Recently, a father asked, “How do I get my son to do what he’s supposed to? Every day I have to remind him about everything. It’s so frustrating.” We pulled a few hairs out over that question. Is it obstinance? Defiance? Deafness? It’s most certainly a mystery. Or is it?
Bill used to wonder how cereal bowls climbed the stairs by themselves when they were forbidden anywhere but in the kitchen. Tom’s daily routine of turning off his daughters’ bedroom and closet lights still burns in his memory.
What’s important, what’s not
It isn’t so much defiance or a lack of caring. It has more to do with a lack of importance. Our kids really don’t value many of the things we care about. Most kids don’t concern themselves with a clean house, and they’re hardly aware of an electric bill. The only thing that is important to a teenager is what he or she is doing at the moment. It may be texting a friend, playing a video game, watching a movie or just hanging out. When teens are hungry, they want food. When they’re full, nothing about food interests them—not eating, cleaning up or putting anything away. When they leave their shoes in the middle of the floor, it’s because, dad, that’s where I took them off. Geesh.
As parents, we must realize that our dear children reside in a different world. It is a place of their very own, no trespassing. Mom and dad are focused on the here and now; son and daughter are already off to other lands. They will come back to food when they’re hungry—and pick up their shoes when they want to wear them again. (But they may never turn off the bedroom light!)
Mystic and poet Kahili Gibran said about children, “You can give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls. For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, even in your dreams.”
Give these a shot
• Give your kids appropriate responsibilities for their age and post a list in a prominent place where they can see them.
• Keep it simple and avoid preaching. Most often, teens aren’t trying to aggravate you—they simply don’t attach as much importance to whatever it is you’re stressing about.
• Try to refrain from ordering your kids around. Kids want to make choices and decide for themselves. Give them those opportunities when it makes sense. Does it take a bit longer? Sure. But it is worth it. You hate it when you don’t have choices. So do your kids.
• Explain the reasons for the rules. You certainly have good reasons for your rules of the house. Tell your kids.
• Let your teens know what your expectations are. Well informed is well advised. If they know what you expect, they are more likely to try to comply.
• Recognize how your kids are feeling. We all want to be heard. You want your kids to listen. Make sure you do the same.