Double Take: Parents, teens can get along with a little resolve

Dr. Wes: In the spirit of the New Year, Marissa and I propose five resolutions for teens and parents to adopt in 2006. I'll start with my resolutions for parents, and Marissa will follow with her suggestions for teens.

â Resolve to find balance in your approach to parenting. The fundamental dilemma of parenting is how much to push versus how much to hold your teen. Too much of either and you risk alienating your kids when they most need you. Some parents push too hard, and others don't push enough. Some do too much holding, and others remain too distant. Seek and find the medium that challenges your children while giving them a safe space in which to be a kid.

Reader poll

What's the worth of New Year's resolutions that focus on parent/child relationships?

  • No hastily conceived resolution can tackle the complexity of such a relationship 14% 14 votes
  • Anything that focuses attention on the relationship can't be a bad thing 56% 56 votes
  • Resolutions are hokey, no matter what they're about 29% 29 votes

99 total votes.

â Resolve to accept the fact that you are influential. When your kids were small it was obvious that you had great sway over what they did. Once they hit adolescence many parents become convinced that they aren't very important any more. There are two typical responses to this: Overparenting, in which parents try to control every move their child makes, and underparenting, in which they throw their hands up in dismay and let their kids run wild. You are still crucially important in your teen's life. Learn how to use influence effectively without being controlling or giving up.

â Resolve to worry less about whether your kids respect you and more about whether you are behaving respectably. Few of us realized at age 15 how valuable our parents really were or appreciated their sacrifices for us. Then, when we turned 23 we suddenly reached the horrible realization that they were right about a great many things. Somewhere after that - usually when our first child hit puberty - we came to believe that we had been far more respectful of our own parents than we really were. The goal for parenting teens is to play for the long game. Rather than commanding respect from a 14-year-old, behave now as you want your children to remember you in their 20s, when they are finally psychologically capable of respect. Respect comes with wisdom, wisdom with maturity, and maturity with age.

â Resolve to let go of trust. Trusting teenagers is just as greatly overrated as respect. Few of us were trustworthy when we were teens, and there's no good reason to think modern teens are any different. In place of trust, develop a system of verification. Your children do not have a right to demand trust, but they do have a right to develop freedom. Freedom is based not on whether you can trust them (you can't) but whether they will give you the right to verify their whereabouts and activities.

â Resolve to take your relationship with your kids seriously, whatever their ages. You will always have another chance to earn a paycheck. They will always have another chance to go on that one really hot date. But soon your opportunities for easy interaction, conversation, fun will begin to diminish. One day you'll be sending them off to work, college, the altar. As parents we made a decision to raise children - to improve the world, leave a legacy or combat our aloneness. Many people don't realize that decision is not made once. It is made every day of our children's lives when we get up and decide once again to have kids. We need to make them our priority.

Marissa: I have often viewed New Year's resolutions as both good and bad. On one hand, setting a goal for you to accomplish in the next year can be an incredibly positive thing. However, for those out there that don't quite make their goal, the idea of setting a new one every year seems daunting and disappointing.

For this year, the way I view resolutions is changed because I can now see it as a way to better oneself, be it physically, emotionally or spiritually. I believe that there are five resolutions that teens can make this year. I think that five is a realistic goal that we can all strive to achieve together.

¢ Resolve to make more time for your family. In the end your family is going to be what is around. Not the friends, the concerts, the activities that you ditched them for. Not to say that it is necessary to dedicate every Saturday night to your family, but making it a priority to eat at least two or three dinners together and play a game of Scrabble every now and then isn't too much to ask for.

¢ Resolve to treat your friends with love. I know that it might sound fruity, but I have found that one of the most powerful things that everyone in this world possesses is a smile. A simple smile can change someone's day. It isn't a hard thing to do.

¢ Resolve to get good education Before you tune out, listen to what I am saying. A 4.0 GPA is not what I am talking about here. Focusing on a subject or two to improve in is a great goal.

¢ Read. Read anything. Whatever genre floats your boat, I think you should try to read it. A lot of students are jaded with the printed word because we are all served books to be read for a grade. The whole process taints the joy that can be found from reading a good book.

¢ Lastly, I think this last slot should be left open for interpretation. We all are living unique lives, and the way that we live those lives affords room for improvement in different areas. Some people are dealing with so many issues that only they would know what kind of resolution they would benefit from. This last resolution should be all about you. Lose weight if you need; say fewer cuss words; talk to your parents more. Whatever it may be, find a goal and do it. If you don't succeed, try and at least give a good effort at it. Have a happy new year.

Best wishes in 2006 from Dr. Wes and Marissa. We're actively looking for new questions, so send 'em in. We look forward to another year of helping teens and parents in their epoch struggle to figure each other out.

- Send your questions about adolescent issues to doubletake@ljworld.com. All correspondence is strictly confidential.

- Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Marissa Ballard is a Lawrence High School senior. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services.

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