Do you have a license for parenting? Surprise, surprise, there is no such thing. We need a license to drive a car or even catch a fish, yet anybody can have a child . . . simply by having one. There are no required classes to attend, no exams to sit for. Becoming a good parent is, and always has been, a self-administered course of study. It is a job to be taken seriously. This can mean taking child-rearing classes, reading respected books on the subject and speaking with seasoned parents. That can all seem overwhelming, so at the very least read on and let me give you a few pointers.
Your teenager is not your equal. I know this may seem somewhat obvious, yet as time passes and my babies begin to grow into teenagers, I sometimes forget this simple fact. When I am engaged in a heated debate with my teenage daughter, she shoots her opinions from the hip as if they are facts while quickly dismissing my logical counter-arguments as silliness. At the end of the day, I sometimes forget that she is my child, my daughter, and not my equal. While important to state where I am coming from and plant the seed for lessons to be learned, I am not required to provide her with an explanation. I’m the Daddy, the Father, and I have lived more, learned more and thus know more. It is good for me to remember this.
Your spouse is on your side. Yes, yes, before you start emailing me on this one, let me quantify this and say you and your Partner should be on the same page when making decisions about your child. My wife and I have a heck of a time with this sometimes, but we have learned just how crucial it is. Kids are very smart, and they will see you and your partner in disagreement as a clear weakness to take advantage of. Kids are terrific at the divide and conquer method. Get Daddy or Mommy on your side, and it won’t matter much what the other parent says. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! You must at least give the appearance of a united front or you’re toast.
Teens learn by example. I’m not what you would consider super-athletic. Fine, fine . . . I’m not athletic whatsoever. I also have to force myself to go to the gym, even when it is literally in the same building as my office. I have a deep affection for dessert and would have it after every meal if given the chance. It is important for me to be mindful of the fact that my kids see these tendencies. I would be the epitome of a hypocrite if I allow this behavior for myself yet tell them to go outside and play, get engaged in sports and eat healthy. I’ve tried the old adage of ‘do as I say not as I do.’ This only gives them debating ammunition and reinforcement to do as you do (or don’t do)! If you ever wonder why your kids are doing what they are doing on a given day, take a look in the mirror at what you’re up to. Practice what your preach!