This year I got fired for the first time in my life. I really wasn’t expecting it. I thought I was doing such a good job. I had great reviews and some pretty good perks. But out of nowhere I was let go. My 15 year-old son fired me from my position as his personal manager.
Benjamin at 18 months & 5 years old
From the time Benjamin was born I’ve been managing his whole life. As a baby I scheduled his feedings, his naps and his playtimes. He rewarded me with snuggles, smiles and sleeping through the night. My early successes only encouraged my management style. As he grew up I organized his playdates and taught him how to read and write. I enrolled him in swimming lessons and in Little League. He was always very grateful and excited for all the opportunities for fun and social interaction.
But just as Benjamin graduated 8th grade and prepared to enter high school I received my pink slip. It came in the form of frustrated sighing and aggravated eye rolling. He seemed so irritated with just about everything. The bottom line was that he wanted my job. He wanted to take over managing his own life and I wondered if I had prepared him to do it. I worried as I thought about the potential pitfalls. Would he make decisions that would “ruin his life?” Excuse the drama but I’m a mother and I can’t seem to help myself.
For the first few months I grieved. I loved my old job. How am I supposed to parent when I can’t manage? After all, I’m really good at it. I’ve had 15 years of experience. After some failed attempts to get back my old management position I decided to apply for a new job: Consultant.
Ben was feeling overwhelmed with some school responsibilities and I asked him if he would like me to help him on a consultant basis. He was somewhat skeptical, knowing it would be tempting to switch back to my controlling ways. I followed up by asking him what his goals were and how I could help him achieve them. We created a plan together—a plan that was tailored to his desires, not mine.
Managing Vs. Consulting
Our focus is on influence instead of control. This empowers our teens to make life affirming decisions that grant them confidence and courage.
Looking back on my own teenage years this was the dynamic that created my own successful transition to adulthood. Why wouldn’t it work for Ben? I believe in my son. He is kind. He is intelligent. He is funny. He is resourceful. He loves God and he loves people. I know he can learn to run his own life and advocate for his own dreams.
I’ll be here, a safe place to fall—an advisor, a consultant and always his mom. And hopefully I’ll do this a little more gracefully with Emily next year.
How have you found success in parenting your teen? What are your greatest challenges?
Special Note: If you’d like to read more on family and parenting check out my book How to Love Your Crazy Family–52 Quick Reads for No Ordinary Days