When Cynthia Tobias and I speak with parents of middle schoolers, we often hear the above sentiment. While there are “helicopter parents” on one side of the continuum and “don’t care” parents on the other, most parents fall right in the middle as they try to find the balance between too much control and too little.
The frustrating part of parenting is you don’t know if you’re doing it right until many years later. The reality is that sometimes you’re going to do it wrong: you’re going to be too controlling or too lenient. Getting into a big ugly argument about how high your 14-year-old’s heels are? Probably a mistake. Dropping her off at the movies with a group of friends and no adults? Also probably a mistake.
Here’s the good news: no single situation is going to determine the outcome of your child’s life. You will have many opportunities to try again, and it’s perfectly okay to admit to your child that you messed up and need to apologize (which is good modeling). You may even need to revise the penalty you handed down. Don’t give up–hang in there and make the effort to have a good relationship with your teen or pre-teen. At this age kids still need their parents (even though they may not admit it or act like it), and it’s important for parents to communicate their love and support, no matter what.
Today I sat in conferences with 8th graders and their parents, none of whom acted disappointment in their kids. Instead, they said, “What’s your plan to improve?” and “Looks like you’ve got a good handle on things!” It’s my experience that the majority of parents are doing the best they can to figure out how to help their teens (and themselves)cope with all the changes that middle school brings. In my opinion, these are the best type of parents.
(Along with the ones who come to conferences with Starbucks for the teacher. . .)