Remembering Your Child is Unique

It has been over a decade since Britney Spears first put on her now iconic “naughty schoolgirl” plaid skirt and white button down shirt but if you are the parent of a teenage girl then you know that it is still fashionable to wear low rise jeans, tight tops and otherwise skimpy apparel. As if that is not stressful enough for you as a mother or father, today’s parents have to contend with worries about their children’s reputations, health and futures. Although you might understand where Rapunzel’s parents were coming from when they locked her up in that tower, the truth is that successful parenting means raising your children to be independent adults capable of making the right decisions for themselves. The big question, though, is how do you do that without letting them make a mistake that is too big from which to recover?

Every relationships is unique, and that truth goes double for the relationships between every parent and child. Even relationships between a mother and each of her sons and daughters can be totally different, so if you have been wondering why things went so easily with your first child but have been so challenging with your younger son or daughter, then that may be why. Each child has a unique personality, different interests and, as the parent, it is up to you communicate with him or her accordingly.

Many parents are tempted to fall back on the tired response of “because” when their children, regardless of how they are, ask “why” their parents have said no to a request for permission to go out with friends on a school night, to purchase a trendy pair of designer jeans or to go to a party. While you certainly have the right as the parent of an underage minor child to make decisions like these, you will make your relationship with your son or daughter much more pleasant both in the present and in the future if you take the time to give him or her some insight into what motivated you to deny his or her request. It could be that as a family you need to reduce expenses, so sending your daughter with her friend on a spring break trip to the Bahamas with a friend was not affordable or it could be concerns about her safety.

Confiding your rationale in your son or daughter does not mean that you are sharing the decision making power with him or her, but it does mean that you are teaching them how to make their own good decisions in the future. Of course, the reality of parenting is that as your son or daughter grows older she will begin to make more and more decisions on her own. Why not make it easy to allow her to start to make those decisions as a teenager with you by her side? Many parents maintain almost authoritarian style homes, and when their children go off to college, they lack the decision making skills necessary to know when to say yes to going to a party, how to save money by cutting back on some expenses and other major decisions.