I write this post not as a parenting expert or even a parent of teenagers.
I speak from the side.
For twelve years or so I have been a keen observer of parents and teenagers. I have seen some powerful things and noticed many trends. One trend I have noticed is the tendency to control every aspect of the teenager’s life right up until graduation. As that student moves from high control to low control, both she and her parents are in for a big shock.
Introducing “Backward Parenting.”
My friend Kathy has used this concept and it continues to make more and more sense to me.
Using the leash analogy, many students are on a short leash and then graduate to no leash. Backward parenting is the gradual release and trust that a teenager needs in order to develop as an adult.
I am not talking about letting your kid get kinda drunk so they don’t get really drunk. I don’t believe that “they are gonna do it anyway.” I’m talking the gradual release of control that allows your teenager to actually think about money, time management, future, faith, politics, dating and beyond.
I’m convinced that most parents I know want their teenagers to go through the process of individuation. In individuation, a teenager finds their identity by asking “Who am I?” They find autonomy by answering “Do my choices matter?” and teenagers achieve belonging in answering, “Where do I fit?”
I know what you are thinking. “How can I speed up this process?”
You can’t. But you can walk closely with them as they discover the answers to these questions.
Proverbs 22:6 is often abused and used to control children. Read it carefully:
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
This doesn’t urge parents to control their kids, quite the opposite. This verse encourages us as parents to discover how our kids are wired and allow them the freedom to walk in that unique wiring a little more each day.