5 Tips for Parentings Adolescents: Part 4

In part three of the series, we took on the difficult challenge of letting go of control. In this section, the topic is managing our short and long-term goals and how keeping these two in balance affects our approach in parenting.

1.       Hold Onto Both Short and Long Term Goals

·         We all have them: short-term goals, usually being what I want to accomplish right now or today or this week, and long-term goals, usually what I want to accomplish over the next few months or years. Some of these goals we are consciously aware of, and others lie in the back of our minds and surface periodically or when provoked into consciousness by obstacles to their fulfillment.  But, whether or not we are aware of them, I believe we are generally purposeful people who are directed by our heart goals. However, sometimes our short-term goals run counter to our long-term ones, and we may not be mindful of how our efforts to address our short-term interests are interfering with our long-term ones. This difficulty is especially true in our parenting.

·         We have hopes and dreams for our kids. We feel deeply a commitment to help them to reach their potential. We desire for them to become people of character: courageous, persevering, patient, honest, proactive and responsible, resilient, and wise. These are our long-term goals.

·         But then normal life comes along. Your teen misses the bus, again. Your teen does something you expressly told them you disapprove of. Your teen brings home a poor grade or grades. Your teen tries drugs. Your teen gets suspended. What do you do? Do your short-term goals of having life in order, of having kids that obey, and of having friends and family and community think well of you rise up and direct you to clamp down, lash out, brood, complain, punish?

·         When this happens, what we are doing is sabotaging our long-term goals. You see, how you respond to these and a million other challenges are the soil and water and sun from which your kids will grow. Your reactions are the sowing, and your children’s character is what you reap. I am referring to a habitual pattern over time. It does not mean that children are only copies of their parents or that parents cannot make mistakes. In fact, how you respond after handling something poorly (or really badly) can be healing and impactful for genuine growth. It means that what we model to our kids has a very significant impact. As their parents, we are always having some kind of impact. We may wish it otherwise sometimes, but this seems to be God’s plan for developing us and them - together. We are both in process, and it is healthy to model such to our adolescent children.

·         All this means that we are called to keep the long-term in view and be mindful that we are always engaged in our kids’ development. It probably calls us to take a look at ourselves in order to work on the places where we may need to become what we are expecting and hoping our kids will become. A helpful check on yourself when you are about to confront your kids is “Will the approach I am taking build their character?” “Will the approach I am taking show my love for them and model to them how to love others and deal with conflict?” “Will my approach help my kids to know and love God more deeply?”

·         When I catch myself about to sabotage my long term goals for my short term ones, I have done a very good thing! And when I find other ways to address the upset emotions in me rather than take them out on my kids, I have done a great thing that blesses my kids and builds our relationship. And then, after addressing my stuff, I come back and engage with my kids from a new place, and I have modeled exactly what I long for my kids to become and have honored God and modeled his nature. – And you will too!

In part five of the series, we will consider how to foster autonomy in our adolescents in order to prepare them for adulthood.

Matt W.  Sandford, LMHC

Licensed Mental Health Counselor


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