advert

How to Turn Kids into Self-Sufficient & Productive Members of Society

Jul30

by

“I don’t care if you like me or not,” I say. “My job is to be your mother, not your friend. If I do it right, eventually—when you’re an adult—we’ll be friends. But right now that’s not the goal.” She rolls her eyes at me. I feel self-righteous, even though I’m lying.

I’m lying because I do care when my kids are unhappy with me. I care a lot, actually. There’s very little that feels worse to me than one or both of my teens being angry with me, particularly if I feel like I’m doing the “right” thing and they’re being unreasonable. (Let us not get into the relationship between “teenager” and “unreasonable,” lest we slide down a slippery slope into the pit of hormonal doom and no return.) I devote an enormous amount of time, attention, and energy to parenting the best I can, and in these tumultuous teen years, it often feels like a thankless job. Not always, of course; sometimes the rewards are sweet (if short-lived). But whether or not I’m being 100% honest about caring if they like me, the fact remains that my job is to try to turn these human beings into self-sufficient, productive members of society. And that means:

  • I will hold you to your word. Will you suffer consequences for lying to me? Yep. I wouldn’t be doing you any favors if I let you off the hook here, because it turns out that most people expect and appreciate honesty, and guess what! I may give you a consequence, but I’ll also forgive you (eventually). Not everyone will be so kind.

 

  • I won’t tolerate disrespect. You can’t control how you feel, but you can control how you act. You can be as angry with me as you like. Knock yourself out! But you are still obligated to be polite and respectful, because I’m your mother, and also because inability to control your behavior is going to cause you a lot worse than the occasional grounding down the road if you don’t get a handle on it now. Don’t tell me it’s no big deal or I should “get over it.” Practice on me all you want; you can screw up and I can respond with consequences until you get it. Better to learn it here at home than at your first job.

 

  • I expect you to pitch in. No, I don’t have any idea how many chores Joey or Susie have to do at their house, nor do I care. You have chores here and you’ll do them as asked because that’s how a family works. You’re too tired to unload the dishwasher? That’s a sad, sad story. Can I use that one the next time you want me to take you shopping or cook you some dinner…?

 

  • I will be sad and frustrated when you’re obnoxious, but I’ll do my best to make the right choices for you, anyway. I won’t always succeed. Sometimes my emotions will get the best of me and I’ll overreact or do the wrong thing. I will apologize and try to do better the next time. This is called being human.

 

  • I will go out of my way to praise you for good choices. “I appreciate you” has become a bit of a punchline in our family, but I use it because I mean it. I don’t always want to be pointing out the bad stuff. When you do good things, I want you to know I’ve noticed.

 

  • Sometimes you’ll feel like I’m stifling you. That’s called being a teenager. If you can (calmly) state your case for something different, I’ll listen. I probably won’t change my mind. But I might. (I will never change my mind if you just yell at me.)

 

  • Sometimes you’ll feel like I’ve abandoned you. This is also called being a teenager. Sometimes I have to make my best judgment call about what you can handle on your own and what you can’t. If I leave you on your own it’s because I truly believe you can handle it. If you disagree, I’m sure that’s scary, but maybe focus on the fact that I believe in you rather than on your conviction that I just woke up that morning and decided to hang you out to dry.

 

  • At the end of the day, you still need me. I know, everyone else in your universe is more important than your jerk of a mother. But right now you still need me for lots of things, so maybe keep that in mind until you have a job and your own place to live…? Especially because…

 

  • … and at the end of the day, I really do have your back. Think about it. If I could make you like me all the time—which you seem to think I could, with different rules—why wouldn’t I do that? It sounds great! I’d love it if you were never mad at me. (Do I strike you as someone who enjoys having people be mad at me?) If I’m not doing that, though, there must be a reason. I wonder if it’s that whole loving you enough to let you hate me, thing. Hmmmm.

So, yes, it’s true. I lie to you. I do care that you seem to chafe against my very existence these days. But I’m not changing, because I still think I’m doing my job right. I hope that someday you’ll agree. I can wait.

About the author

Mir Kamin

http://wouldashoulda.com/
Mir Kamin began writing about her life online nearly a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she's become one of those people who talks to her dog in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she's continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she's bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.


Subscribe to posts by Mir Kamin

13 Responses to “How to Turn Kids into Self-Sufficient & Productive Members of Society”

  1. Mary Jul 31 at 12:55 pm Reply Reply

    And, PERFECT! Love you, Mir.

    Having both my moppets on the other side of 20, I can tell you, they will be your friends. Mine are both bringing their significant others camping with us next week, of their own volition. Family time!

  2. Crickett Jul 31 at 1:34 pm Reply Reply

    You are forging my path! I’ve got a nine year old daughter, and I already have to deal with the angry bursts when she has to do something she doesn’t want to. She’s not calling us names yet, but I can see it coming. Not that I would accept name calling any more than I do the stomping around.

  3. el-e-e Jul 31 at 2:06 pm Reply Reply

    I want to print this out and just read it aloud to both my kids, who aren’t even teenagers yet. Maybe I will. And then I’ll resize it to about 16 x 20 and hang it on the wall in a frame. Excellent words, Mir. :)

  4. Aska Jul 31 at 4:54 pm Reply Reply

    I think the biggest problem with family relationships is that familiarity breeds contempt. For some reason, we are able to hurt the most, those who are closest to us. It will never be alright to do to a stranger something we do to our family members. Sometimes a stranger will be better treated and more respected. It’s so ridiculously stupid, but it’s a fact of life.

  5. AC Aug 01 at 9:34 am Reply Reply

    Were you in my house last night when my 6 foot teenager threw a fit because he had to empty the dishwasher? I wish it had been you – you probably would have handled it better. I really hate parenting at the moment – it’s so hard. 

    • Mir Kamin
      Mir Kamin Aug 01 at 1:05 pm Reply Reply

      Oh, don’t assume I always handle it well (I don’t). We’re all learning together….

  6. Kim Aug 01 at 6:26 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I just read parts of this to my 9 year old. He thinks he’s an adult. This is perfect and timely.

  7. JMH Aug 01 at 6:43 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you for this. My 13 year old daughter has been awful to me lately. Today she was so mean, I was almost in tears. I really needed to read this today. Maybe later, when we are both calm, we can read this together.

    Again, thank you!!!

  8. Chuck Aug 02 at 11:20 pm Reply Reply

    I just sent my sister (a new grandmother) this quote: “Grandchildren are the reward you get for not strangling your teenagers.”

  9. Sandra Aug 06 at 4:32 pm Reply Reply

    I have 11 and 13 year old daughters. I love your insight. This raising teenage girls thing is really rough. I know I’m just beginning the journey. Also, I know this is major payback for my own teen years.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Our mom lost her mind and all we got were these tomatoes | Woulda Coulda Shoulda - Jul 31

    […] all part of my plan to… turn them into decent humans. (I AM A MONSTER.) I wrote about it over at Alpha Mom, because the only thing worse than having expectations for my children is telling the world about […]

Follow us on Pinterest

Close