group of kids, but also about the variety of reactions of parents of middle-schoolers.
There were definitely some funny moments.
With around 1,000 students at the school in grades 6, 7 and 8, we used to say the definition of a middle school student was that they ran everywhere they went and when they got there, they hit somebody. Actually, that’s pretty close to the truth (from my observations)!
Part of my assistant principal duties were to administer discipline to the students who received misconduct reports from their teachers.
I’d love to tell you this responsibility was one of my most cherished memories, but that would be a lie.
It was a great mystery to me, in the beginning, to see how many parents were caught totally off guard by the behavior of their middle-schoolers and, worse than that, they seemed to want no part of being the solution. It didn’t take long during the parent phone call or the conference to know what they were thinking, or not, as the case may be.
One particular parent reaction that became somewhat predictable came when a child became a 6th grader, who was also their oldest or only child. I could always tell by the conversation.
It went something like this.
“I just don’t understand it! Craig was a straight-A student all through elementary school, never got into any kind of trouble and always did what we asked him to do at home. Now, he’s failing math and science, he’s been written up by three of his teachers for misbehaving in class and last night, he slammed his bedroom door in my face when I asked him if he had finished his homework!” I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND IT!”
Does that story sound vaguely familiar to you?
If you have a middle-schooler, probably at least some version of it does.
Let’s not forget the incredible social changes that rear their ugly heads in this age group.
There are new friendships to maneuver through and hormones raging out of control, and it all begins to take its toll. One day, she’s playing with Barbie dolls, and the next day she’s experimenting with mascara. One day, he’s pushing toy trucks in the dirt, and the next day he’s flexing his muscles in front of the bathroom mirror. Or vice versa.
Suddenly, it’s like you don’t even recognize your child anymore, on any level. It’s at this point that parents often get very frustrated, because all the things they used to do don’t seem to be working anymore.
I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “Parenting is not for cowards.” I couldn’t agree more.
Let’s look at one last preparation stage and a few more questions.
2. There is preparation for a dad as their child enters into the teenage and high school years. When children reach their high school years, their parents are either totally exhausted or elated from actually surviving their children’s middle school years and living to tell about it.
In either case, the high school years definitely have their own unique challenges requiring a new kind of thinking for a dad. At this point, teenagers are beginning to see themselves as competent and approaching adulthood. As a result, they often really begin to challenge the adult norms, both at school and at home. This time period for dads becomes especially challenging if they aren’t prepared.
Dads should consider the following: Is it legally or morally wrong to refuse to add your teenaged driver to your car insurance policy? If your 11th grade daughter, Amanda, starts doodling on her notebook “Mrs. Amanda Wilson” and her 41-year-old Economics teacher’s name is Wilson, should you be worried? What if your 12th grade son has his heart set on attending Stanford University, but your college budget can only afford City College, should you take out a second mortgage on the house to make his dream come true?
We often seem to get through the teenager phase exhausted and feeling that the only thing we have left to look forward to is karma.
Speaking of karma, columnist Doug Larson says, “Few things are more satisfying than seeing your children have teenagers of their own.”
And I’ll repeat once again, parenting is not for cowards.
As a dad…
Prepare on the front end and lessen your repairs on the back end.
None of us is perfect when it comes to parenting.
There’s plenty of hope for our kids’ futures, but as author John C. Maxwell says, “Hope is not a strategy.”
But you’re now armed with more than just hope.
You’ve got skills…and karma!
Photo credit: Getty Images