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swimmermom3

Letting your teen "fail"...

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What does the phrase "letting your teen fail" mean to you?

 

I think about this idea a lot because it is one we have heard more than one counselor.

 

I understand about letting children "fail" or learn from their consequences when they are younger. If my kids forgot swim gear for practice, they went without. If our oldest son's grades aren't where they need to be to maintain his good student driver's insurance discount, he will pay the difference for the increased charge from his savings.

 

How does this idea play out when the consequences are really big?

 

If a student decides that they don't really care about school and jeopardizes their ability to get a high school diploma, who really pays for this "failure?"

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The people that pay are the ones that contribute to feeding and housing and counseling him when he becomes an adult, if he cannot support himself. That may be family, that may be the taxpayers.

 

To me, the phrase means 'let the teen own the consequences'. Not ready to get the diploma? No problem, work is available. Mom and Dad are not running a B&B.

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I think about this with a fair amount of frequency since my 9th grader seems uninterested in working all that hard at his schoolwork. I am not sure of the answer. I suppose it means I will try to step back and let my teen live his life. Offer advice and try not to take it personally when it is not taken and be there to help pick up the pieces. The reality is-probably my lecturing old momster self.

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No school, no free room and board! If he or she is that anxious to start their grown up life then let them have it full force - pay rent, buy food, clean up after themselves, etc. There is a reason why they are called children and live with parents, some need a big dose of reality to figure it out.

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Interesting to think about. My niece (mid-20's) dropped out of high school. My brother has paid. She doesn't keep the low paying jobs she sometimes manages to get, so in the interest of her little boy, he's often paid her bills. My parents have also paid. They used to regularly send her $ for utilities, groceries, etc,; at least once she used that "emergency" money for a tattoo. I'm sure dropping out of hs is just a symptom of her other problems, she may not be able or willing to keep a job even if she had graduated.

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I can give you some real life examples, Lisa, from my family.

I gave my ds a "C" on his homeschool transcript in math because he really earned a C. He did not want to take more maths than the minimum required to graduate so he did not. It kept him from qualifying for scolarship money.

 

He did not decide what college to attend in time for freshmen orientations which meant that when half his friends were heading off to college in the fall after graduation, I made him get a job along with the half of his friends who weren't going to college. When he spent his money on "whatever' instead of saving money for gas, I made him ask his friends for rides to work. When he lost his job as a grocery bagger, I told him he had to get off his lazy behind and get another job because he would NOT be allowed to sit around for the whole semester before he went away to college playing video games.

 

It looks different in different families. I had privilige to see from a safe distance how far I would go in letting him learn from his own mistakes. One night he called me at 2am and asked if his homeless friend could stay with us while he got over pneumonia, I said yes. That kid's parents had told him he had to pay rent, and he had lost his job and didn't want to tell them. He moved out and and been living in an abandoned building. I discovered that I wouldn't go that far with an 18yo. The semester while Tony worked before he went to school we became one of the couches for several of his couch-surfing friends. I was quite shocked at how many newly graduated kids were homeless and very vulnerable.

 

I forgot to add to this that the one thing I did NOT allow was drugs. Since I had homeless young adults staying at my house along with my impressionable young kids, I drew a hard line at drug use. I bought home drug test kits from Walgreens. I told my ds that NO ONE, including him, was allowed to stay in my home if they would test positive for drugs. Owning the test and drawing the line allowed me to know how far I would go. I told him and his friends that if they needed me, I would help them, but if they were not sober and clean that help would not include my roof over their heads.

 

That semester of working minimum wage while his friends were at college, working, homeless, hopeful, hopeless and in between as he was waiting for his paperwork so he could go to Japan matured him a lot. If I had taken over for him and made him go to the local college instead of letting him not go to college the fall after graduation, he would have missed experiencing something that has been a huge part of his growing up. It was horribly hard for me to watch. I was certain that I had failed, but it really wasn't about me at all and inside I knew it was about him and he had to live through the results of his choices because it is his life not mine.

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This is my son. Since the seventh grade, he has done just enough work to pass his classes. Never one paragraph or problem more. When he graduated from eighth grade, he was literally the only student who had not been called onto the stage for some type of award. He's a good kid overall, meaning that he is a kind-hearted kid, so he has that going for him, but he just doesn't want to do schoolwork. We told him that we would not be paying for him to continue in private school with his level of effort, so we put him in public high school.

 

Public high schools will pass you through with a D minus, and he got his share of them, usually in math, which is by far his worst subject. He never learned his basic math, and no one knew until the later years (he's my stepson and dh and I didn't realize his mother wasn't paying attention.). In high school, we got him math tutors and I picked him up from school every day and made sure he was doing his work. He skated through high school with Ds and worse in science and math and As in English because it was easy. I kept telling him how bright he is and how I knew he could do the work, which is true, but he just wouldn't do his work. We repeatedly got letters from teachers, "ds is in danger of failing" "ds is a nice kid but doesn't do his work". UGH!!!! He barely graduated, but he did.

 

One by one, all of his friends started going away to college. He didn't have anyone to hang out with anymore, so he got a job at a local restaurant. He signed up for the Navy, then decided he wanted to go to CC. He took one class, Biology in a shortened winter session, and it's almost over and he has an 85 average! Now, he doesn't want to go to the Navy anymore and will have to unsign up (which we didn't even know you can do) and he's signed himself up for FIVE college classes next semester. He arranged his own financing, and he says he's going to do it. I said to him, "ds, I told you you were smart! I've been telling you for six years you could do this!" And he says, "yeah, but college is more fun."

 

That was it. He admitted he didn't want to do the work so he didn't. He knows now what he did to himself, but he learns from experience. He signed up for the Navy, against all of our advice, and now he wants to get out. He didn't do his work, and now he's stuck home and at community college listening to his friends' stories about their college experiences. He's starting again in pre-algebra in CC, and he will have to take at least 5 math classes to graduate. He just does not learn unless he's made the mistakes himself. Thank God he is not a risk-taker! He's not the type to jump off a bridge or skateboard over staircases, so I guess we can be thankful for that, right?!?!?

 

I should say, ds has two younger sisters, a dstepsister (mine) and a dhalfsister (his mom's). They are both straight A students who want to do well in school and will probably be in line for scholarships. Their school successes didn't motivate him at all, although now he doesn't like that dd is so far ahead of him in schooling and knowledge. It's just now starting to bug him- hope that's a good thing!

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What does the phrase "letting your teen fail" mean to you?

 

I think about this idea a lot because it is one we have heard more than one counselor.

 

I understand about letting children "fail" or learn from their consequences when they are younger. If my kids forgot swim gear for practice, they went without. If our oldest son's grades aren't where they need to be to maintain his good student driver's insurance discount, he will pay the difference for the increased charge from his savings.

 

How does this idea play out when the consequences are really big?

 

If a student decides that they don't really care about school and jeopardizes their ability to get a high school diploma, who really pays for this "failure?"

 

 

By the time they are teens, the consequences of failing are huge. It is much better to let them fail things when they are little and hope there won't be any big failures as teens. When they are out of their teens, there is only but so much you can do to prevent big failures. Mostly, you break your heart as you watch.

 

There is fail and there is fail. What sort of fail are we talking about? Is the fail going to endanger other people? Is it going to endanger the rest of the family? Is it going to result in jail? Or is it "just" going to result in a teen who doesn't graduate from high school? If it is the latter, I would try to find some way to make that teen graduate, even if it required switching programs to a much easier one or switching programs to a much more hands-on one. We know someone put his son in the local vo-tech because he could see he was going to have trouble being motivated enough to get through a full day of academic classes for four years. The teen is doing very well there and will graduate with enough skills that if he chooses not to go to college, he will at least be employable. It was a heart-wrenching decision but his son is SO much better off than some of my children's friends, who floundered around in our very academic public high school and finally graduted (or not) without any possibility of making a living and went into the downward spiral of depression. We've given couch space to some of them, the ones that haven't moved on to illegal ways of making a living or hiding from life. The older they get, the more depressing it is. Like Karen in CO, I have been shocked at how many older teens in my fairly affluent town are homeless, or at least semi-homeless. We would go far to keep any of our own children from getting scurvy living under a bridge the way one did after his parents kicked him out. We would insist on some sort of job and feed and house and encourage enough to try avoid depression while we all waited for the child to grow up a bit more and be able to do better for themselves. We've done this. Child eventually decided to go to college, graduated, and is now employed. Was letting him take an excedingly light senior year rather than quitting high school altogether "not letting him fail"? Was half supporting him afterwards for a few years and then helping pay for college later "not letting him fail"? I suppose it was, by some definitions. The end result was good, though. We are very glad we did things the way we did.

 

I think it is worth looking at the reason for the failure. If it is a matter of biting off more than you can chew, then rescuing them isn't such a bad idea. My clan frequently rescues each other under these circumstances. Sometimes it is the children who rescue the adults lol. Are there underlying medical problems? It is the lucky person who has medical problems and a family that is willing and able to take care of them. (My pregnacies come to mind lol.) Some people are useful members of society and contributing members of their family and yet for whatever reason, are unable to make a living. And others heartbreakingly are unable, despite all the help and love in the world, to be anything but a danger to their family. And for some people, their family IS the problem. (That last catagory is the one we've often wound up giving couch space to. Some of those stories have ended well, some badly.)

 

I feel like this has meandered all over the place in an effort not to give you that highly unsatisfactory answer of it depends. Sigh.

 

Nan

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A few examples from my house (my son is 14):

 

- Early last spring we bought ds a better trombone. The deal was that I was no longer going to have to bug him to practice, he was going to take the initiative to do his practice daily. That winter, he practiced with it at first, took it to rehearsals (he's in the youth orchestra) to show off. After a couple of weeks regular practice started to taper off and become irregular. I said nothing. When the concert rolled around in May, I made him take the old trombone to the concert (it's wasn't broken or anything, just not as nice). Over the summer, he still wasn't practicing regularly, so when the new semester rolled around for the orchestra, he still had to take the old one, while the shiny bigger one with the F-valve attachment stayed tucked away. Finally, this fall, he figured it out, and he did the practice regularly and now gets to take his new trombone to rehearsals and the concert.

 

-If he fails a test, he gets a failing grade. He does get to retry the test, because I want him to master the material, but he keeps both the old and new grade. This affects his overall average for that class.

 

-There are a few classes where he needs the computer for a period of time. He has been told to schedule that with me in advance (which might simply mean a few hours ahead, like this morning for this afternoon) so that I can schedule things that I need to get done. If he doesn't let me know, when he wants it later, he can't just ask me to drop what I'm doing. Which might mean he ends up doing it on Saturday, or that he misses a deadline if he lets it go too long, or that he doesn't get to go somewhere that evening because his schoolwork isn't done, or whatever. We also don't allow staying up late to complete things. He needs sleep and we need a few hours of kid-free quiet at night.

 

-I don't give warnings about things that he should know. So if he knows that he has an activity at 7 and we need to leave at 6:30, I don't warn him early to get his stuff together, get a shower, etc. If he's late or stinky for his activity, that's his problem (unless he's coming with me, he can't be stinking with me, he'll just have to miss). If I am going somewhere, I don't allow it to make me late. I leave on time. Always.

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What does the phrase "letting your teen fail" mean to you?

 

I think about this idea a lot because it is one we have heard more than one counselor.

 

I understand about letting children "fail" or learn from their consequences when they are younger. If my kids forgot swim gear for practice, they went without. If our oldest son's grades aren't where they need to be to maintain his good student driver's insurance discount, he will pay the difference for the increased charge from his savings.

 

How does this idea play out when the consequences are really big?

 

If a student decides that they don't really care about school and jeopardizes their ability to get a high school diploma, who really pays for this "failure?"

What a good conversation, Lisa.

 

First, I would ignore counselors who say that. Sometimes they've never parented teens, or at least never parented more than one different teen. And really, they only have to worry about the immediate results and you have a lifetime to worry about.

 

I think of my minor children as children, and not as adults. I had many disagreements with school officials who wanted to let them be adults (except when it wasn't convenient for them). I argued that my "children" were not old enough to know which classes they should choose, what information was important in the scope of the world, or what the long-term consequences really are. I know this from personal experience, and both my dh and I felt our generation was not really "parented" enough and we wanted to be more involved parents.

 

On the other hand, often teachers felt that "involved parents" meant we were dictators and shelterers and otherwise not allowing our children to grow up. And that, too, is a totally wrong assumption in my eyes. As involved parents, we probably knew more about what our kids were doing than any other parents we knew, and we probably allowed more risk and trial than most, as well. I think the difference is that we allowed risk gradually, we allowed risk if it was based on demonstrating an understanding of that risk, we allowed risk if our children were mature enough to talk to us about it. Yes, we have consequences in life, we have to live frugally or we don't have time for relaxation, but I don't think it has to be a public consequence in terms of all the world seeing his bad grades for the rest of his life. At least, not while he's still my minor child and taking classes at home in my school - naturally this changes when the student takes outside courses. My kids have been able to see the difference.

 

Anyways, moving on from my old woes dealing with the public schools... as a homeschool teacher, I allow my kids to not get credit if it has not been earned, but I don't allow them to fail. A fail is the same as a "never took the class" to me, and I don't see why it should be otherwise, since the student might decide to reenter their education somewhere down the line and why should they have a worse transcript than a student who quit school early on.

 

I suppose you need to know your child. If the child cares about grades, and would be motivated by fear of low grades, then maybe low grades could benefit that child. Sometimes oldest children fit in this category.

 

My experience is that kids getting low grades either (a) are drowning or ( b ) don't care and don't see that it will matter to them later. I was one of those kids, and I'd hate to tell you the wrong directions I went in. But in the 70s I was able to graduate early and leave home early by taking courses on Ping Pong and Imaginary Housing and Death & Dying. Being an oldest, I did want good grades, so I just chose ridiculous classes and wasn't penalized by failing grades (if I had taken more challenging courses) when I went back to college later on. Lots of folks find "go-arounds" so they don't totally fail. I'd far rather be a homeschooler who poured "good education" into my child while I could, and who kept plugging at the basics until they are learned, vs. having him penalized later because he received poor grades from me (or I lowered my standards).

 

By the way, I haven't given my 26 yo dd a diploma yet, but I have given her decent grades for any good learning she did achieve, and I will allow her to complete her diploma at some point if she wishes (free through me, or she can pay an adult high school). Her diploma can either be of the very minimum requirements of "my school" which includes at least one more English credit, or she could go for a more college prep diploma if she decides to work on more credits.

 

I've seen dd move out and live in very sketchy circumstances, and I don't want to feel like I forced her out due to too many rules, but prefer to feel like I always offered all the help I had within me, while also knowing that honestly I'm only human. If my kids are disrespecting me by not doing their share, I don't always grab away privileges and rights right off the bat. My goal isn't to teach them that if they don't pay the rent, they won't have a house -- because I've seen young adults not care about that, skipping out on rent can go on for months before eviction, then the young person may go from house to house until they lose their welcome along the way, and in the end they may learn nothing but how to scheme. Instead, I want to teach my kids that if they don't pay the rent, then the landlord might lose his family's income, and the homes he stays in might be discouraged because their efforts aren't appreciated, etc etc. Some of the worst employees I've worked with didn't get fired, because firing can seem too expensive to some companies, so the rest of us had more work. I want my kids to see that how much time their own kids get to spend with their parents, and whether they get a back yard, and whether they can take trips to see grandma, may be affected by earning a decent wage. Those are the real consequences, and they aren't inflicted on my child but instead my child is inflicting them on others.

 

I do know folks who have "enabled" their kids too much, kids whom peers don't even respect, as well as adults who cling to every free ride they can find, and I know the fear a parent has of creating such a child. I just think there's a difference between handing a child tons of money and bailing them out of everything, vs. helping them be educated for their future (including knowledge of consequences), and leading them into adulthood by example and explanation (whether they "hear" these things now or later -- with my dd it's been "later"). And I see more creative options in homeschool than "failing" them, thank goodness.

 

Sorry so many wandering thoughts, but fun to chat,

Julie

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Thinbing about this I realize that I probably should add that I think children and teens need plenty of opportunity to fail and have to deal with the consequences. If mine fail to set the anchor properly, we will all wake up on the beach. We give them responsibility. If they fail to catch their plane home from Switzerland, they will be stuck in Switzerland and there is nothing we can do to fix that except help them to find another plane home. I think we, as their family, fail if we never give them responisibilities, real ones, ones in which other people depend on them, even life threatening ones. I think we as family fail if we fail to help them buy a new ticket home. I think we have to be cautious about things that involve long-away consequences. Those are the ones in which teens are still children. Better to learn on the small stuff, as I said at the beginning of my earlier post.

 

Nan

ETA - I'm dashing out and haven't had a chance to read the other posts past my first one so if something funny appears in the conversation, that might be why.

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I believe in letting my teen fail to an extent, like you mentioned the swim gear, or a forgotten lunch, or refusal to study for an exam leading to a failing grade. If they have broken a law making them face teh consequences instead of letting them off the hook like many parents do. BUT at the same time I refuse to set them up for failure. So my kids hates school of any kind, doesn't want to do anything for school, tough cookies, his education is important and I will not back down on it. If I put him into public school it would be setting him up for failure because they would let him fail by not providing what he needs to succeed. I don't let him skip shifts at work risking him losing his job, I make sure he is up and ready. If he doesn't want to work he can give his notice and do it right. I will not let him get fired for the sake of an extra hour's sleep. I will not let him make costly mistakes with his money, I guide him and in the case of our current situation take over control of his money until a large debt he owes is paid back due to his actions causing damage to someone's property a couple years back. He faced the consequences and continues to, I did not pay it for him, he had to get old enough to get a job to do so.

 

I think there is a line between letting them fail and face natural consequences, and letting them fail leading to life long effects from that failure. One is being a good parent imo and one is not.

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Here's a little anecdote about my cousin. He has always been a hard and troubled kid. He has bipolar and all of its various diagnostic accouterments. My aunt really couldn't deal with him, so he moved in with my grandparents. For years, my grandmother was all that stood between him and full consequence. He messed up at school, she blamed the school and hired a private tutor. He couldn't get a job, it was the economy. He got fired, it was the boss. He got arrested, the cops were out to get him.

 

So this cousin gets arrested for some big offense (I can't remember exactly, but i think it was having to do with a large amount of illegal fireworks. Like enough for it to be bomb charges) and my gma hires a lawyer. He gets off. He gets arrested for DUI, she bails him out. He gets his car repoed, she signs for a new one and makes the payments.

 

Well, she died a year ago. This cousin is now 23. Within the first month, he was hurting for money. Shortly after he got picked up on a warrant, but this time he had to stay in jail. He heard and saw some stuff that really shook him up (I'm sure you can imagine what I'm talking about). He was released a week later.

 

In the last year, he has gotten a legit job for the first time in his life. He's extremely able mechanically, so he's working for a contractor. He told me he's tired of being a loser. He had to ride a bike everywhere, because the second car got repoed. He's lost 60 lbs and is healthier than he's ever been.

 

There's nobody to bail him out anymore, and you know what? He's rising to the occasion. I'm amazed by the transformation. I love my gma and miss her a ton, but my cousin was never going to straighten out as long as she stood between him and his consequences.

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Agree with others that they should be allowed to fail at small things and experience natural consequences. But with major things, like not willing to do the work needed to graduate from high school, then I think a different approach is usually needed. IMO it's too important. I would work hard on helping the student to find their motivation to at least graduate. Unless they're highly skilled, the job prospects for high school drop outs are dismal. If it's skilled labor they want, then I would make at least half of their time devoted to their apprenticing or working in the field. Nothing like minimum wage or less to help motivate a student. If the money seems too good to them, then I'd have them pay some towards room and board for a little bit of real life experience. At the minimum, any day a student refuses to do their school work is a day that I would get free manual labor. If they can't find a positive motivator, then the alternative to school work should be worse.

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I don't let him skip shifts at work risking him losing his job, I make sure he is up and ready. If he doesn't want to work he can give his notice and do it right. I will not let him get fired for the sake of an extra hour's sleep.

 

I would let him get fired. I would set him up for success by getting him an alarm, letting him know that employers don't like people who are not on time, and teaching him to plan appropriately, but that's as far as I would go. He's young. Getting fired at this age would be an awesome lesson. It would teach him about how the real world really treats people. And getting fired at this age won't have any long-terms consequences.

 

Of course, I have very strong feelings about people learning to get themselves up and to places on time. No one in my house whose age is in double digits gets a mommy wake-up call. They get an alarm clock.

 

ETA: With children, every unnecessary help is actually a hinderance.

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What does the phrase "letting your teen fail" mean to you?

 

I think about this idea a lot because it is one we have heard more than one counselor.

 

I understand about letting children "fail" or learn from their consequences when they are younger. If my kids forgot swim gear for practice, they went without. If our oldest son's grades aren't where they need to be to maintain his good student driver's insurance discount, he will pay the difference for the increased charge from his savings.

 

How does this idea play out when the consequences are really big?

 

If a student decides that they don't really care about school and jeopardizes their ability to get a high school diploma, who really pays for this "failure?"

 

I don't think a parent lets their kids fail so much as the kids fail themselves. Parents are usually the ones who choose to pick-up the pieces, take the 2am phone call, etc. But parents do get burned out on picking up the pieces when a kid expects the parents to bail them out of every bad situation the kid finds.

 

Personally, I'd find another counselor. You ask who pays the price--everyone--family and society. There are somethings you can save a kid from with an infusion of money, but there are other things a parent cannot change even if they want to make a difference. The consiquences are beyond the scope of family.

 

So, what is the kid expecting to do five years from now without a high school diploma? Sometimes I think young people look at recent college graduates out of work with no hope for better employment in the future, they hear about mounting student loan debt, and they throw up their hands and say, "What's the point?" Hard work doesn't always pay off, but cheating does. Some kids can see beyond this but for others, it robs them of hope for the future, and others could care less and just live for the party today.

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My son, 14, knows that the day after he turns 18, he either has to move out or have a plan that he is ACTIVELY working on. This isn't meant in a harsh way, but this is not a flop house, and I will not support a child diddling away their life. Not for one day.

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I would let him get fired. I would set him up for success by getting him an alarm, letting him know that employers don't like people who are not on time, and teaching him to plan appropriately, but that's as far as I would go. He's young. Getting fired at this age would be an awesome lesson. It would teach him about how the real world really treats people. And getting fired at this age won't have any long-terms consequences.

 

Of course, I have very strong feelings about people learning to get themselves up and to places on time. No one in my house whose age is in double digits gets a mommy wake-up call. They get an alarm clock.

 

ETA: With children, every unnecessary help is actually a hinderance.

 

 

I don't agree with causing hardship on the company who then has to struggle to find someone to cover his shift. Since I am the one driving him (work is a 20 minute drive away in the next town over), and they have extended a lot of grace to working with a special needs 14 year old I won't do that to him. He can man up and resign not be immature and not just show up.

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I'm not sure I can really relate to the phrase although I hear it often. Why do we never hear "parents should let their toddlers fail" or insert whatever age you wish. All through child rearing, there should be natural consequences...not just in the teen years. Hopefully by the teen years the child has experienced enough natural consequences to realize that the teen years are no different.

 

From the time my boys were little they had responsibilities. Making their beds, cleaning their bathrooms, feeding animals, picking up toys, etc. were all assigned based on their physical ability. If they didn't get their laundry done, they wore dirty clothes (not that it bothered some of my boys much :glare: ). If they didn't get their school done they didn't get to eat lunch out with dad - instead they got to eat a sandwich in the car. Then it became more intense...mowing the yard, splitting and stacking wood, having an outside job, etc. that made them learn to do a good job.

 

At no point along the road did I stop parenting. I would give nice reminders (tried not to nag), post chore charts, etc. all to help the kids remember. Kids don't remember well - it's just the way they are.

 

I think there is a difference in the way we respond when the failure is due to rebellion or negligence. If my son negligently drives his car and gets a ticket - guess what? He's gonna pay - the fine and loss of driving privileges. If he doesn't haul his behind out of bed for his 5 am lifeguard duty, he'll probably get fired; but, after I hear the alarm go off and I'm awake, I don't see anything wrong with a "hey, buddy, are you awake?" because this is a shift he is not used to doing. So I'm not going to let him fail there because I know he is trying and finding it difficult. I will encourage him to get in bed by 9 pm and I will make everyone be quiet so he can sleep. I don't see those as not "allowing him to fail". I see that as parenting a still formative young man.

 

Each of my boys needs/needed a different amount of encouragement/reminders. For one the loss of his "snack privilege" was just about the worst thing imaginable. For my youngest, the loss of social activities is the best. If I've reminded and encouraged and the result isn't forthcoming, I sit back and watch what happens. Often the natural consequences don't take place :crying: and the dire consequences I predicted didn't happen. Usually it's because they've picked up the pieces to a degree that they are semi-successful. Other times those natural consequences are more valuable than any teaching/training I could do.

 

Today I reminded ds that he needed to make sure he had a scantron sheet for his psychology test. He said he did, but double checked his bag. Should I have not reminded him? Should I have let him fail if he didn't have them? I guess I don't see that getting a failing grade on a test because I wanted to "allow him to fail" would be in his best interest.

 

There are some kids out there that just have to be poked and prodded more than others. I've seen too many kids who are the products of parents who decided to be uninvolved and expected their teens to have the maturity and sense to figure out this world in which we live. Those kids still struggle and have great resentment towards their parents.

 

I think common sense parenting is called for. I do believe in a gradual increase in responsibility as the child matures. My 16 year old filed his taxes online last week with me watching and double checking. My 18 year old had to call for a refill of his prescription. It's important that we teach life skills as well. It would have been easy for me to do the taxes and call for the refill, but they will be away from home very soon and need to know how to do those type of things.

 

So, like I said, I cannot relate to "allow our teens to fail" any more than I could relate to "allow your toddlers to fail". I hear it a lot, but I wonder what people really mean...

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I'm not sure I can really relate to the phrase although I hear it often. Why do we never hear "parents should let their toddlers fail" or insert whatever age you wish. All through child rearing, there should be natural consequences...not just in the teen years. Hopefully by the teen years the child has experienced enough natural consequences to realize that the teen years are no different.

 

From the time my boys were little they had responsibilities. Making their beds, cleaning their bathrooms, feeding animals, picking up toys, etc. were all assigned based on their physical ability. If they didn't get their laundry done, they wore dirty clothes (not that it bothered some of my boys much :glare: ). If they didn't get their school done they didn't get to eat lunch out with dad - instead they got to eat a sandwich in the car. Then it became more intense...mowing the yard, splitting and stacking wood, having an outside job, etc. that made them learn to do a good job.

 

At no point along the road did I stop parenting. I would give nice reminders (tried not to nag), post chore charts, etc. all to help the kids remember. Kids don't remember well - it's just the way they are.

 

I think there is a difference in the way we respond when the failure is due to rebellion or negligence. If my son negligently drives his car and gets a ticket - guess what? He's gonna pay - the fine and loss of driving privileges. If he doesn't haul his behind out of bed for his 5 am lifeguard duty, he'll probably get fired; but, after I hear the alarm go off and I'm awake, I don't see anything wrong with a "hey, buddy, are you awake?" because this is a shift he is not used to doing. So I'm not going to let him fail there because I know he is trying and finding it difficult. I will encourage him to get in bed by 9 pm and I will make everyone be quiet so he can sleep. I don't see those as not "allowing him to fail". I see that as parenting a still formative young man.

 

Each of my boys needs/needed a different amount of encouragement/reminders. For one the loss of his "snack privilege" was just about the worst thing imaginable. For my youngest, the loss of social activities is the best. If I've reminded and encouraged and the result isn't forthcoming, I sit back and watch what happens. Often the natural consequences don't take place :crying: and the dire consequences I predicted didn't happen. Usually it's because they've picked up the pieces to a degree that they are semi-successful. Other times those natural consequences are more valuable than any teaching/training I could do.

 

Today I reminded ds that he needed to make sure he had a scantron sheet for his psychology test. He said he did, but double checked his bag. Should I have not reminded him? Should I have let him fail if he didn't have them? I guess I don't see that getting a failing grade on a test because I wanted to "allow him to fail" would be in his best interest.

 

There are some kids out there that just have to be poked and prodded more than others. I've seen too many kids who are the products of parents who decided to be uninvolved and expected their teens to have the maturity and sense to figure out this world in which we live. Those kids still struggle and have great resentment towards their parents.

 

I think common sense parenting is called for. I do believe in a gradual increase in responsibility as the child matures. My 16 year old filed his taxes online last week with me watching and double checking. My 18 year old had to call for a refill of his prescription. It's important that we teach life skills as well. It would have been easy for me to do the taxes and call for the refill, but they will be away from home very soon and need to know how to do those type of things.

 

So, like I said, I cannot relate to "allow our teens to fail" any more than I could relate to "allow your toddlers to fail". I hear it a lot, but I wonder what people really mean...

 

 

I apply the "let them fail" idea to all ages. When my toddler tries to dress himself, sometimes he fails. Recently, he achieved enough height to reach the light switches and now turns them on and off, but previous to that he would try, and fail. Then he'd try again. In this case, I step in and do for him what he can't do, but only because he CAN'T do it. Once he's old enough to actually have responsibilities, he will start to fail with actual consequences.

 

In the examples you gave, my approach would be some the same and some different.

 

The kid who needs to get up at 5am for his job. No, him I would not help. I know it's new, but his whole life will be filled with things that are new. He's plenty old enough to plan that himself. If it's your 16y/o, I would have sat with him ONCE and talked him through planning for a new schedule (you need this many hours of sleep, it takes this long to get ready in the morning, it takes this long to get there, so you need to plan to go to bed by X). That would have been it. After I've taught him that, it's up to him to execute. He would be welcome to ask for more planning help if he found it wasn't working, but I wouldn't be getting him up or anything, I would be talking him through the logistics of planning. If he's not old enough to get himself up in the morning, he certainly isn't old enough to be responsible for rescueing someone who is drowning.

 

I also wouldn't have reminded the ds about the scantron sheet. Absolutely he should fail the test and take that consequence if he is not organized and keeping track of his stuff.

 

I would have helped the 16 year old with his taxes. Those are headache enough even for those of us who have done it before. Definitely will need training there.

 

I would also have talked the 18 year old through calling for scrip. Good life skill to be able to talk to people on the phone (and one which boys seem to have such an issue with sometimes) and have necessary information for a call like that.

 

I rather think that the amount of prodding/reminding that kid needs is largely coorelated to the amount that we give them. "I don't have to remember. Mom will remind me."

 

I don't think allowing kids to fail is the same as being uninvolved. It would, at least as often, be easier to do it oneself or remind them a hundred times, than to let them fail. Failure teaches them to pay attention, because stuff happens when you don't. Failure also teaches them to deal with failure, which is a lifeskill that many colleges and employers are noting that young people today are woefully lacking.

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I would let him get fired. I would set him up for success by getting him an alarm, letting him know that employers don't like people who are not on time, and teaching him to plan appropriately, but that's as far as I would go. He's young. Getting fired at this age would be an awesome lesson. It would teach him about how the real world really treats people. And getting fired at this age won't have any long-terms consequences.

 

Of course, I have very strong feelings about people learning to get themselves up and to places on time. No one in my house whose age is in double digits gets a mommy wake-up call. They get an alarm clock.

 

ETA: With children, every unnecessary help is actually a hinderance.

 

I don't agree with causing hardship on the company who then has to struggle to find someone to cover his shift. Since I am the one driving him (work is a 20 minute drive away in the next town over), and they have extended a lot of grace to working with a special needs 14 year old I won't do that to him. He can man up and resign not be immature and not just show up.

 

 

I agree with swellmomma. Her son is 14, that's pretty darn young to be working an outside job without guidance. He probably likes his job on payday, I bet. My feelings would be different if he were 17, but at 14 it's a shade different and some grace and training is due.

 

As to the failure part? IDK No one is getting kicked out at 18, mostly because he'll turn 18 the fall of his senior year. The current expectation is college, if not we would require working. Opportunities in our area would be limited. Plus I like my child, if he wants to live here and attend college, we'd be okay with that. Life is hard, life is not fair, but dh and I want to be the safety for ds. Because we've had it from our parents, he knows he always has a place to call home. I've learned to love people where they are, and I hope to extend the same courtesy to my own offspring. Success, to us, doesn't mean having to be independent at 18. Life calls us to be interdependent with others, I'd like it if my son continues that into his adulthood. That doesn't mean I'm paying his car insurance or bailing him out, but there are so many people in this world that feel utterly alone, I refuse to have my son feel that way.

 

I remember having a conversation with my mother in my late 20s. She said that once I became an adult age wise, she started to view me as an adult and accept some of my choices (even the ones she didn't agree with). She also said that she would always be my mother and she would always love me and welcome me. There have been times in my life when if I didn't have my parents as a safety (not a harness, a safety) that I would have been that homeless person under the bridge, or crashing on friends couches.

 

So far, my kid is a good kid, made decent choices, failed at a few things, and has learned that I'm okay with him failing. I'm not okay with him giving up, mainly because I refuse to give up on his potential. We address mistakes and move on. Will he make some stupid choices, probably. I'd love it if he got to attend the college of his choice, live out his dream of living abroad. But you know, if I get a phone call and he needs help, I will do what I can. Not have him manipulate me or con me. Giving scads of money wouldn't even be an option. But if he needs a place to crash or a place to heal, he always has that with dh and I. Dh has already told him that. I do think knowing that makes him more secure and it makes it more likely to take some risks out there in the big bad world.

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So far, my kid is a good kid, made decent choices, failed at a few things, and has learned that I'm okay with him failing. I'm not okay with him giving up, mainly because I refuse to give up on his potential. We address mistakes and move on. Will he make some stupid choices, probably. I'd love it if he got to attend the college of his choice, live out his dream of living abroad. But you know, if I get a phone call and he needs help, I will do what I can. Not have him manipulate me or con me. Giving scads of money wouldn't even be an option. But if he needs a place to crash or a place to heal, he always has that with dh and I. Dh has already told him that. I do think knowing that makes him more secure and it makes it more likely to take some risks out there in the big bad world.

 

Exactly!

 

And you know, treating a teen kindly and going the extra mile for a teen really helps build relationships that last. I think it helps build our kids' confidence when they are successful even if we did help them along the way. My boys know that I will always be available for them and will do whatever I can to help them when it is needed. And as we grow with our kids, we know when they need help and when they are being lazy. A little grace and mercy is a fine thing and appreciated by all :) And when they graduate from college and begin earning their own living, paying their own way, well, it makes me swell with pride at seeing my boys become men and knowing that I played a part in that life.

 

I know too many teens who were the products of parenting that said, "when I was your age..." or "you're old enough...", "when you're 18 you're out of here..." and those kids have gone on to make too many life altering mistakes all because the parents were not willing to help their kids. They could have circumvented so many problems if only the parents would have given them a boost when needed. Yes, these kids are learning responsibility - but at a great cost, IMO.

 

Each child is different, each personality has different needs - it's up to the parent to figure it out. There is no One Size Fits All in parenting, IMO.

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Of course, I have very strong feelings about people learning to get themselves up and to places on time. No one in my house whose age is in double digits gets a mommy wake-up call. They get an alarm clock.

 

 

My DH would be toast! Without either the dog or me, he would sleep till noon with the beeps blaring in the background.

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My parents let me fail in school--over and over and over again. I was, let's just say, an *extreme* underachiever.

 

My experience of failure was that it was easier to fail than to do all that work. I got used to it very quickly and at that point it was no big deal to fail.

 

I managed to get into college because my SAT scores were good enough so that my grades were discounted. But I continued to fail courses in college and was on academic probation almost the entire time I was there.

 

I decided that I was not going to allow my children to get away with that behavior.

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My parents let me fail in school--over and over and over again. I was, let's just say, an *extreme* underachiever.

 

My experience of failure was that it was easier to fail than to do all that work. I got used to it very quickly and at that point it was no big deal to fail.

 

 

 

I was the queen of excuses. Since I know them all they don't work on me if ds tries to use them. Dh was the king of troublemakers. I'm so glad ds isn't like dh was as a teen. I wasn't there, but I've heard stories.

 

There are different varieties of failure. Failure because you tried, failure because you had an excuse, failure because it was easier than working. Some failure is age range developmentally appropriate, some failure could be dumb luck, some of it because you weren't thinking through the entire situation well. Failure because you just gave up on yourself even. I think a lot of failure is based upon our perception of the situation.

 

If a toddler tries to dress themselves and fails, they didn't fail, they tried. There's a lot of coaching that has to happen. A lot of coaching happened today in our classroom. I wasn't going to let ds fail at a hard task because he wasn't coached through it properly. Remember coaches don't do the work, they stand on the sidelines, but they can jump in and assist in practice if necessary. Coaching someone to help alleviate difficult consequences is compassionate, not hindering. I wouldn't throw the driver's manual at my child and tell them, good luck, go out and learn to drive now. You've seen me do it for years, hope you were watching. Not only is that illegal in my state, it would make me an irresponsible parent.

 

One subject isn't going well this year. It's disorganized and we've struggled to find the right curriculum. Tonight we talked about it. I told ds some of it is my fault, because I haven't given him the tools to learn it well enough. Part of parenting and failing is making sure it's okay to tell our kids we've failed something. Not in a martyr type of way, but in a I goofed type of way.

 

Not sure if any of this is helpful to you, Lisa. I seem to be working out a few things for myself as I type these words.

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Ultimately, you have to decide for your child and your family what pain is acceptable. It is different for each child. I have one who is stubborn and will have to touch the burner and get burned to see that I was legitimately warning him of a danger. I have another child that when you say there is a potential danger, she backs away as far as possible and refuses to even glance from a distance. For my first child, he sometimes learns through those frustrations, disappointments, and hurts. My youngest uses her brother's experiences as a learning curve so she doesn't have to go through the pain personally.

 

Failure is relative. For us, it means to not have achieved the goal, whatever goal that might be.

 

Our children have never aspired to take the most difficult course and be the top grade in the class, although our son easily had that potential. For us, any grade below a B was a failure on his part academically. We knew his potential and obtaining a "C" in the class was not acceptable - it was pure laziness. When his school transcripts were evaluated (public school for one year, homeschool for the 2nd year, back to public school his Junior year) we found that he could graduate his Junior year. He took it upon himself to make sure he had the correct credits in his final semester in order to get it done. The motivation to graduate was huge! He disliked school and just wanted to get on with life.

 

Failing has natural consequences. I agree with those who have posted and said that these should start when our children are very young. If they receive the consequences as a small child (age appropriate, of course) we can hope to avoid the larger consequences later. Sometimes, however, it is unavoidable as we all have a mind of our own and chose our course of action.

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I greatly appreciate all of your thoughtful replies and find that I need to sleep on what has been said and process it with a fresh mind in the morning.

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As to the failure part? IDK No one is getting kicked out at 18, mostly because he'll turn 18 the fall of his senior year. The current expectation is college, if not we would require working. Opportunities in our area would be limited. Plus I like my child, if he wants to live here and attend college, we'd be okay with that.

 

I don't think we are actually saying different things. Living at home to finish high school or attend college IS having a plan and actively working toward it.

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My DH would be toast! Without either the dog or me, he would sleep till noon with the beeps blaring in the background.

 

I would say if that's really the case, he is staying up too late. Teens need a lot of sleep. My son gets up at 6, on his own. He goes to bed at 8 and can read for an hour. Lights out at nine. I can always tell when he's been reading later, because he's tired the next day.

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Sometimes, however, it is unavoidable as we all have a mind of our own and chose our course of action.

 

This, too. We get so much input from society to hyper-parent to the point that we delude ourselves into thinking that "if we did everything right" it would all go swimmingly. We don't *think* that we think that, but it's there, in the background of our presumptions.

 

You really can do EVERYTHING right, and have a child that is determined to mess up. It happens.

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Exactly!

 

And you know, treating a teen kindly and going the extra mile for a teen really helps build relationships that last. I think it helps build our kids' confidence when they are successful even if we did help them along the way. My boys know that I will always be available for them and will do whatever I can to help them when it is needed. And as we grow with our kids, we know when they need help and when they are being lazy. A little grace and mercy is a fine thing and appreciated by all :) And when they graduate from college and begin earning their own living, paying their own way, well, it makes me swell with pride at seeing my boys become men and knowing that I played a part in that life.

 

I know too many teens who were the products of parenting that said, "when I was your age..." or "you're old enough...", "when you're 18 you're out of here..." and those kids have gone on to make too many life altering mistakes all because the parents were not willing to help their kids. They could have circumvented so many problems if only the parents would have given them a boost when needed. Yes, these kids are learning responsibility - but at a great cost, IMO.

 

Each child is different, each personality has different needs - it's up to the parent to figure it out. There is no One Size Fits All in parenting, IMO.

 

Lisa - I've been thinking about this ever since I read your question. This is something we have discussed as a family many times, both in terms of our own family and as we watch other children fail (or be helped and succeed, or be helped and fail again). I can tell you what my young adults think. They think that the parents who don't help their over-18 children are setting their children up to fail badly, often for the rest of their lives. Why do they think so? They've known many people for whom this was true, both younger ones their own age who are struggling with hopelessness and old people who have shared the shape of their lives. They compare that with the people they know who were helped and supported as they grew the last little bit (not that we ever stop growing) and who were given more of a start in life than just a high school education.

 

Parenting young adults is HARD WORK, emotionally and financially sometimes even physically. Espeically emotionally. It is breath-taking and then heart-breaking watching them try things that won't work. Your control of every situation is SO limited. I am guessing that counselors are taught to deal with emotionally bankrupt people, people at their wits end. They are taught to help those people let go of as many emotional drains as possible. As a result, they are full of phrases like "letting your child fail" and "you can't take on the whole world" and "you have to take care of yourself". What else can they do? Many of the people they see are there because their families are broken, not because they were sensible and went to a counselor BEFORE the family broke, or because they are trying to learn to support another struggling family member. I'm not sure how much they are taught to do a good job at that. That is the ideal and they usually are dealing with situations that are far far beyond the ideal by the time they get involved. How many examples do they see of functioning close families, ones that aren't close in an unhealthy way but just an "we're all in this together", more communal way?

 

Yes, there are situations where a child was rescued so much that the child didn't grow up. If you are aware that this can happen, and have tried to give your children responsibilities and helped them learn to take care of themselves and let them experience small failures like not having swim clothes (or letting teammates down when you don't do well at a meet, for that matter), I don't think you need to worry about whether or not you are "letting your teen fail". Your teen has learned enough to grow up. If the teen doesn't appear to be maturing at the expected rate, then he or she probably is a late bloomer (or is influenced by medical problems, traumatic events, etc.). We don't all grow at the same rate.

 

One of the ways we grow is by having to "rise to the occasion", as my family calls it. (A difficult situation arises and has to be dealt with.) A life that contains occasions to rise to is also going to contain a number of failures and we have to teach our children not to be crushed by the occasional failure. A constant barrage of occasions or an occasion that requires a giant step up can produce failure that does permanent damage. (permenant? grrr) Some failure is not healthy. It just leads to pessimism and hopelessness and an unwillingness to try. The difference between a healthy failure and an unhealthy failure is tricky. I doubt a counselor could know your family well enough to be a good judge of which is which. They can tell you what is typical, but who is typical? Some of us are more fragile or more sensitive. Some of us are more optimistic or stronger and take a bump.

 

I think counselors may be naturally suspicious of homeschooling because they see the failed homeschooling situations, the ones where the children have been so sheltered that they never are exposed to enough experiences and varying ideas that they don't grow properly, or who have never been allowed to do anything on their own, or (more probably) know that and are rebelling badly in an effort to make their world bigger. Any family that does outside activities that involve different sorts of people (like swim team) isn't going to have this problem. They may have lots of other problems, but they won't necessarily be a result of homeschooling. In fact, homeschooling might have mitigated the situation.

 

I think any situation in which the consequences occur at some unimaginable (from a child's perspective) time in the future needs to be overseen by somebody who has lived long enough to believe that next year will actually arrive. College is unimaginable to a 15yo.

 

I think there is something to be said for forcing an energy-deficient teen to work hard. Almost all teens seem to have unregulated amounts of energy. I think we, as adults, need to lend them our self-discipline and planning abilities while we are helping them to develop their own.

 

And last but definately not least, there is the problem of the family example we set them if we let them fail. I know a family that let their children pack for the weekend themselves. If the child forgot a sweatshirt, well tough luck, the child shivered. Umm... This would would never work in my family. No other family member would watch a beloved family member shiver through the weekend. No way. They would give them their own sweatshirt, or offer to take turns, or rip up spare clothes and devise a garment. Some "letting children fail" circumstances just don't work in my family. I don't care if it would be better for that particular child- it would be very bad for everyone else's immortal souls lol.

 

Now I've written a book. Hopefully something in all that is useful to you.

 

Nan

 

PS I know this isn't what you were asking about, but it is an extreme case of "letting fail" so I want to add it here: Every time I hear the term, I think of the disucssion we had in the car with our adult children (25, 22, 18) when I mentioned that some people on the homeschooling board had an out-at-18 policy. They were apalled and listed all the instances where this policy produced broken young adults. They ALL know them. They all are mourning the loss of friends who went drastically astray in their desperation after being kicked out and are now lost.

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Lisa - I've been thinking about this ever since I read your question. This is something we have discussed as a family many times, both in terms of our own family and as we watch other children fail (or be helped and succeed, or be helped and fail again). I can tell you what my young adults think. They think that the parents who don't help their over-18 children are setting their children up to fail badly, often for the rest of their lives. Why do they think so? They've known many people for whom this was true, both younger ones their own age who are struggling with hopelessness and old people who have shared the shape of their lives. They compare that with the people they know who were helped and supported as they grew the last little bit (not that we ever stop growing) and who were given more of a start in life than just a high school education.

 

 

I think any situation in which the consequences occur at some unimaginable (from a child's perspective) time in the future needs to be overseen by somebody who has lived long enough to believe that next year will actually arrive. College is unimaginable to a 15yo.

...

PS I know this isn't what you were asking about, but it is an extreme case of "letting fail" so I want to add it here: Every time I hear the term, I think of the disucssion we had in the car with our adult children (25, 22, 18) when I mentioned that some people on the homeschooling board had an out-at-18 policy. They were apalled and listed all the instances where this policy produced broken young adults. They ALL know them. They all are mourning the loss of friends who went drastically astray in their desperation after being kicked out and are now lost.

 

 

Nan, I absolutely love your post. And from my own family's experience, I definitely lean towards the side of more support for a teen and young adult - the "18 and out" attitude is completely alien to e.

I see a definite difference between bailing out from repeated failures and supporting/setting up for success. Just to take the small example of waking a young person: I consider it a fallacy to assume that a teen who is woken up will grow up being unable to manage his waking time. I have fond memories of my father waking us every morning, through high school, and fixing breakfast. Sure, I would have been able to do these things by myself, but sometimes parents doing something for their -older- child is simply a gesture of love and support. Once I had moved out, I was perfectly capable of getting up with an alarm (I have never overslept and been late in my entire life.)

 

I am sometimes missing the healthy balance. Some parents bail out their kids repeatedly and do not teach them strategies for success, while others completely refuse to do simple things for their kids as soon as they are old enough to do them. I am looking for the balance: I do not want to be an enabler of bad habits, but I also want a family atmosphere of love and support. I like your example with the sweater; this, too, would not work in our family - one of use would give up their own clothing.

 

I have seen firsthand how much difference family support can make when a teen makes a mistake with heavy consequences: my sister got pregnant in high school. My parents chose to support her in her life as a single teen mom of a disabled child, both financially and with child care; she lived at home for several years and attended college and medical school. Because my parents helped her, my sister was able to graduate, work her lifelong dream job, and became a successful, responsible, independent adult. I can see different, less supportive, responses from families, and I doubt they would have created the same successful outcome.

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To me "letting your child fail" means allowing him to make mistakes occasionally so that he can learn how to handle adversity. Does he persevere after failing? Does he always play it safe so that he won't fail? Is he moving toward challenge, trying out new activities? I try to pay attention to how he responds to failure. Of course, I would step in if he were in immediate danger or about to do something stupid that would change his life for the worse.

 

Not caring about school or the future could be a sign of depression.

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I also wake up my kids and prepare their breakfast for them for as long as they are home because I have fond memories of my mother waking me. It never hindered my ability to wake for early morning math classes in college or my son's. He treasured it just as much as I did.

 

I do let my kids pack for vacations, but they get checklists of how many of what to take with them. I also do a luggage check before we leave. They're learning, but they aren't there yet. It won't be long before they can travel internationally without me, and I'll be proud. :(

 

Nan, Your post was wonderful.

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...

 

 

I have fond memories of my father waking us every morning, through high school, and fixing breakfast. Sure, I would have been able to do these things by myself, but sometimes parents doing something for their -older- child is simply a gesture of love and support.

...

 

There is something to be said for making home a pleasant place.

 

I think it is important not to confuse skills that lead to a good work ethic and skills that lead to being able to live on one's own. Some of the latter are not rocket science. I didn't know how to cook much more than pancakes and cookies and omlets before I got married but I figured it out fairly easily GRIN. I think if you are faced with having to learn every little thing from scratch it can be overwhelming, but I also don't think it is a major problem if your mother does your laundry until you move out. It took me about 5 minutes standing in front of the dorm washing machine and a few more telephone calls to teach my teenager how to do this for himself. Not a big deal.

 

When my siblings and I were all older, the whole family took it in turns to get up early and make tea and coffee for the rest of the family and go wake them up with a cup to drink sitting up in bed. It was lovely.

 

Nan

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I would say if that's really the case, he is staying up too late. Teens need a lot of sleep. My son gets up at 6, on his own. He goes to bed at 8 and can read for an hour. Lights out at nine. I can always tell when he's been reading later, because he's tired the next day.

 

Note I said DH (husband, double digits age....). But he would agree with you hardily that teenaged 40 somethings need lots of sleep and he stays up too late.

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I think there are levels between allowing natural consequences to occur so they learn from their mistakes and shielding them from anything negative in a way that doesn't let them grow into their responsibilities. My son does early morning swim practices. He gets up before 4am to make it to practice on time. Most of the time, that means going to bed before 9pm the night before. One reason we agreed to the early practice this year is because he'd been so responsible about getting up early for the Sat practices and meets he had last year. But that doesn't mean that the one time he sleeps through his alarm I'm going to shrug and go back to bed instead of knocking on his door. (Similarly, he woke me up once.)

 

It means that when we're headed off to a big meet, I will help him think through everything he needs to take with him. FWIW, when dh goes on a trip or when we're packing for a family vacation we also talk through the lists of what we need to have. I don't think that I'm shielding my dh or not allowing him to fail to remind him to take a jacket or a pair of dress shoes. I consider that this is what we do to help each other along because we're a family.

 

I think that a lot of what I'll do depends on the attitude my kids are displaying. When ds is working hard and knocking out several assignments per subject each day in order to get caught up with his work, I'm quite willing to quietly take over his chores and find other ways of giving him room to succeed. If I find him watching You Tube clips of Halo or reading comic books, my support net gets a lot flimsier. I am quite willing to let him not earn a merit badge or do poorly on an assignment or not submit an application if he's not putting in the effort. On the other hand, I am also going to try to help him brainstorm options when he's painted himself into a corner.

 

As for adult children, I don't intend to run a flop house. But I also don't think (having supervised a host of 18-22 year olds in the military) that there is a magic date where someone is a mature adult. Or a time when it's not a great help to have support from the folks back home. When we have lived overseas, there were several things that we would not have had, unless my mom or mother-in-law had been willing to go find them and ship them to us.

 

A final thought. When my dh was a baby, he and his mom lived with his grandparents for a year while my fil was stationed in Viet Nam. There have been a couple times that FIL has taken me aside and told me that he was so grateful to his in-laws for taking care of his family, but that there was no way he could ever repay them. But that if there was ever a time when we needed them to do something similar, there would always be a place for us at their home, for however long it was needed. And we have, in fact, had occasion to need to live with them for a couple months at a time over the years. I still get a little choked up thinking about their willingness to stand in the gap for us when we've needed it.

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Nan,

Bravo! More books please.

 

An aside:

I wake Dd up each day with the same phrase ("Good Morning -------! Insert complement, not saying to protect her privacy). She is usually already up in the sense of awake, but I say it anyway. It reminds me that I have one more day with her before she has children of her own, a demanding life.... It reminds her that at least one person thinks she is pretty special every single day. It started the first time I held her and it never stopped, except one day when I happened to walk by her door and forget. She came to me that day and asked if she had done anything wrong. I was stumped, then she said that I had not woken her up right. It was a great chance to let her know nothing she could do would change that sentiment expressed every morning and that if ever I couldn't be there it would be nice if she said it to herself.

 

I was given a precious and wonderful gift. A life to nurture and share. I will let her fail when in love it will strengthen her. I will not have a stoic rule that says every failure must be allowed. I may fail at times to know which is which, but it wont be for lack of trying. If in my own adult life every failing was also the risk of being abandoned, I would not have the strength or courage to do all the great things I have done and experienced. I like what Nan said about counselors. They don't often get to see the worried well of heart and mind. Usually that job falls to family and friends. It is simply far too general to say "let them fail". At some point as a parent you have to trust yourself-challenge, question, reflect, think but trust.

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Oh, one other thought. Part of letting my kids fail is to give them room to try things that they aren't great at. Part of letting them fail is not only making them have to cope with natural consequences of their actions/inactions, but also seeing that they can fail at something without the world ending. I know too many kids who aren't content with an activity because they aren't superstars at it. I'm quite proud of my kids who have stuck with swimming (going into meets with a seed ranking of 115th) and cross country (last runner on the team to finish) because they keep working hard and have improved themselves, even if not always relative to others.

 

So in that sense, I do them them try and fail, without major consequences.

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Nan, I absolutely love your post. And from my own family's experience, I definitely lean towards the side of more support for a teen and young adult - the "18 and out" attitude is completely alien to e.

I see a definite difference between bailing out from repeated failures and supporting/setting up for success. Just to take the small example of waking a young person: I consider it a fallacy to assume that a teen who is woken up will grow up being unable to manage his waking time. I have fond memories of my father waking us every morning, through high school, and fixing breakfast. Sure, I would have been able to do these things by myself, but sometimes parents doing something for their -older- child is simply a gesture of love and support. Once I had moved out, I was perfectly capable of getting up with an alarm (I have never overslept and been late in my entire life.)

 

I am sometimes missing the healthy balance. Some parents bail out their kids repeatedly and do not teach them strategies for success, while others completely refuse to do simple things for their kids as soon as they are old enough to do them. I am looking for the balance: I do not want to be an enabler of bad habits, but I also want a family atmosphere of love and support. I like your example with the sweater; this, too, would not work in our family - one of use would give up their own clothing.

 

I have seen firsthand how much difference family support can make when a teen makes a mistake with heavy consequences: my sister got pregnant in high school. My parents chose to support her in her life as a single teen mom of a disabled child, both financially and with child care; she lived at home for several years and attended college and medical school. Because my parents helped her, my sister was able to graduate, work her lifelong dream job, and became a successful, responsible, independent adult. I can see different, less supportive, responses from families, and I doubt they would have created the same successful outcome.

 

My senior year in hs, my dad and I were the last ones out of the house every morning; he would wake me up by whistling down the stairs (basement bedroom) and made me a bacon and egg sandwich while I got ready for school. Those are also fond memories for me.

 

My boys use the alarm on their cell phones to wake up, the few times they forget to set it, or forget to turn the volume up at night, or whatever, I just go wake them. Sometimes I ask them to make me an egg sandwich.

 

I like the balance part, and the "strageties for success" - we're trying to coach/model/mentor our boys. My older one needed an appointment for something, I told him he needed to make the call for the appointment, but I coached him through the call first - say this.... tell them you need this.... here's the calendar these dates/times will work...

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Oh, one other thought. Part of letting my kids fail is to give them room to try things that they aren't great at. Part of letting them fail is not only making them have to cope with natural consequences of their actions/inactions, but also seeing that they can fail at something without the world ending. I know too many kids who aren't content with an activity because they aren't superstars at it. I'm quite proud of my kids who have stuck with swimming (going into meets with a seed ranking of 115th) and cross country (last runner on the team to finish) because they keep working hard and have improved themselves, even if not always relative to others.

 

So in that sense, I do them them try and fail, without major consequences.

 

 

Excellent observation! With my own kids I have some who will try *everything* and are not dissuaded by failure. Others resist trying anything that they feel they might not succeed at. Getting the first to seek advice before jumping into something has been the goal, and getting the others to understand that failure isn't necessarily a bad thing is the goal.

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I think it is important not to confuse skills that lead to a good work ethic and skills that lead to being able to live on one's own. Some of the latter are not rocket science.

Nan

 

 

Again, loved the thought and the examples.

 

I guess I should note that I am not shy about actually saying to Dd, "you failed at blah blah" or maybe even as far as "you epically failed at blah blah." I am also not shy about saying "I failed at blah, blah". We have an ungoing joke of sorts in the family that failing with style can be liberating. Dd does a lot of auditions, some win, some lose. Sometimes it has nothing to do with how well she did, she was just not the right height, hair or whatever. Sometimes she did go off pitch or blow a line. It is important to us that she learn the difference and take the opportunities each provides.

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I remember a conversation here a year or two ago in which a poster felt it was coddling to help a student with the college application process. After dealing with 3 who have done college applications I still feel that few teens have long-range vision regarding their lives. Oh, they may have an idea of what they want to become, but the process of getting there is fuzzy. I think it's fine to intervene in the "fuzzy" areas and prod them through it. That might be reminding them of deadlines or actually sitting down to with the student to go through the physical process. We have this same discussion in Boy Scouts - how much assistance does one give a scout. My son earned his Eagle last fall. He would look at that Eagle Scout workbook and quake in fear. For him, I sat down and we went through the booklet step by step (he has a documented LD that might have been in play here). I didn't do it for him, but I was there to answer questions and offer advice. I taught him how to eat that elephant one bite at a time. In the end, he said he was surprised that it wasn't as bad as he feared. Now he is telling the younger scouts not to be intimidated by the workbook as he was.

 

Many of the families I know where the kids have struggled have parents who didn't make school a priority. They were in our co-op and the parents were every bit as irresponsible in their duties as their kids were in their studies. When confronted with their students' lack of achievement, these same parents would berate their kids, "ground" them, and punish them. But seldom were these parents there to help their students. I had one mom who enrolled her son in my physics class but neglected to purchase the text and materials. She neglected to attend the "mandatory" meeting, neglected to return e-mails, etc. Imagine my surprise to see her son in my class. Then she wondered why I was so upset with her. Her excuse was that her son was in high school and it was his responsibility to make sure he had everything lined up. She had more than enough to do taking care of her horses :p

 

Well, these are all rather random thoughts that occurred to me this morning while lounging in bed :) I have great compassion for teens today. It is a harder time for teens than the era in which I was a teen (I'm probably older than most of you). Many have parents who are little more mature than the teens which they are parenting. Around here, drug use is rampant on the part of the parents and grandparents. My heart goes out to those kids. If I can make my kids' lives just a bit sweeter in this harsh world while still keeping the goal of a mature/responsible young man in mind, I'll do it.

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No matter what, you cannot force your child to be successful. It has taken every fiber of my being to reassure myself that I am not a bad parent. My son, in academic terms, is a failure. One week he has As and Bs, the next Ds and Fs. It means nothing to him. He knows he will be kicked off swim team if he does not make grades. He is smart, funny, very social. He is surrounded by the top students in school. They try to encourage him, offer to tutor him, but it makes no difference. He will continue to be his own self.

 

Yes, he had consequences when he was younger. Yes, he saw me study and sacrifice to graduate at the top of my class. Yes, he has had structure for homework, study skills, etc. It just does not matter to him.

 

Unfortunately, I think he will wake up when all of his friends are off at college, and he will be left wondering why no one told him this would happen. :glare:

 

He is not a trouble maker, does not engage in any questionable behavior. Teachers love him. He is my lovable underachiever, as much as it pains me to admit it.

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Wow- I sure struggle with this on a daily basis. DS has serious LD's but is incredibly intelligent. We pulled him out of the PS because in HS all he did was fail. The school's position was "he is in HS, time to take responsibility" They passed him along and accomodated and coddled him until he got to HS and then expected him to be ok. Well, as you can imagine he failed multiple classes his 1st semester because he couldn't pull out the grades with a last minute save and he was devastated. We ended up at a hospital after he made some suicide threats. Fortunately he is fine but sometimes kids aren't ready for the consequences of their actions. That being said-homeschooling has shown me the areas where he has developed a lot of bad habits about how school works. We spend one day arguing about how lazy he is and the next day I feel guilty and overcompensate by making life super easy. I don't know where the line is and it changes daily with my mood:( I do know that LD's affect his executive function skills so he needs help with that, but I also know if it is something he thinks is important, it will get done. If he is making chicken nuggets in the oven he may still not understand the directions after performing this task 10 times or more but he will ask for help because he likes those chicken nuggets. If it is an English paper or Science assignment, and he didn't understand the task he won't ask for help because he "didn't want to bother me." Right now I am simply doing my best to teach him to do better and work harder each day. Will he graduate on time? Probably not. Will he graduate? I think so. Will he function well in life on his own? I don't know but as long as he is changing for the better each day, I am willing to keep trying.

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Because we've had it from our parents, he knows he always has a place to call home. I've learned to love people where they are, and I hope to extend the same courtesy to my own offspring. Success, to us, doesn't mean having to be independent at 18. Life calls us to be interdependent with others, I'd like it if my son continues that into his adulthood. That doesn't mean I'm paying his car insurance or bailing him out, but there are so many people in this world that feel utterly alone, I refuse to have my son feel that way.

 

 

Late to this conversation.

 

Paula, you really struck a chord here. So many people harp on their independence, when the reality is, as you state,is our interdependence. Whether it is family, friends or community, even those of us who live on islands are not isolated.

 

The columnist E.J.Dionne recently wrote a tribute to his mother. He closed with these words:

Because of her and my dad, I always bridle when people declare themselves "self-made." Such people may exist (socially if not biologically), but I'm skeptical, and would never make that claim for myself. We can never pretend that we were wise enough to have chosen great parents.

 

There are a number of great parents who have weighed in on this thread. I applaud you.

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I haven't had an opportunity to read the replies except for the first few and only have have a few minutes right now during the calm before the storm----life is really hectic here right now.

 

But, I wanted to share that in our family that there is no one size fits all approach. Each one of our children is completely different from the other with different abilities, levels of maturity/individual responsibility, and goals.

 

Some kids simply require more parental support and guidance. Some are "born" with their heads squarely screwed on their shoulders.

 

Another thought I had is that there is a difference between poorly thought out decisions and planning vs. out-right defiance of the values they have been raised to understand as acceptable. Helping them work out solutions to their poor planning which is normally the result of lack of being far-sighted and simply young w/o experience is quite different from bailing out a child who deliberately makes choices in full-conscience that they are violating familial values and parental trust. Those situations require completely different responses and there is no simple generic answer.

 

Anyway, some kids are more like young adults when they are in their teens and some young adults are still more like toddlers in common sense. We have to parent according to the individuals individual needs. (Speaking as the parent of a child who turned 21 last week who has siblings 19, 17, 14, and 11 who are clearly more mature and individually responsible than he is.)

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Nan, Regentrude, Miss Marple, Jane....very wise.

 

We work very hard to set our child up for success. My parents did this as well. They were loving, compassionate, grace giving, disciplining with natural consequences when the situation warranted it, type people. My brother, myself, and my sister are better people for it. My brother, at times, gave them "a run for their money", so to speak, but they were persistent and it paid off.

 

However, in my community, sad to say, the prevailing parental philosophy is it's everyone else's job to raise the kid...the school, the neighbors, the government, the T.V., the coach, even God. Not THEIR job to raise the child. "I shouldn't have to" is the phrase most used when a teacher suggests a child would benefit from X or Y. Oh, and that's if the parent even meets with the teacher. The average attendance rate for school sponsored openhouses and parent/teacher meetings for our school district is less than 20%.

 

Unfortunately, my brother and his narcissitic wife have adopted this attitude. My parents are absolutely bewildered and especially so since he tried their patience to the nth degree and they had to hover over him to keep him passing classes, getting homework done, progressing forward, etc. They invested tremendous money and effort into his extra-curriculars in the hopes that these would help him grow up and these things did help. They invested money they didn't really have and never thought twice about the sacrifice. He graduated high school in the top 25% of his class (would have failed out of all of his math classes if my dad hadn't set with him night after night after night and then eventually hired a VERY expensive math tutor), went on to college, and graduated with a Bachelor's in Computer Science without any drama. Yes, they held his hand through the application and FASFA process, and helped him choose housing and freshman classes, etc. He always had our house to come home to and he could have stayed there after graduation while he found his first job and got settled. As it turns out, he was hired by graduation day and went directly from married housing to a little cottage he rented for he and his wife - they married before graduation. I can tell you that if not for the supreme efforts my parents made on his behalf as a teen - and they would have had justification to quit working so hard for him - he would have ended up in some dead end job, living with a bunch of go nowhere bachelors who spent every penny they had on partying, and possibly not even employable at all. So his rotten attitude about actively parenting his own children is mind boggling. However, it seems to mirror the general sentiment of the local community. I guess his peers have really rubbed off on him.

 

The neighbor is setting up her son for failure. He's in fourth grade and he can't read. Everything the school has recommended, she will not do because "It's their job to make sure he reads, not mine." (direct quote) I've offered to tutor for free. But, she doesn't want to have to be responsible for ANYTHING and she figures he shouldn't have to give up his play time. When I asked her what she would do when he failed out of high school and was unemployable, her response was, "That's his problem, not mine. He's not living at my house."

 

Parenting is hard...darn hard work. It has great rewards, but to successfully parent takes courage and perseverance. I wish more people took it seriously.

 

The hardest aspect for the parents, like those here because really - no one would be on this board if they didn't care about giving their kids the best leg up in life that they can possibly manage - is that "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". We worry about doing it right, getting the right curriculum, motivating them, balancing letting them grow up with not making them pay the rest of their lives for an impulsive choice, co-op or not, dual enrollment or not, AP or not, SAT or ACT, or both, or none, or CC or Uni, or have a paying job in high school or not, or this extracurricular over that one, or life skills training balanced with academics, and the list goes on and on and on. What we'd like to hear is that all of this effort will produce 100% good product. Unfortunately, we can keep offering "Evian and Perrier" and imported spring water all we want, but ultimately, can't control whether or not they drink it. ARGH!!!!! That's the rub and probably, more than anything, that is the heart of this discussion. We can talk a lot about "allowing them to fail" in order to help them mature. But, what we really worry about is how hard we've labored to help them succeed and not having the assurance that it will work. For most, it will come to fruition. It's those hard nosed ones that just seem to be determined to go the other way that get us, and then we have to decide when they've crossed the point of no return and have to be allowed to deal with the circumstances they've created.

 

That line is going to be different for each family. Safety of everyone else, finite resources that must be shared, etc. There is a lot to consider. But, I know that if it weren't for grace and compassion in my life, with firm, committed parenting, I'd be just like a lot of people I went to school with...lost. So, I'm pretty committed to extending a lot of grace and compassion to my kids, even if I have to put on my stern face while doing it and mete out a natural consequence as part of the lesson. It's not an easy balancing act.

 

Regentrude, I loved your story about your dad waking you up in the morning for school! I think sometimes we get so hyper focused on making our kids into adults, that we forget that their childhood and time with us is SOOOOOOOOOOOO short in the grand scheme of things. We forget to see the bigger picture. Your dad saw the bigger picture. He saw this as an opportunity to spend time with you and invest his energies in his daughter. I'll bet your conversations were great! My mom did this too because she and dad wanted to spend time with us before school. Left to our alarm clocks, we would have chosen to sleep to the last possible moment and then skate out of the house with a piece of toast in our hands. Those morning talks were far better! For the record, as a piano performance major, I had 8 a.m. classes in the music department five days per week for the first two years of college. I also needed to be in the practice rooms at 7 a.m. if possible in order to carve out the four hours per day that was required for piano, and two for flute. I was never late for class or for practice unless I was too sick to attend. So, sometimes, it's okay as parents to relax just a little and do something just as an act of service for your child that they could actually do for themselves. I agree that it doesn't always breed immaturity.

 

These are the kinds of conversations that make me wish we all lived close and could meet for some good parent indulgence in excellent chocolate!

 

Faith

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No matter what, you cannot force your child to be successful. It has taken every fiber of my being to reassure myself that I am not a bad parent. My son, in academic terms, is a failure. One week he has As and Bs, the next Ds and Fs. It means nothing to him. He knows he will be kicked off swim team if he does not make grades. He is smart, funny, very social. He is surrounded by the top students in school. They try to encourage him, offer to tutor him, but it makes no difference. He will continue to be his own self.

 

Yes, he had consequences when he was younger. Yes, he saw me study and sacrifice to graduate at the top of my class. Yes, he has had structure for homework, study skills, etc. It just does not matter to him.

 

Unfortunately, I think he will wake up when all of his friends are off at college, and he will be left wondering why no one told him this would happen. :glare:

 

He is not a trouble maker, does not engage in any questionable behavior. Teachers love him. He is my lovable underachiever, as much as it pains me to admit it.

 

 

He sounds like my son's best buddy Michael. Very bright, kind to the core, but just not interested in high school at all. However, this year he found one interest that truly intrigues him -- chess -- and, wow, has he ever worked on it. School is still pointless but seeing him come alive even with something as seemingly trivial as chess is a good sign. Eventually, I'm thinking he'll find what he wants to do with his life and when he does, he'll do well. IMO, going through the process of exploring and discarding or keeping interests and activities is incredibly important. Even little glimmers of interest are important because later they can be developed into something more.

 

Another thing to remember is that many high schoolers experience a degree of depression which can cause them to feel apathetic, joyless, surly, etc... Teen brains are going through a process of rewiring and myelination. It's a very messy and sometimes difficult period of their lives. In our house, we all practice focus and compassion meditations, two excellent ways to help shape the brain positively. It works by stimulating the growth of new neurons in parts of the brain (neurogenesis) and laying down healthier *circuits.* My son listens daily to a guided focus meditation using one of Dan Goleman's CDs. It only takes about 10" and we think it's a had a positive effect. (This year I'm reading about neuroscience and psychology, so if anyone wants resources, I'd be happy to list some.)

 

Anyway, good luck with your son. It may be that the other kids eventually look at him and think he had the right idea. You never know!

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...Another thought I had is that there is a difference between poorly thought out decisions and planning vs. out-right defiance of the values they have been raised to understand as acceptable. Helping them work out solutions to their poor planning which is normally the result of lack of being far-sighted and simply young w/o experience is quite different from bailing out a child who deliberately makes choices in full-conscience that they are violating familial values and parental trust. Those situations require completely different responses and there is no simple generic answer....

 

 

Yes. There is a difference. I think sometimes, though, this is blurrier than it would seem like it should be. Sometimes the defiance comes from desperation, misunderstandings, and unstable emotions. I think a teen's or young adult's view of the world is very much like looking at something through a layer of moving water. Things bulge and shrink and get obscured by reflections of other things. And I think part of being young is the general feeling that everything that is wrong with one's world is one's parents' fault. Then cutting off one's nose to spite one's face can occur. I think the distinction between the two really makes a difference in what happens when one helps (or tries to help). Helping the results of poor planning is usually drastically easier and more effective than helping the results of deliberate bad choices.

 

And this is somewhat off-topic because I am speaking here more as an adult child rather than a parent of young adults, but it relates to some of the other off-topic things I've been talking about: I thikn it is important to remember to keep in mind that letting fail and letting go are sometimes two different things (but not always). As our children grow, we have to expand their world and their challenges. We have to disengage ourselves emotionally, to some extent. We have to not rely on them as much for our own emotional satisfaction and stability. That doesn't mean we don't care deeply what happens to them, don't try to keep anything awful from happening to them, don't offer advice and support, or don't do their laundry and cook for them. It just means the relationship has to grow to one that is more like the one between two adult family members rather than the one between an adult and a totally dependent child. That is what I mean by "letting go". I suppose a certain amount of "letting fail" happens in those circumstances, but if I look like I am going to do something very stupid with long-term consequences, I can assure you that my sisters and my parents will definately try HARD to stop me, and if I do it anyway, they will work hard to help me get myself out of the fix. And I would do the same. My whole clan is dealing with mitigating the consequences of a member's rather large mistake right now. As Jane says, we are interdependent. We've chosen to live as a close clan. It has its advantages and disadvantages. As reluctant as I am to admit it, there does come a point when one is obliged to limit the help one offers. Limit, not refuse entirely. And the clan member would have to be fully adult (more like 30) and we would have to have tried for a long time first. Or the person would have to be repeatedly endangering the rest of the clan in a large way.

 

Nan

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