This photo was taken outside Carnegie Hall in New York City in May of 2015. Kendall, our oldest had just received a Silver Scholastic Art & Writing Award for his photography. He was the first student in our county to ever receive a National Scholastic Award. It was a pretty big deal and we were proud of him.
We love celebrating when our kids excel, win, and achieve, and there's nothing wrong at all with telling them how proud we are and plastering photos of their accomplishments all over social media.
But.......do we celebrate them when they don't win? What do we do when they don't play their best, fail a test, make a stupid decision, or rear end the back of another vehicle while looking at Christmas lights? (yes, that happened recently).
We love the ministry of Parenting Today's Teens. Recently I listened to a podcast, The Problem with Peformance Based Relationships and it stepped on my toes! If you have teens or work with them, I encourage you to take a few minutes and listen. Here's what I took from the program:
When our kids are young we focus on do's and don'ts and we have to. How else will they learn right from wrong?
If we don't learn to focus on the relationship, our kids will soon believe that
The better I do, the better things go
The worse I do, the worse things go
When there is a lack of relationship, performance based parenting becomes the norm.
Somehow we have to communicate that our love goes deeper than how they look or what they do. We need to focus on who they are and that they are valued for that over their actions and accomplishments. Who wants to have their value based on other people's expectations of us? It will lead to defeat.
If we're not careful we will be loving conditionally and may end up withholding love when our kids don't meet our expectations. We need to communicate that they can do something "bad" and still be "good".
* Take stock of the current topics of your conversations
Does the majority of your conversation revolve around grades, sports, achievements, how much time they spend on their phone?
Look for ways to talk about non performace based topics such as "How do you get along with other people?", "If you could change one thing about yourself or our family what would it be?" "What are your classmates struggling with?" "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" "If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?"
* Don't harp on the negative
When your kids mess up, be sure to remind them that nothing can separate them from your love, and that you will always be there for them. Love them when they are at their worse and tell them you value them, even if they messed up. They may experience consequences and you may have to discipline but don't withdraw your love based on their non performance. Be sure that you're not shunning, shaming, or shutting them out. Move toward, instead of away from them during these times.
In our counseling and in our own family we often see that parents and kids assume a lot and therefore, believe things that are not true. You may feel like you're showing unconditional love, but your teen may be interpreting it as conditional. Oftentimes just simply asking them what they are thinking will reveal the disconnect and give you the opportunity to speak the truth of your unconditional love - but you have to ask.
None of us are perfect parents but we have access to our Heavenly Father who was and is perfect and knows our kids better than we do. If you're feeling disconnected from your teen, ask God to show you what they are believing and how you can show that your love is not based on their performance.
Be to your teen, who God is to you
David and I work with teens and their families. Don't hesitate to contact us if we can help!