I believe one of the reasons God gave us parenthood is to teach us the wonderful virtue of selflessness. Remember when your kid was a newborn and you had the parent crash course called Newborn Baby 101? Remember how your happiness took the back seat to your child’s needs? If you weren’t happy because of sleep deprivation it didn’t matter. You got up at 2:43 am to feed her anyway. If you weren’t happy because the baby spit up on your new blouse, it didn’t matter. You got the baby cleaned up so he didn’t wallow in his vomit.
Countless hours of emotional energy, effort, and resources +Wanting nothing in return for yourself = Great Parenting.
Do we personally get something in return for parenting? Of course, we get happiness, joy, love, satisfaction, and the fulfillment of fostering life! However, these things (and many other things) cannot be our motive for parenting. Our motive for parenting must be to raise our child to independence so that she or he may fulfill the purpose for which they were created.
As kids mature they become increasingly less dependent on their parents while they take on increasingly more responsibilities; especially as they grow through adolescence. Remember, as your teen is growing, you want to foster that taking on of more responsibilities, but none of those responsibilities should be to make you happy. You are responsible for your own happiness. Teens have enough to worry about, school, college preparation, after-school work, summer jobs, homework, sports, activities, friends, personal spirituality, forming relationships independent of you and many other things.
Many times over I’ve met with parents who are struggling because their kid is not becoming who they dreamed she would become. I’ve met with teens who feel boxed in because mom or dad has conveyed the message that they will be happy if their kid chose college major X but the kid knows he has a deep passion for college major Y.
What’s a Parent To Do?
Self Evaluation. Step back and examine your parenting decisions.
1. Evaluate your motives (what’s causing you to make this decision for your teen). Ask yourself am I making my child do this because it will make me personally happy or is this decision for my teen’s overall well-being? I.E. My son says he’s not interested in playing football. I played football, I love coaching it, and watching it; I’ll tell him that he needs to try the football team for one year before he turns his nose up at it.
2. Evaluate your intent (what do you want to happen when you decide certain things for your teen). Ask yourself, am I making this decision for my kid because I want something out of it for me? I.E. I’m an accountant, my daughter loves art and art classes. I tell her she must have one non-art elective in the hope that she will choose an accounting course as the non-art elective.
3. Listen to your adolescent. There’s a lot going on inside of that teen brain. Hear them out, before formulating your response. They’re not always the perfect communicators so it takes work to listen to them. Honestly try to understand them sometimes seeing the situation through their lens helps your examine your intent and motives.
At the end of the day, it’s not about your happiness and really, it’s not about theirs either. There’s a larger purpose for your child and you must work at discovering what that purpose is along side your adolescent. Yes, at the end of the day we parents call the shots because we are responsible for our kids; but we are responsible for our own happiness also!