Resign as the Manager of Your Teenager's LifeDec 22, 2021
In our 28 day parenting boot camp, we talk about choosing empowerment over control as the basis for parenting our teenagers. In the book Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers , Michael Riera presents an interesting perspective on this dynamic in the parent-teenager relationship. Riera notes that parents with younger children are charged with MANAGING the lives of their children. The parent sets the schedules, drives the car, buys the clothes, and provides the food, along with managing hundreds of other details in the child’s life. But around the age of thirteen or fourteen, children fire their parents as the manager of their lives. As a parent, don’t expect to get a carefully worded email or notice of the fact that your services are no longer desired. But be assured that in your teenager’s mind you have been relieved of these duties.
A vast majority of the conflicts between you and your teenager involve this dynamic. As the parent, you see yourself as still in the role of MANAGER of your child’s life, but your teenager does not.
To put it in perspective, consider this hypothetical situation. One day you decide that you would like to learn how to make sushi. So you hire a sushi chef to come to your house and teach you the process. The sushi chef comes to your house and manages you through the steps. How to cut the fish. How to cook the rice. And the technique for a perfect roll. At the end of the evening you are feeling pretty good about your skills and thank the sushi chef for sharing their wisdom. In your mind the job is done and you no longer need the chef. But the next night the sushi chef shows up at your house. You politely say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought it was understood that I no longer need your help.” At this point the sushi chef just walks past you into your home and starts telling you what to do. You repeat yourself, but the chef doesn’t leave. Can you see the potential for some conflict here? When you insist on continuing to manage the details of your teenager’s life, you are viewed as an unwanted house guest.
So what is the alternative? If you know you are going to get fired from a job, then why not resign first? When it comes to managing the details of your teenager’s life, it makes sense to do this in stages. As your teenager grows and matures, you turn more and more of the responsibility for managing their life onto them.
Ultimately, your goal is to set them up for success in their life and to empower them to be their absolute best. Set the stage by communicating this to them and then transition to the idea of them taking more responsibility for themselves. Assure them that you are not abandoning them but shifting your role from “running” their life to coaching them as they “run” their own life.
Then you can open up the discussion by asking:
What areas do you feel ready to take responsibility for?
The challenge here is to strike a balance between what your teenager feels they are ready for and what you feel they are ready for. The key to bridging this gap is maintaining a love-based mindset. You will be amazed at the solutions you and your teenager will come up with when the discussion is grounded in love.
Love is always the answer.
Family Enrichment Coach