What’s Your Purpose as a Parent?

Posted on November 16th, 2011, 0 Comments

We’ve just completed a major renovation at our house. The other day as I was re-shelving my books, I ran across a copy of the The Free-Range Mom. Remember her? A few years back she was dubbed “America’s Worst Mom” after she let her nine-year-old son ride a New York City subway alone.

Free-Range Mom’s parenting philosophy promotes things like doubling recesses, letting kids drop activities they don’t like, letting them play, and telling them, “It’s okay to fail, at least a little bit.” She wants parents to relax – but only after they’ve removed those bragging stickers off their cars.

More recently there was another mom generating lots of buzz: the Tiger Mom. Her parenting style includes banning things like sleepovers, play dates, T.V., computer games, and any instrument except the piano or violin. She demands that her kids get all As and that they be #1 in every academic class.

The Tiger Mom and the Free-Range Mom couldn’t be more different. Except for one thing: They are both crystal clear about their purpose as a parent and what they’re hoping to accomplish. And this clarity about what they value lets both these moms be a strong influence in their children’s lives. So while we might disagree with their goals or their tactics, we can still learn something from these moms.

Research shows that when parents stay connected and talk with their teens they can make a big difference, including with the major risks associated with alcohol, drugs, and sex. But it’s easy to become so busy dealing with all the daily decisions about curfews, parties, and out-of-town concerts that we fail to step back and get a good look at the big picture. And without the big picture of what we value and hope to accomplish, our responses are often rote, knee-jerk reactive, or just plain wishy-washy.

Taking time to give some thought to questions like the ones listed below can help clarify what’s most important to us as parents and, thus, help us be a stronger influence in our teens’ lives.

– What values or standards are at the core of how you live – your choices, decisions, and actions?

– What attitudes do you want to instill in your teen?

– What decisions would you like your teen to make about friendships? About schoolwork? About teenage sex? About alcohol use? About drugs? About following the law?

– What do you want most for yourself, for your teen, and for your relationship?

Being clear in your own mind about your purpose as a parent will help you communicate your ideas and reasons for your decisions convincingly to your teen. And having this big-picture view will help you be the calm, sturdy presence your teen needs – even when (especially when) they roll their eyes, let out one of those heavy sighs, and tell you how totally unfair and out-of-touch you are because “Everybody else gets to do it.”

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