The blessings of parenting teenagers: prayers please

As parent we all know kids are kids and this will never change. No technology can change this fact. Our children act just like us when we were kids. We acted just like our parents. Kids will be kids and times may change but human nature doesn’t.

Before I continue let me just say through all the trials and hard times as a parent, the good times surpass them one hundred fold! My three teenagers are all straight A/B students. As a matter of fact all of them are in Honors and/or AP classes in High School, active in many different things to include: Journalism/Annual Staff, Chorus, Drama, Soccer, Different Clubs and School, non-school & Church Sponsored Organizations.

All in all they are good children, who are making some very bad decisions. I am not writing anything shocking to anyone, as the parents of teenagers around the US experience these same events regardless of income or background. As I stated in the opening sentence, kids are kids and this will never change. So far 2013 has not been normal for my wife and I…

On to the year 2013; the year of trials.

Son, oldest turns 18 this year: Decides not to go to college but volunteer with a group that is assisting illegal immigrants, drug smugglers, gangs, and maybe some hard working people into the US via Mexico. All of this under the cloak of a humanitarian effort called “No More Deaths”. I won’t go into the just of this but as I told him, “Son… you are turning 18 and have to make your journey in life both physical and spiritual and if you believe this is best, you have heard me tell you it is a bad idea but it is your life not mine. All I can do is give you my advice and you have it, the rest is up to you”.

Daughter, oldest girl, just turned 16: Just got suspended from school with a boyfriend that we do not approve of as parents. He tries to act like he is a man and talks to her like he is her property and a woman’s place is only to bare children, clean the house and make dinner. We can only do what we can do from our end as parents and have removed any contact within our control such as computer (e-mail and chat), phone and he is not welcome here in our home. I know many will tell me that this will only drive her to him, however, for 6 months prior this latest breakup/get back together saga, we did our best to be amicable until rules were broken and trust and respect were no longer there.

Daughter, 2nd oldest girl, will turn 15 soon: Decides it is ok to lie and go to a boy’s house who also has his other friend (who is a boy) over. So there are two teenage boys and my daughter in a house with no adult. The only adult, the boys grandmother, is at work. Can any female tell me if this is a safe situation? To top it off, we find out she was smoking pot. Needless to say she had to do a lot of things to include face her coaches, leaders, teachers and tell them what she had done as well as letters were written explain what she did (no excuses only responsibility) and restrictions were also given. Researching the impacts of this gateway drug was also used as a form of punishment. After two weeks of meeting different community leaders that she looked up to and facing her mistake head on I believe will only benefit her in a positive way. I am not naive enough to believe she will never do this again, but I do hope that the lesson of this sticks with her in a positive way.

When this stage of their life is over (The dreaded teenage years), I do think all three children will turn out just fine. Yes, they are making mistakes now and feeling the consequences of them, however they don’t know fully realize yet how lucky they are. They have two parents and grandparents who love them so much as well as a community that helps raise them. They have a wonderful support network that many children do not have. We as parents are very blessed to have such a network of friends as well. So if you’re reading this and parenting teenagers, you are not alone!

Thanks for reading

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Comment by DaisyJane on March 13, 2013 at 5:12am

i will send my prayers to you, if you send yours to me, john.  my son just turned 16 and does not have a solid foundation as yours do, to build on when he is ready.  i am not feeling the blessings so strongly lately, at all.  good luck.  your faith in them will surely help.

Comment by John Fleshman on March 13, 2013 at 10:12am

Will do DaisyJane. Thanks.

Comment by John Fleshman on March 13, 2013 at 1:50pm

I can only hope she sees the light Veronica, but it is what it is. As my wife and I told her, she knows why we do not approve of him. Prior to them breaking up before Christmas, we did partially allow walks and so on but after they broke up and then got back together we explained it would be wrong to incourage a relationship that we do not approve of; it sends mixed signals. Thank you for your comments.

Comment by Jenny on March 13, 2013 at 2:38pm

Too bad the little buggers don't come with owner's manuals. 

Sounds like your brood is attempting to grow up. Your son has a passion to help others and this is wonderful but he could accomplish so much more with an education, have you tried that angle? 

Girls are another story, take a light but firm hand. It sounds like you are using shame and embarrassment to change behavior and I'm afraid that could easily backfire. You have to stay close if you want them to confide in you, I'm not saying be their friend but be there for them. 

My daughter went through a long phase exacerbated by major depression and there was a boy involved that was bad bad news. Finally he told her he was involved in a B&E ring and where they kept their stash. She told me and I called the cops. Unfortunately he wasn't caught when they raided the place but was caught shortly there after. But he knew it was her that turned him in. They tried him as a adult and he did time in prison. Meanwhile she dragged home another loser but at least he was a kind boy and worshiped the ground she walked on. Today she is a happy and healthy 24 year old, employed full time and married to a nice guy. It took her quite a while to find her way in life and part of that was moving around the state of Colorado for a few years - 1/2 the time I wasn't sure of her address. 

My son who claimed he learned what not to do from his older sister, is attending a state university and has always had his head on straight. But I made him tow the line in my own way and took away those things that were important to him as a form of punishment. For the kid that built his first computer at age 11 to not be allowed on line at age 14 was quite a motivator! 

I was a single parent for 14 years with a dis-engaged ex who has now passed away. You are blessed to have the family network you have, but surround your babies with unconditional love and acceptance of them for who they are. Remember past success is not a guarantee of future success and for kids the peer pressure is unbelievable.   Good luck!

Comment by John Fleshman on March 14, 2013 at 11:50am

Jenny,

Thank you for the comments. I agree on all parts and appreciate your openness to share personal experience. I do think all three will be fine. Guilt is only one way to look at it… I look at it from as… “Taking an individual responsibility” point of view. I try to show the correlation between individuals actions and how they have effects (both positive and negative) with others around you. How you individual actions can contribute to the welfare of others.

Case in point, when my 2nd oldest daughter decided to “try” drugs, she did so knowing she would be babysitting less than an hour later. Thank goodness they canceled – but she didn’t know that at the time. So with respects to her drug use, I made her go apologize face to face with the parents of the children that she was going to baby sit for. Some may call it guilt or shamming the child… I like to look at it from a life lesson point of view; you put others in danger because of your bad decisions, take responsibility and admit when you were wrong.

Maybe not so obvious but of course I cleared it with the parents (but she didn’t know) we also had a good talk with them and they shared more than just a concern for their children but also for my daughter and reinforced the same things we (my wife and I) just told her.

Again, it not only takes family but a good community of friends and a strong network of leaders to help raise children. This idea that we can do it ourselves sets ourselves up for many failures.

I too was a single father raising three children (on my own) for almost 5 years until meeting my current wife. Pride can only take you so far, then humbleness kicks in and asking for help becomes easier.

Thanks again for your comments.

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