Expectations for our Teens

I have heard many teens speak of their parents’ over-inflated expectations cast upon them. Be better than average. Make straight “A”s. Don’t just be on the football team, be the team captain and quarterback. Don’t settle for being just another cheerleader, be the squad leader. Shoot for the stars, and don’t miss. The list goes on and on.

For most parents, they are doing it out of concern for their child. They aren’t trying to set the child up for failure, but attempting to give them greatness. Often, however, this backfires. Instead of working harder and being happy, the teen becomes a bitter nervous wreck. This is not what we want for our children, is it? As mothers we of want them to be successful, of course, but we also want them to be happy.

I personally have dealt with not meeting a person’s expectations and it hurts deeply. I have recently come to realize that does not make me a failure in any sense of the word. It means someone wanted me to be someone I wasn’t. It wasn’t my problem, but his.

“Don’t expect too much from me – you will be deeply disappointed. I will let you down and I will resent you. Don’t expect too little of me – you will get what you expect and I will never grow, learn, or reach higher. Expect me to be myself, to do my best, even when that is mediocre, and expect me to find my own happiness even if it isn’t what you would plan for me, and you have a friend for life.” ~Tina Toler-Keel

If I had the guts to say that to this particular person, I would. All my life, I have either been expected to be a failure from some or expected to change my whole being for others. I have never been allowed to be me, nor have I ever been able to express myself. My thoughts, feelings, needs, desires, and dreams have remained locked away so deeply I often can’t find them. But, I am working hard to change that. I am finding my own voice and speaking out for myself. It is a soft voice and more often than not, I am the only one hearing it, but it’s a start.

So Moms, let’s all start today and change our expectations of our children. If your child isn’t great at math, don’t expect straight “A”s. If they work hard and do their best, sometimes a “C” is something to celebrate. If they hate yard work but love cleaning house, don’t expect the hedges to be trimmed to perfection and all the edging done. On the other end of the spectrum, if they are awesome pianists, expect them to perform gracefully. If they are grammar perfectionist, expect “A” papers. But most importantly, just expect them to be themselves.

My ex-husband wanted our son to grow up to be a doctor. He has no desire to do that. He hates blood and gore and would be miserable. He does, however, love doing hair and theater, two things his father doesn’t understand. Through several talks and understanding, his dad has accepted Eric for who he is and is encouraging a career in something he loves. This is the epitome of acceptance, encouragement, and appropriate expectations.

If we expect our children to be perfect prodigies and be someone they aren’t, we all miss out. Our teens will resent us and either push us from our lives or go along with our expectations and be miserable. None of us want either to happen. We will be miserable because we will be sorely disappointed and feel like a failure. We will wonder what we did wrong, how our child ended up so far off the path, and blame ourselves for their failures, even though their lives may be rich and full. It’s a no-win situation.

Expect your child to do their best and to be happy. That’s what it’s all about after all – getting through life doing what we love, with those we love by our side.

Friends With Your Children

by Tina Toler-Keel

 

All my life I have heard, “You can not be friends with your children. You must be the leader, the alpha, the boss.” It makes sense. Being best friends with your children, especially daughters, is risky business. Best friends do not want to make one another angry and go along with crazy, harebrained ideas just for the sake of friendship – I know this is true because, well, that’s a story for another time. It’s all too easy to say, “Oh no, that skirt you love isn’t too short. It makes your legs look long and lean,” when you really do not want your child going out of the house looking as if they are headed to a strip club. It’s also easy to want your child’s approval so badly you make irresponsible decisions, such as allowing them to go to a party hosted by the hottest cheerleader in town, even though you know there will be drinking involved and the parents are out of town. This behavior does not make for good parenting.

Continue reading Friends With Your Children

Helping Teens Discover Themselves – Tina Toler-Keel

You began the writing process by writing stories about your grandfather for yourself as a way to cherish your memories of him.  Tell us how that evolved into writing books for teens.

Through writing, I was able to express and deal with emotional issues that were locked deep inside of me – some I wasn’t even aware of. The stories about my grandfather get to the heart of the issues as well as tell a story that hopefully will be passed down throughout generations in our family. Teens always have a story. Sometimes they are great and happy ones, but often they are deeply disturbing. They go through so much and often adults fail to recognize that. Through stories and books, they can find comfort, help, guidance, and entertainment, and know they aren’t alone. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “I am going to write for teens.” It just evolved into that. In fact, my first novel is an adult thriller. I am still revising that, and although I love the story line, my heart belongs with my teen books so they get top priority.

How is it that you can connect with teen-aged minds so well?

Several reasons.

1. I am a parent of three teens. I have seen first hand their struggles and fears. My kids and I talk a lot and they trust me, so I know a great deal of their pain and difficulties. I feel very blessed my kids turn to me. Now, that doesn’t mean I know everything about teens, or about them. I am sure there is plenty I don’t know, and probably don’t want to know.

2. My kids have a lot of friends and they tend to migrate to our house. Often we are sitting around on the porch at two in the morning and they are telling me very personal things about their lives. I have heard about their family troubles, issues with self-harm and suicidal thoughts, molestation, rape, drug abuse, etc. Their stories range from the everyday drama that all teens seem to go through to the really horrid things life sometimes brings. They are very open with me. I have also had friends my kids have gotten to know from other states through Facebook who text me out of the blue asking me for advice on serious issues. Not long ago, a girl I barely talked to on Facebook wrote me asking for help to stop cutting. I think it helps I am willing to stay up all night talking to them if I need to. I don’t talk down to them, nor do I minimize their problems. For teens, something adults think is trivial and something not to worry about, such as a break up, is a huge deal to them and can hurt them to the core. It is important adults really listen to them, and above all, care for them.

3. I was a teen and I remember what it was like. I think this is the most important one. Although my life was relatively good, and even great in many ways, it wasn’t perfect. I remember feeling alone, unloved, lost, confused, scared, and even suicidal at times. I had family issues. I was raped at seventeen. After high school I dabbled in alcohol and drugs. I went through a spell where I was somewhat promiscuous. I’ve been there, and I remember it. I remember simple, unimportant things could drive me over the edge. I remember thinking there was no way I could have a good future and I remember feeling like a horrible person. I also remember during those times I had good friends and I had fun. One did not always exclude the other.