My parents want to help. They are bright and educated. They are both vital resources for many challenges in my life. They can drive me absolutely crazy.
From the perspective of a nineteen-year-old college student, this is my advice to parents everywhere.
Don’t Always Reference the Future
There’s nothing worse than being a high school student studying for a test in the beginning of September and hearing: “Remember to study, you need good grades to get into a good college.” Teenagers may not always seem to have the future in mind, but repeating these future benchmarks as goals may stress out your children rather than motivate them. Always keep it in focus. Doing well on the next test means learning that set of information well and getting off to a good start. It’s best to make learning about learning, not future objectives.
Keep It Positive
“Study or you’ll fall behind.” “If you don’t do extracurricular activities you won’t get into a good college.” “If you don’t do well you won’t have as many options later in life.” These statements are true and all important for teenagers to understand. The mistake is to use fear to inspire students. Of course, you’re worried about them doing well, keeping up and being able to have the lives they want later in life. Still, remember to keep it positive and be empathetic. Tell your kids that you understand they’re working hard, that it’s hard to be their age especially in today’s world, and that trying hard will make them feel great no matter the outcome.
It’s All About Effort
Success comes down to effort and resiliency. My father did not grow up in a fancy house or have a great high school education, but by the time I came along he was an accomplished lawyer working with complex subject matters. Sometimes it seemed like success had been easier for him—I never remembered a time when he seemed lost or flustered. He’s worked for law firms that collapsed. He’s lost thousands of dollars in a housing crash in the 1990s. He’s faced challenges. We all have. He kept fighting. As a kid I couldn’t read well and he and my mom would work with me for hours without losing patience, even when I fell behind the rest of my class. My dad taught me that the only disappointment comes when I haven’t put in my best effort. This year I will declare my major in English Literature. Always value your children’s effort over their success; one day it will pay off.
The Contagious Worry
Parents worry, it’s what they do. They call when you’re not home; they sit at their job and think about how you’re doing during your test that they helped you study for the night before. Worrying is natural. It’s when parents continually express their own worries for their children that damage may be done. I’ve heard moms worry about their kids’ futures, their hopes for internships, and jobs, and the list goes on. Of course they do. The problem is that when we hear this worry, we start to feel it too and it culminates in sleepless nights. This is something for parents and kids to talk about and address together so that they’re on the same page. Talk to your children, make sure they feel comfortable and don’t transfer the worries you’ll naturally have to them.
Stick With Us And Be Patient
We as children know it’s hard—I know it’s hard for my mom not to want to give up on me when I’m stubborn and I don’t call back—but we need you. Stay patient and don’t give up: after every storm is another day.
What sort of challenges have you had as a parent or with your parent(s)? Tell us in a comment below or by using #MyloWrites.