The Parent of an Imperfect Child – 7 Ways to Spend Time with your Teen

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

Angela Schwindt

Parenting is hard. So very hard. As a single mother of a 14 year old boy, it is one of the most challenging things I have done to date. At 32, most of my friends have young children or no children at all, which can be an isolating feeling when dealing with the parenting issues that come along with having a teenage son. I look around and I see the “perfect” parents. Parents of kids who make straight As, whose children excel at 3 sports and speak 4 different languages, kids who shower without being asked and take pride in their appearance… upstanding students who behave themselves like angels at school, and on and on and on. I often wonder, “where did I go wrong?!”

After listening to Shonda Rhimes TED Talk, I was convicted: I don’t spend enough uninterrupted time with my son. Sure, we go out and do things together, but spending time at the house just giving each other attention and getting to know one another is something that rarely happens. When he was younger, we’d read a daily devotional. As he has gotten older, that devotional time doesn’t seem to be as impactful. I challenged myself to spend 15 minutes of uninterrupted time a day with him. Now I know 15 minutes may not seem like much, but for me, it was a reasonable amount of time. I’d leave my cellphone in another room and give him all of my attention. YES! Wonderful idea… or so I thought.

Day #1

The first day was like watching paint dry…. while listening to nails on a chalk board… and getting a bikini wax. Brutal. Many awkward moments of silence. My questions of “how was your day?” and “did you do anything interesting?” were met with the typical teenage answers: “Fine.” “No.” “Yes.” and his personal favorite, “I don’t know.” Watching the clock, I breathed a sigh of relief once the 15 minutes were up. That was brutal.

Day #2

I needed a new approach. Simply engaging in casual conversation wasn’t any more effective than the devotional. Scouring google, I ran across an article that said that listing 10 good things about each other is a good way to bond. I did my own adaption and turned it into 5 things.

  • 5 things you like about yourself
  • 5 things you like about me
  • 5 qualities that make a person a good person
  • 5 qualities that you don’t have that you would like to have

He struggled with this one a bit. He had a hard time finding 5 things he liked about himself, which was painful to hear. However, he seemed to brighten up as I shared that things I liked about him. He also seemed to really take in as I transparently shared the qualities that I would like to have (more patience, more balance, less time on my phone, etc.) I’ve come to learn that transparency goes a long way with your kids. We like to put up a supermom/superdad persona for our kids. Not realizing that this causes them to create an unrealistic visualization of a perfect person. When we finished he simply stated, “That was fun.” I’m not sure if it was sarcasm, but I took day #2 as a win.

Day 3:

20160325_173650I decided to do Vision Boards today. I had tried to get him to do it once before, but he was not interested. On this day, I gave him no choice. It started out really slow, as he wasn’t really into it. He threw a couple of things on the board and said, “I’m finished!” I told him to add some more stuff, so he began adding things. As he was finishing up, he asked me, “aren’t you going to do yours?” I had figured I would just show him one of the ones I had created with my students. This was not OK with him. He said, “when you said WE were going to make vision boards, I thought you meant both of us.” Not really wanting to do a whole new board, I told him that sometimes Vision Boards have themes. I asked him what theme I should choose, and he told me that I should do a board with the places I want to travel. GREAT IDEA! So that’s what I did. I began working and  he watched and found more magazines for me. As I was wrapping up, he told me I didn’t have enough on my board, and I needed to add more things (oh, the irony). With his assistance, I found more items for my board, and we had a great time finishing them up. I think this took us about 30-35 minutes, but I’m not sure because I wasn’t looking at the time.

Day 4:

We started off with a Leadership Assessment. It didn’t go too well. He didn’t really agree with any of the statements, so it made it difficult. However, as we were going through, I asked him what he valued, and he said that he didn’t know. This sparked a new discussion (after we finished the Leadership Assessment). I printed out the document Exploring Your Values. This one also began slowly, as he said he didn’t know what me or his father valued. But upon further probing, he was able to come up with some things. It is very interesting to see what your child feels that you value. I admit, I got a bit distracted as he was filling out the worksheet, and diverted to the computer, but I redirected.

Day 5:

I couldn’t think of anything to do. Despite doing nothing all day, I was rather tired. I started to do the Interview Game, but I figured that would be 15 minutes of torture for both of us. I asked him what he wanted to do,  and he said he wanted to play UNO. We decided to play UNO, and the winner would either ask or answer a question. I won a couple of rounds, but asking him questions is like pulling teeth. His answers are always vague or “I don’t know.”  I began telling him the importance of having an opinion and being decisive. He interupts:

Him: You should be a teacher.

Me: A teacher?

Him: Yes, you should teach Teen Leadership… All these activities.

Me: Are they fun or boring?

Him: Some of them are fun.

Me: *pause* Well, I’m not talking to you as a teacher, I’m talking to you as a mother who loves you.

So we go back to playing, and my mind is swirling now. Teens are definitely my passion. It was interesting to hear him say that. We finished up with the longest round of UNO ever. He said he was doing it on purpose, and he could have beat me long before… the accuracy of that statement remains a mystery.

*Sidenote: Today he told my mom about his vision board, and encouraged her to do one too. #winning

Day 6:

Today got off to a horrible start. In true teenage fashion, my son decided to mouth off on the way to school, which resulted in a less than positive morning. However, I was determined to rectify the day. I found a handout that we both completed on communication. It went horribly. To one question he replied, “what is this therapy?” I didn’t have the energy to discuss. I went to bed.

Day 7:

20160329_173247-1Feeling absolutely defeated, it was somewhat reassuring to find that my morning devotion was about not giving up on your kids. I had him complete the 5 Love Languages assessment. He couldn’t have been more disinterested. After finishing up, he semi-agreed with the result that his Love Language was gifts. We finished in about 10 minutes, and I asked what else he wanted to talk about. He said, “Let’s play UNO!” So we finished up with that. I had a meeting to attend, so I had to cut UNO short, but I’d say today was semi-successful.

IN CONCLUSION

I’d planned to do 15 minutes for 15 days, but I figured we would not torture ourselves any longer. He said that he enjoyed spending time with me, but he was fine with doing it once a month. I agreed that every day may be a bit excessive. However, in these 7 short days, I learned a lot:

  • Spending time doesn’t have to be a huge to-do. My son was perfectly fine playing cards.
  • Your children are watching you closely. He was right on with the things that I value.
  • Our children need to be reminded that they are valuable. It’s a harsh world. People are mean. As I revealed the things that I love about him, he lit up. Although I tell him I love him all of the time, I think it was meaningful to hear specifics.

Some notes to parents that plan to try some of these things:

  • Pack your patience. I admit that I am very easily frustrated. There were many times that I had to make an intentional effort not to be annoyed.
  • Be creative. You know your child best (or you may not know your child at all… which is fine, and that’s the point of this). Every child is different and you can adapt activities to suit your own.
  • You are a great parent. As parents we try our best. Things may not seem to be yielding the results that we want but that’s  OK. Keep going, Keep trying. Your child will be fine.
  • Your child will be fine.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

 

8 thoughts on “The Parent of an Imperfect Child – 7 Ways to Spend Time with your Teen

  1. This was informative and funny. Thanks for sharing.. I agree with Dante, once a month is good lol #patience

  2. I can totally relate to you being s mother of a teenager. As I read some your article, it sound like me and my daughter. As a parent, we have to learn who they are at different stages. This sometimes can be hard because they are just starting to develop thei interest and personality. I ask my daughter to create a dream board twice and found similar things on it between 12 and 14. This told me that she was very passionate about the things that remained the same. Then I gave her an assessment of her gifts. I found that her gifts were close to her vision board but she still developing in what she wants to do in life. It’s hard training your own but rewarding. I pray for guidance because parenting is not like teaching 8th graders. You see yourself in your kids and allowing your flesh to die and not stop their growth based on your Own insecurities thoughts and emotions.

    1. Yes, yes, yes and AMEN!!! It is SO hard not to push our own agenda and want them to do what WE feel is best. Thank you for your comment. It is so good to know that I’m not alone in these struggles!

  3. I can totally relate to you being s mother of a teenager. As I read some your article, it sound like me and my daughter. As a parent, we have to learn who they are at different stages. This sometimes can be hard because they are just starting to develop thei interest and personality. I ask my daughter to create a dream board twice and found similar things on it between 12 and 14. This told me that she was very passionate about the things that remained the same. Then I gave her an assessment of her gifts. I found that her gifts were close to her vision board but she still developing in what she wants to do in life. It’s hard training your own but rewarding. I pray for guidance because parenting is not like teaching 8th graders. You see yourself in your kids and allowing your flesh to die and not stop their growth based on your Own insecurities thoughts and emotions.

  4. I am so glad I found your blog because sometimes as a single parent of 2 teenage girls,16 and 17, you feel like you are the worst mother in the world. It is so hard trying to divide your time with them when you have all your other duties. But I thought this would be a good idea for me to start with to get back in their life because I am truly losing them to social media. that is at least once a month or even maybe once a week give them each one of my days off.

    1. Yes, it is difficult to find that balance. We are TIRED after working and taking care of other necessary business, but they need us – whether they realize it or not. I hope everything goes well with you and your girls!!

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