Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Peaceful Parenting...

Parenting is hard work.
Parenting teens, is still hard work.
They look like adults and at times even act like adults, but they are not, and seriously important, dedicated parenting is still necessary.
I have two children, aged 16 and 17 and I find that I bite my tongue to a great extent, often, make comments like “Wow!” and “What did you think?” and I smile and laugh so much so, that I am hoping I will defy the laws of gravity and develop upward wrinkles rather than downward.
My teens have terrific friends and I am grateful to know most of them. When it comes to their friends, what I am most appreciative for is when Max and Jillian bring their friends’ problems or challenges, home to me. It allows me to see how my children are processing these problems, offer suggestions if the situation warrants it, but most importantly, it warms me with the knowledge that my kids are all right.
We eat the majority of our meals together at the dining room table without any external distractions. If one of the kids has a practise at 5 p.m., we eat at 4 or 7. If one has a practise at 7 p.m., we eat at 5. Healthy food and digestion are important to me and the dinner table is where much of our parenting and learning has taken place. The other place where we delve into deep, meaningful conversations is in the vehicle driving from home to practises etc. When the kids passed the stage where they needed a snack in the vehicle, I stopped letting them eat in there, asking that we stop and sit down to eat wherever we were headed or sometimes along the way. We are blessed with abundant food and this practise has helped to teach them that it is okay to go for a couple of hours without food and in this way the vehicle has not become a cue for hunger.
As parents, we do what works for us with the experience, knowledge, resources and guidance that we have in the moment. I knew that I was not a very good reactive person and needed to eliminate possible little problems before they became big ones. These following points were small things that we could create to make certain bigger problems didn’t ensue. 
These rules that I am thankful we instated when the kids were young, and also when they were emerging into the teen years, acquiring devices that have become amazing tools but could be used to isolate themselves from the present, are:
1.       Electronic gaming is an extra activity to be engaged in. It is not something that I wanted my children to exist in daily or become obsessed with, but a little added pursuit. I could never wrap my head around war games, other than chess, and so the other night, when Max told me that he was at a friend’s house and everyone was playing some popular war game and that he “sucked”. I laughed out loud and cheekily apologized to him for not allowing “bad boy games”.  He smiled and shook his head and I know that at 17, he is happy he chooses to be more physical than sedentary.
2.       Watching television was something that my husband loved and still loves to do through the fall and winter in the evenings. I can hardly stand hearing the television on and wanted my children to utilize the off switch. When I was expecting Max, I had a long talk with Brent about my feelings surrounding the television and we came to a compromise that the TV would not come on until 8 p.m. For many years, Max was asleep by then, and the bedtime routine had certainly begun by 7. This practise just became a part of how we live. Do we watch television? Absolutely, but my teens will not choose a program over an activity and they definitely know where the off button is.
3.       Cell phone use: This is a big one because I love the advancing technology surrounding cell phones and I want my children to use them with confidence as hand held web devices, sharing, collaborating and connecting on a global scale. Max received his first cell phone when he headed to another town for high school. We were going to wait until he started to drive but decided that it was time for us as a family, to be able to reach him and for him to reach us readily. Before he was gifted this remarkable piece of equipment, we set up a charging station in the dining room, let him know that it was where his phone resided when he went to bed at night and that if he wanted it as his music device, that was fine but for in his room, he was to use his old iPod for music. This ensured that his sleep would not be broken with overnight texting, as well as notifications of any kind that had been neglected to be turned off. Almost three years later, this has never changed and when Jillian received her first cell phone, this past summer, she too received a station in the dining room. 
Have I made mistakes? Of course, and I will continue to make mistakes but these ways in which we live with teens, peacefully, instilling rules before conflict, have helped us to live harmoniously. I invite you to join me in conversation surrounding parenting teens, what works and what doesn’t for you and your family.
~ Ellyn

Playing - teen style!