Archive for ‘Teenagers’

September 24, 2017

Fine acts of parenting

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday 9/25/2017 / I have witnessed many fine acts of parenting:

  • The mother who sends her adult sons and daughters Mother’s Day cards with handwritten lists of joyous memories about what it has been like to be their mother. She has done this for so long that it was some years before the children (when they were children) even knew they were the ones who were supposed to send her cards.
  • The dad who traded in his own car and settled for a used car so he could give his son the sports car his son wanted.
  • The parents who each worked two jobs so the two sons did not have to assume significant debt to attend university.
  • The single mother who has the wherewithal to leave her daughter’s academic struggles up to her and who encourages her daughter to speak up about what she needs to her teachers.
  • The dad who packs his son’s lunch each day for school and who adds an extra pack for his son’s friend who once expressed to the boy that he wished that he too had a dad.
  • The dad who taught his son to share without ever saying it but by showing it at every turn.
  • The parents who never let drinking distort or shape the way they reared their children.
March 14, 2017

I ask a woman….

by Rod Smith

I ask a woman how her life is going and she tells me about her children. She’s very forthcoming. I hear about their failures and successes and their disappointments and their accomplishments in sports.

So I ask again how she is enjoying her life and she tells me about her children’s teachers and how dedicated they are and how they go the extra mile for her sons and how much she appreciates it and how happy her sons are at school.

I persist and ask her if she has any close friends and how much time she spends with her peers and she tells me how her sons’ friendships are a little disappointing to her and that sometimes they get left off birthday party lists and how much it hurts her when that happens and how she wishes adults were more sensitive to her children.

I ask the same woman who happens to also be a wife how she is enjoying her husband and she tells me they “work together” as parents and they are almost always on the “same page.”

I press in and ask the woman if she has a life outside of being a mom and she gives me that blank look as if I have no idea what I am talking about.

March 12, 2017

I remind myself of these things….

by Rod Smith

When it comes to my sons, I remind myself of these things:

  • Their lives are larger at their ages than mine was at their ages. Of course, they’re starting late and the world is a very different place. Their platforms are more complex, and more dynamic than mine was and, I admit, I am somewhat limited in my ability to identify with it. This means I should not be taken aback when I am blinded to possibilities and experiences they see and want to embrace. Rejecting an idea or a possibility simply because I couldn’t envision it is a good way to widen a gap than is mine, and not theirs, to bridge.
  • While the world is a very different place than it was in my formative years, some things remain unchanged. Good manners, using please and thank you, looking people in the eye, standing up for adults, dealing honestly with money and time, working hard, and displaying empathy in the face of those who are suffering – are values that cannot be discarded just because the world is faster paced than it once was. One of my jobs as a parent is to encourage, even enforce some of these things if necessary.
  • I am enough for my sons and the only dad they will ever need.
March 2, 2017

My heart goes out to the….

by Rod Smith
  • My heart goes out to children who live in unsettled houses. Houses where the abuse of alcohol or drugs dominates everything. Houses where rage rips people apart.
  • My heart goes out to children whose parents were once together and now are apart. Although the child may have received loving messages about how they are loved despite what mother and father do it still makes no sense to the child.
  • My heart goes out to children who are fighting a deadly disease and to the siblings who are fighting it with them. The necessary lack of certainty bolstered with statements of faith, all within the same adult sentence, can be confusing. It’s at least as confusing for the child as it is for the adult trying to comfort them.
  • My heart goes out to children whose boundaries are ignored and violated and whose voices are ignored or silenced. Such children might as well be invisible to those commissioned to love and protect them.
  • My heart goes out to the child who must assume a defensive stance because of race, gender, or language.
  • My heart goes out to children who are hungry in a nation of plenty, those born outside the dominant culture, those whose troubles are the fruit of a troubled nation.
June 14, 2011

Children in a tug-of-war

by Rod Smith

“My son and his wife are in a constant battle with his ex-wife and her family. They want the grandchildren ALL the time and seem to never think of their new family as really part of the children. I hardly know my new step-grandchildren but I’d rather that than step into the middle of the battle for time with the children. Should I be working harder to get to know these children so they will know me one day or should I just let things be as they are for now?”

It's a fine line......

If there are already tensions regarding who the children ought to know and visit then I’d suggest you follow your intuition which suggest you remain out of the tug-of-war.

Children will readily pick up on surrounding stresses and tensions and will ultimately use them to their benefit – and not necessarily to the benefit of the adults who use the children as bargaining chips.

Stay out of conflicts that do not directly involve you. Your daughter and her husband are presumably adult enough to represent themselves in their own battles.

April 25, 2011

Children and happiness

by Rod Smith

“I see my first responsibility, as a parent, is to make my children have a happy childhood so they can have a happy life. Please comment.”

Good luck. While it is a nice ideal you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Your children’s happiness is ultimately their responsibility and not yours. The sooner they assume it the better.

If you, the parent, work hard at your own life and make the very best of your skills and talents it is more likely that you will have children who will do the same.

If you focus all of your attention on your children and on trying to make them happy it is likely you will create insatiable, demanding, and entitled men and women who are more than a challenge to all who know them.

Of course I am not suggesting parents ought to intentionally create tough lives in order to amplify challenge – this would be ridiculous.

I’d suggest you focus on providing a loving and challenging platform for your children to achieve well in all areas of their lives and get out of their way as much as possible.

Success, and reaching for success, is what results in fulfillment. I’d take “fulfillment” or “useful” or “purposeful” over the illusive state called “happiness” anytime.

December 6, 2010

A dozen ways to know your teenager is growing up…

by Rod Smith

He or she:
1. cleans his or her room
2. voluntarily gets a haircut
3. saves money
4. stops blaming everyone for anything
5. takes full responsibility for his or her decisions
6. greets you with kindness
7. stands up for himself or herself without compromising others
8. demonstrates healthy boundaries by choosing friends who are good for him or her
9. has plans for her life that stretch beyond the next few days
10. reads books and newspapers by choice
11. can engage in a meaningful discussion about world events
12. is assertive without being pushy and demanding

October 21, 2010

Single mother writes: thank you for acknowledging our bravery and struggles…..

by Rod Smith

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

“Thank you on behalf all my many single mother friends for the article published yesterday. Thank you for acknowledging our bravery and struggles. Thank you understanding the many roles we play and the many difficulties we overcome because of our love for our children. Thank you for noting it is near impossible to have a romantic social life as solo parents. Thank you for listing and understanding what women do not need in a potential partner or in friendly advice. I am 50 and the mother of two sons whose fathers disappeared when the going got tough.

“I have been a single mom for 32 years, and despite the challenges, long hours, and little thanks associated with the job of single mom, I have been blessed to have my sons and love them dearly. I am also proud of having still managed to forge a career, own my home, a car, and travel the world. I have recently studied to become a Life Coach. I just sit with the thought that my children did not chose to be born and hence, are entitled to the best Mom and woman I can be. One thing I know is that my son’s will make wonderful Fathers.”

August 18, 2010

Are you good for your children?

by Rod Smith

Here are 7 signs you might be too close or over-parenting your child (or children):

Have surrendered your power to your child?

1. Your child is central to all your conversations. Every conversation, no matter how initially unrelated, ultimately includes or returns to the topic of your child.

2. You deeply desire to be your child’s friend and so you avoid difficult issues, necessary conflicts and confrontations.

3. You find yourself in the middle, trapped between your partner and your child, your ex and your child, teachers (coaches, mentors) and your child, your parents and your child. You are a self-appointed shield and therefore attempt to fend off essential opportunities for helpful pain and growth, necessary for all children to become healthy adults.

4. Your child is the stake in the ground to which you are tethered and around which you function. Everything is about your child, all of your social life (if you have one at all), your interests, activities; everything is focused around your child.

5. Your primary adult relationship (with your spouse or partner – you might have forgotten that this is in fact your primary relationship) sometimes gets in the way of your role with your child and almost all of the time you choose your child and feel guilty if you do not.

(Tomorrow: Steps to healthy parent-child separation)

July 26, 2010

My brother steals from us…..

by Rod Smith

“My younger brother (19) just got out of jail with nowhere to go because our mother has kicked him out for good. He walked to my dad’s who, with loving arms opened his home to his him. He has been here for four weeks but after two weeks he picked back up on his old life: smoking pot, stealing money from us, lying, not coming home, and lying more. My mother (our parents are divorced) catered to this lifestyle for about two years until she had nothing left. I cannot bear to see this happen to my dad. My brother is the sweetest kid in the whole world but a habitual liar and a thief. I have begged my dad to kick him out but he is still under the illusion that his son might change.”

Rod Smith / 1964 - got to do something unexpected or you can expect the same results....

Rod in about 1962!

You have as much power over your dad as all of you have over your brother. It took your mother two years to reach a point that you want for your father to reach in a month. Until your brother sees the light and your father sees his enabling role, all of you better lock your valuables in a safe place.

Do all you can to stay out of the middle, to allow your brother and father to have to face each other, and increase your tolerance for your father’s pain. While this might sound hard or uncaring, nothing will change for your family while everyone is doing what everyone has always done The healthiest person in the family usually holds important keys for beginning transformational processes, and it can’t happen without the willingness to upset the applecart, and sometimes, even watch it crash.

While ANYONE but your brother assumes responsibility for your brother, he will continue to use behavior that has worked for him in the past – and something must be working if he keeps repeating it.

It is important for you to see that you are not responsible for either of these grown men in your life. You are responsible to each, but not for each – understanding the difference will make a world of difference for you and even potentially for your father and your brother.