Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I really don't think there is much I can say about my upbringing that doesn't begin with the fact that I had two fantastic parents.
Okay, we had our tough times - you know, my teenage years - but for the most part, I never had any real reason to be angry with them. They were fair parents and treated me with respect and, most importantly, trusted my decisions.
You see, my parents never pestered me about where I had been or what my grades were - they didn't hound my teachers or interrogate my friends. They trusted that I made the right decisions. I don't know what I did to earn this trust (or perhaps I always had it and never gave reason to lose it), but they knew I was a good kid.
And you know what? I was. I managed to navigate my teenage years with no difficulty. I never got in trouble, my grades were good and I stayed far away from the less savory high school behavior that has become synonymous with teenagers (sometimes justified, but sometimes not).
I think the reason behind this was that I knew I had my parents' trust and I did not want to lose it.
But I've discovered most parents don't give their teenagers the same amount of trust. In high school, even in college, I knew parents who managed everything in their child's life. They bought their clothes, chose their classes, tracked them throughout the day and even checked the mileage on their car.
Sometimes, these kids were clever. They figured out how to work around their parents' rules and micromanagement and found mischief along the way.
Other times, these kids were genuinely good - good grades, good friends, good behavior - but they hated their parents and often hated their life. The microscope they were put under was too much for them to bear and once they were free they struggled.
In the best cases, these people didn't know how to manage themselves or formulate their own plans. A former roommate in college called her mother every single night with a question about some of the most ridiculous things - like which book to read for her English class. And this girl wasn't looking for recommendations; she was looking for an order.
In the worst cases, these kids rebelled. Suddenly, their parents aren't important anymore and neither is their advice because they are adults and don't have to listen to anyone. They'd develop this my-parents-already-don't-trust-me-so-I-may-as-well-give-them-good-reason-not-to mentality.
I am not saying being watchful over your children is a bad idea. Your children need to be watched, but in those areas where they can be trusted (and those areas do exist) give them that trust because in the end they'll return that trust.
Being able to turn to your parents for advice - to trust that they'll help you and not judge you - can mean everything to a teenager or college student.
In fact, it means a lot as an adult.
Now, I have no doubt parents will turn on me in force and cry out, "But you don't know my kid!"
And that's right. I don't know your kids but you do. You have the power to look at their life and decide what to trust them with - their classes? Their after school activities? The car?
There are things they can be trusted to handle on their own and the best thing you can do is recognize that and trust them.