Handling your almost-teen’s fight for freedom
The other day I added a new parenting first to my repertoire. I took my almost 13-year-old son to the airport for his first unaccompanied flight to visit his grandparents in Brisbane.
As he walked down the tunnel to the plane by himself, he turned, waved and grinned at me. All I could see was the cute curly haired toddler that he was, I don’t know… about 5 minutes ago.
All he could see, stretched out before him was what he wants more than anything at the moment.
I know it’s a cliché, but those years have gone super fast. In so many ways, life is much easier now than in those early days. No more stinky nappies, wrangling into car seats, and the terrible twos. Yet in many ways, it is still pretty much the same: stinky sports bags, taxi driving, and even the odd temper tantrum…
For me, the biggest challenge of having an almost teenager is balancing the amount of freedom he wants with an amount that I am comfortable with, while maintaining consistent and safe boundaries.
In some ways, I really like the idea of my son having more freedom. We live in a relatively safe area and I would far rather he took off for a bike ride around our suburb than sit and play a violent video game.
However, on the other hand, letting him out the front gate is a risk, especially given that his still-developing brain does not comprehend that racing your friend down the road on your bike is an incredibly unsafe thing to do.
So what do you do when, as a parent, you understand that freedom and risk are essential to development, but you want to keep your child as safe as possible? Here are a few tips (from a parent who is still trying to figure it out):
- Who, where, when
Know where he is, who he is with, and when he is expected home. Being clear on these 3 points means that any deviation from the expectations you have set can be dealt with.
- Make sure he’s smart about his phone
Most kids have a phone these days. My rule is if I call my son, he answers. If I text him to ask a question, he must reply within a reasonable time. If not, then guess what my answer is next time he asks to go to Subway with his mates.
- Get to know your son’s friends
It’s important to know your son’s mates so you know who he is hanging out with. Make your home a place that your son is happy to bring his friends back to (e.g. setting up a chill-out zone for them to hang out in).
- Be socially aware
Is your son on Instagram? Snapchat? No idea? Social media is a massive part of our children’s lives, so don’t bury your head in the sand. Keep the lines of communication open, and know what your son is actively using. My rule is if I am paying for your phone, I have earned the passcode. He also has to allow me to friend him on Facebook and follow him on Instagram (as long as I don’t post any comments!).
- Follow the 3 Cs
Communication. Consistency. Consequences. If I clearly communicate my expectations, and my son doesn’t abide by them, I am consistent (I mean what I say and I follow through) and there will be a consequence. Obviously, the consequences depend on the age of your son and the rule that he broke (e.g. the naughty step may no longer cut it, but taking away the devices sure does!).
It’s natural for your son to want freedom as he grows older, just as it’s natural for you to want to protect him from harm. However, when you reframe freedom as a compromise rather than a battle, both you and your son will emerge as winners.
Melissa Jeffcott’s new 4-week online program Disconnect to Reconnect starts in October. The program is designed to help you manage screen use in the home and bring more connection into your everyday family life.
Melissa Jeffcott is a mother of 3, and a Melbourne-based life coach. This article is about Parenting
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