Do you remember going to get your drivers license? I do. For most normal human beings it is a momentous occasion. It scarred me for life. I still have marks from my wounds. I didn’t wreck. The wounds are in my soul. I took the drivers test during a time when you had to parallel park to pass. During the test, I was so bad at parallel parking that my instructor started cussing at me. True story. I passed by one…count em…one point. Transparency. It was the single greatest victory of my life.
My reward for this victory? Freedom. I could drive to my friend’s house. I could drive to church. I could drive to practice. I could drive to the store. I ran an endless amount of errands for my mom. Sound familiar? A drivers license is a freedom card for a teenager. It is a ticket to ride. At some level, every teenager desires freedom. Every. The freedom to stay up later. The freedom to stay out later. The freedom to hang out with whomever they want to. The freedom to choose their own path.
The desire for freedom is not necessarily a bad thing. It is…you guessed it…normal. It is a part of growing up. Becoming an adult. We all went through it. It WILL happen to your child. Are you ready?
The tension comes when you as the parent do not want to extend the gift of freedom. You start running into “because I said so” territory. Teenagers love that (sarcasm).
So how do you as a parent extend freedom to your child and feel good about it? How do you hand them the keys to the car shortly after the license is acquired? How do you find peace in allowing them to stay out later? It’s just too bad that the “Jedi mind trick” is not a thing.
First of all, there is almost no way to make the “handing over the keys” thing easy. The drivers license age probably needs to be eighteen, but that’s another discussion. As mature as a sixteen year old believes that they are, getting behind the wheel of a car is a HUGE deal. It keeps parents up at night. Sleepless. Nothing new here.
Next, there will be times when you cannot extend freedom to your child. Here’s why creating a great normal is so important. If your child’s normal knows how to respond to “no” they will respond in a way that makes you proud. Their normal reaction will be “yes ma’am” or “yes sir.” Believe it or not, they will even say this without an attitude (not sarcasm). Is that a teenager that you would love to be a parent of? The key is you MUST teach them early how to do this. Early early.
Lastly, there are times when you will need to extend freedom. The great normal comes into play here as well. Let’s say that your teenager is given freedom to drive to a friend’s house. Your teenager enjoys taking the car (even if it’s a Ford Pinto…my first car. Yep.), listening to their music, looking good and arriving at their friend’s house to hang out. It seems to them like complete freedom, but they will stay within the boundaries that you taught them as normal. They go where they said they were going. They text you when they get there. They text you when they are leaving for home. They get home before curfew. All because this is what they know as normal. Get this: you can even let them set their own curfew. I’ll show you how this works later. Hint: it DOES involve the “Jedi mind trick (sarcasm).”
Here’s the bonus. When they do all of that, the trust between you and your child strengthens. You are able to extend freedom in other areas. Why is that important? One of the top reasons that teenagers rebel is because someone is holding back on the freedom that they so desire.
Next time, we’ll talk about the second thing that happens to a teenager that should affect everything that you are doing now as a parent. Hang in there with me. This will eventually become way more practical once we walk through this foundational stuff. It’s just around the corner.