Several years ago, my 2 daughters and I were walking towards our car when they shouted back to me, “What is that?”. Directly beside our vehicle was an extremely large diamondback rattlesnake. We stood safely on our porch as the animal slithered through the crawl space under our house. Needless to say, I was in a pickle having a deadly viper residing under our home. I called a professional trapper. Do you know what the man that charged $85 just to pull into my driveway said? “I’m not going under there. The snake has all the advantage. Call me if you see it out in the open again.” And then he left. With my money. Well, thanks, pal.
The point? Choose your battles wisely. Like a rattlesnake, teenagers can be unpredictable, and they adore picking small battles. They are testing independence. The grand strategy of parenting is to raise a child into successful adulthood. You fight when the big picture is under serious threat. Stand down during the ordinary grumbling and growing pains of the transformation process. Here are 3 battles worth fighting and 3 to just let go.
1. Wardrobe Choices
We have a vision of what we want to see, and they have “the right to express themselves.” Only battle over clothes that expose what shouldn’t be exposed or that is offensive.
2. Sleeping Too Much
It drives us nuts. It’s almost noon and they’re still asleep. If we force them up, then we just have to deal with an angry kid. Focus on punctuality and time management for the times they have to get up, and just let it go on those weekends they want to sleep.
Teens have all kinds of hormones going on and they go through mood swings. Especially teen girls. I have 2 of them. Men naturally want to fix what’s bothering them, but unless they come to you, just let it be. A half-hour later they will probably be in a completely different state of mind.
Go to Battle
1. Substance Abuse
We can’t let this one slide. Tobacco, alcohol, pot…worse. Nothing good is going to follow when our teens start down these paths. For teenagers, substance abuse is usually about peer pressure or wanting to escape.
Plan of Attack: Parents must dig to find and eliminate the root cause, using both open dialogue (professional therapy if severe), and applying consequence to wrong actions.
2. Being Disrespectful
“A child that is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.” -Billy Graham
Draw the line with moodiness when it moves to disrespect. If you find yourself saying things like, “Don’t talk to your mother like that,” it has become an issue.
Plan of Attack: Always set firm boundaries enforced by incremental consequences when crossed. Start with small discipline leaving room to increase until it’s under control.
Teaching our children to choose their friends wisely is one of our most important jobs.3. Toxic Friendships
Teaching our children to choose their friends wisely is one of our most important jobs. They need friends that encourage, inspire, and motivate them to achieve. Toxic friendships do the opposite. Misery loves company, and toxic friends will gladly take your kid down with them.
Plan of Attack: An effective way to combat this is by revealing your own experiences with toxic people. You want them to understand the difference between someone who always strives to be better and one who is not. Their actions will show who they are over time.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Do you feel free to express yourself with me?”