Teenagers: When to Push, When to Let Go

Posted on October 9, 2017

Guest post by Tools of Growth follower, Carolyn West.

My daughter is a high school senior, and I flip flop daily from being excited for her and all that lies ahead, and nervous because she’ll be leaving home soon. It’s been said that the most important time to be a stay-at-home-parent is during the teen years. I absolutely believe this is true.—not because I need to pack her lunch and lay out her clothes, but because there is so much to teach her before she leaves home for college or the workforce.

My daughter is taking an economics class in school, something I highly recommend for every student. The questions she comes home with have made me realize that we don’t teach our kids many of the life skills they need to flourish in the real world. We have had discussions about mortgages, taxes, and saving for retirement. Filling out the FAFSA forms for financial aid for college was the first time our daughter actually saw how much money we make. We shield our kids from things like that, but if we don’t share how we manage to run a house and home, how will they ever know how to do it themselves?

I wrote a blog post a while ago about teaching kids how to advocate for themselves. The topic comes up frequently during discussions of helicopter parenting. We know we must have our kids speak up for what they want, but we never teach them how. And more importantly, how do we know when it’s appropriate for them to take care of things themselves or when we need to step in and do it for them?

Recently, my daughter was struggling with a class in school. She had decided she wasn’t going to just slide by with an easy senior year schedule, so she chose to take mostly AP classes. One of them was particularly difficult, and after being an A student her entire school career, she was failing this one class. It was disappointing to us, but it was devastating to her. We sat down and talked about it, but the conversation just got us more upset. She insisted she would study harder and do better. She was sure she could get the grade up. We suggested a tutor, but she wasn’t going for that. We were unsure if anything had been resolved.

A few days later, she got another test back. She had failed that too. Then she sat down with me and said, “Mom, I think it’s time for a tutor.”

It was time.

We looked at each other and wondered who would act first. She wanted me to call around. I wanted her to do it. I could have easily called a tutor and arranged a session for her but I knew that this time next year when she was away at college the same thing might happen. What if she were struggling with a class? What if she really needed some extra help? I wouldn’t be around to make the call. Nope… she had to take the initiative.

She wasn’t happy about it, but she did it. She called a tutor and set up a time to get help.

And if she hadn’t made the call? Chances are I would have done it. There is definitely a time to step in and get your kids the help they need, but it’s better if we teach them how to do it for themselves. Part of our job as parents is to be the life guide our kids need to get them where they want to go.

One of the tools from The “Perfect” Parent, Guide and Step Aside, fit this situation perfectly. I know my job is to guide my kids in the right direction and help when needed, but then to step aside and let them made some of those hard decisions for themselves. That’s not helicopter parenting, that’s good parenting.

Carolyn blogs at This Talk Ain’t Cheap. and is the Co-Founder of SoCal Lady Bloggers.