This school year I am focusing on giving those final, lasting gifts to my daughter, who is a high-school senior, that she can carry with her when she leaves home for college. Where do I begin? Like so many times on my parenting journey, I follow the clues my children unknowingly leave me to know which step to take next. It's truly the work of the Holy Spirit, guiding my motherhood.
Recently, my 17-year-old daughter abruptly left the kitchen for the living room during a family gathering. Rather than engage with her and risk an argument in front of guests, I left her sulking on the couch and took a walk with her grandparents. After we all said our good-byes, I told her I wanted to know what was upsetting her. She returned to the couch and folded her arms angrily in front of her chest.
"I want some respect," she responded in an exasperated tone.
I wanted to reply, "Well, join the club," but I asked her to explain. She revealed that it was only the summer before her senior year and she already felt overwhelmed by too many questions about her next stage. Of course, the inquiries that afternoon had come lovingly from caring family and friends who didn't mean to interrogate her.
Which universities have you visited? Where do you want to college? What do you want to major in?
It didn't help her that I jumped into the pool of questions, splashing around my own opinions on a school and hinting my hopes where she gets accepted, although it may not be her first choice.
Tips to detour too many questions
At that point, I promised her that I would act more supportive.
I gave her a few tips, such as she can kindly give brief responses. If the curiosity continues on too long, she could courteously change the subject.
The situation was normal, I assured her. I recalled the recent college tour when an admissions counselor told parents that their students will feel a lot of extra pressure in their senior year. Simply remaining aware of that reality and showing our children respect can decrease their stress.
Parents can offer encouragement and support, especially during the upcoming holiday season when family and friends may be tempted to delve too deeply into a child's future. In other words, where my daughter goes to college doesn't need to be the only topic during the Thanksgiving dinner.
Mutual respect is a gift for parents & children
In one parenting book that I treasure, 10 Best Gifts For Your Teen by Patt and Steve Saso, respect is described as the first gift to raising teens with love and understanding. Respect is "the foundation of successful parenting."
The word respect comes from the Latin word "respectare." It means "to look again."
The husband-wife authors suggest that parents look at their daughter or son, not for their behaviors or actions that may cause irritation and anger, but for the person inside, the person that God made with love.
In a situation with your teen that brings difficulty, we can model respect in two ways. First, instead of scolding my daughter, I gave myself a time out before I asked her why she was upset. The walk gave me the chance to talk to my daughter with respect - to look at her again. I chose to seek an understanding of my daughter's behavior, rather than to blame or retaliate.
Secondly, I calmly, clearly, and non-judgmentally stated my expectations. "Don't leave the room suddenly when I am talking with you or you have company. It's not okay to do that."
In other heat-of-the-moment situations, I firmly state, "Don't talk to me that way. It's not okay to speak to me in that tone of voice." By addressing a challenging situation in ways that display respect, a parent models appropriate behavior, claims parental authority, and sets the limit.
It was helpful for both my daughter and me that we talked about the situation and came up with a solution, a plan, for her senior year, filled with many questions and unknowns.
Respect is the foundation of all healthy relationships. Both parent and teen want and need respect. We are all children of God. Respect is a gift I hope to continue to give my teen until her graduation day and beyond.
Copyright 2015 Kim Seidel
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