One of my daughters walked into the kitchen to find something to eat.
"I bought some of those rolls you like for your sandwiches." I offered.
"Why would I want a sugary roll for my sandwich?"
This is how many conversations can begin with my teenagers. They aren't defiant; they probably couldn't even be classified as back talking. They're just...argumentative.
"The sky sure is a pretty blue today."
"Actually, it's more of a purple."
That's what it felt like in the kitchen that day with my daughter.
"I thought you told me you'd like some rolls? These are those really good Hawaiian rolls." I offered.
She picked up the rolls and inspected them with disdain. "These are too many calories."
She didn't know what she was talking about. I had to decide whether to let it go, or jump into lawyer mode and show evidence to the contrary. I opted for lawyer mode.
"Actually, those are lower calories than two pieces of the bread. And they taste better.
She looks at the rolls again. "Yeah, but these are too small. Why would I want a sandwich that small?" She chuckled condescendingly.
Now I was mad. Just yesterday she told me she didn't want such large portions. She didn't make sense. She was arguing just to argue.
And that's when I realized I needed to just shut up and let it go. She wasn't arguing that she didn't want my bread. What she wanted was independence. She wanted to choose her food without anyone telling her what she should eat. My suggestion for bread was received as, "Eat a sandwich." Her retorts were saying, "I'll eat whatever the heck I want. I'm a big girl. Leave me alone."
It's hard raising older teens. They constantly are vying for independence.
Funny, I give my girls plenty of independence. But even 'sandwich selections' can be received as micromanagement.
Now that I have a senior in high school and two kids off in college, I'm finding it increasingly important to give them opportunities to make choices on their own. More importantly, I'm discovering it equally imperative to stop "sweating the small stuff." My daughter's snippety little banters aren't an all out rebellion... they're a reminder for space.
My friend recently asked me, "Jonathan, I've asked my daughter 13 times to put away her towels after she showers. We found like a dozen towels in the corner of her room yesterday because she refused to put them away. What should we do?"
As I heard this question, I couldn't help but put it in perspective. We had one of our kids really rebel growing up. So the first question I asked my friend was:
"Is she sneaking out of the house? Flunking algebra?"
"No. No. She's getting over a 4.0"
"Is she smoking pot in her room?"
He laughed and said, "No."
I smiled. "Then tell her since she likes to collect towels, it's time for her to do her own laundry. Show her once, and then let it go."
Five years ago I wouldn't have given that advice. But now that I've seen two of my kids go off to school and begin making choices on their own, I have grown increasingly confident I should have "let it go" more often, and given them both even more opportunities to learn lessons on their own.
Don't misunderstand. I'm not saying, "Allow your kids to disobey and talk smack."
If you tell your kid to put their towel away and they don't, then warn them, and if they keep doing it, find a natural consequence where they can learn that lesson themselves. But don't ground them for a week for a towel.
In the same way, if your kids are rude, feel free to tell them, "Hey, I don't mind if you want to make your own lunch. But don't be rude to me. I was trying to be nice and buy you the bread you liked." Correct their rudeness... and let it go. They'll respect you more for not dwelling on it.
Raising kids isn't easy. Raising young men and women is even harder. But try to remember how hard it is being that age. Today's teenagers are currently the most stressed age group. They're balancing a huge load, they're worried about the future... all this with raging hormones and an undeveloped brain.
Don't sweat the small stuff. Be happy when they want to make their own decisions, and be there for them when they need your help. In just a few years, they'll be making all their decisions on their own. Are you preparing them for that day?