Parenting Teens: Talking ‘bout Your Expectations

If I were going to be honest with myself (and you blog readers) I would have to admit that my expectations for myself are a crazy conglomeration so unrealistic that if I tried to attain them, I’d need a full-time nanny, chef,  chauffeur and therapist  just to make it through a single day. So instead of admitting them, I am laying in my bed, eating orange sherbet with my 4-year-old son, watching Max Steele and blogging about how I want to change how we as parents set and manage our expectations for our teenagers.

I am in my 30’s and I still want to meet the expectations of my parents, I don’t know if that ever changes.  I thrive on praise, sunlight and oxygen; probably in that order.  Recently my dad called me and told me that he was proud of me and I walked around for days in this bubble of happy that just felt so good. I needed to hear that. I am a mom with a teenager and I still needed to hear that my dad was proud of me…

How much more do our teens (or any kid really) need to hear that from us, that we’re proud of them?

So often, I set my expectations too high and don’t remember to tell my boys I am proud of them just because they are them.  My oldest son battles with ADD, part of his battle is focusing in school and staying on task and not being a distraction to others.  While we were in the throes of diagnosing the problem, I was consistently hearing that he wasn’t doing his classwork and just goofing around.  I spent an entire evening shaming my son, and telling him how disappointed I was that he wouldn’t just sit still and work.  My shaming did nothing to help him (imagine that). All it did was make him feel like a terrible person/student/son and leave me feeling like I had broken my boy.

The next day I decided to go to school with my boy so that I could gain some perspective on how he was actually doing, rather than hear it from the teacher and principal.  What I watched broke my heart.  I saw my son struggling to focus, doing everything he could to make his body stay in a chair to complete his assignments, to listen to his teacher while they were talking and to make the connections to learn the material.   I knew then, that my expectations were too high. My son needed me to be his advocate and his voice, not his critic.

When I became his champion, I saw the changes in him take place—the fear of my reaction was gone and that is when he started to thrive. My expectations were breaking my son’s spirit and I could never live with myself, if I knowingly crushed my son and his heart.

So, I want to encourage you to look at your expectations, are there any areas where your expectations are hurting rather than helping your teen?  Ask them, but be prepared to hear the truth when they tell you, it will hurt; but you’ll be better for it in the long run.

About the author… Jessica is the queen of her domain, the mom to five boys who range from teen to toddler and every age in between.  She loves to read good books, drink fabulous wine and spend her evenings chauffeuring her manly crew to their baseball games, swimming practice and band concerts. When she wins the lottery, the first thing she’ll splurge on is a driving service!

Welcome to the Teen Column where we're talking real issues with real parents. We hope you'll come along for the ride each month as Jessica takes us through what it's like "Growing up teen" these days. If there's a topic you'd love to see covered message us at Simply Family Magazine's Facebook page or send us an email at blog@simplyfamilymagazine.com.