“Face it. You’re a neo-maxi-zum-dweebie. What would you be doing if you weren’t out making yourself a better citizen?” – John Bender (character) in The Breakfast Club
At 41, I don’t pull out my copy of The Breakfast Club too often anymore, mostly because I realize how messed up all those kids were. Then I remember, I felt a lot like them. They were exaggerated, almost caricatured, versions of me and my friends. We all felt misunderstood, mistreated, and maligned.
Now that I’m a dad of one teenager and three more who will eventually be teenagers, I’m faced with the monumental challenge of helping them navigate the tumultuous and murky waters of the teenage years. It can be an exhilarating and fun time, but it can also be dark, depressing, and dangerous.
Now, I made it through my teen years with a few scars and broken hearts, but overall, I did pretty well. And, in reflecting on that experience, I have a few suggestions, based on what my parents did for me, to help us help our kids succeed in the teen years.
- Love them. Love them. And, love them some more. We weren’t always very vocal with our love in my family, but I always knew my parents loved me. In the crazy time of the teen years, my parents were a stable and dependable source of love and encouragement.
- Listen to them. I crack up at some of the things I blathered on about in the car with my mom sometimes. For a while after I got my driver’s license, I drove my mom to work so I could have the car. She listened to my endless ramblings about music, movies, religion, and whatever else was on my mind. And, she didn’t just listen. She was genuinely interested. I now know that she was interested in me. I think I knew it then, too.
- Don’t try to be their buddy. My mom listened, so did my dad, but they didn’t get confused on their roles like so many parents do nowadays. If I was doing stupid, my dad let me know. I didn’t always listen, and I have the scars to prove it, but I always appreciated it. Well ok, I appreciate it now.
That’s what I’ve got so far, but I’m still in the early stages of parenting teenagers. What tips do you have for helping teens make it through those crazy years? How did you make it?