Help from the Village
One lesson I learned from life, when my oldest became a teenager, was that when it comes to raising a teenager, I cannot go it alone. This was something I had to learn the hard way – as often seems to be the case for me! (I’m kind of stubborn.)
As I have stated in a previous article, (see Creating a Principle-Centered Home), when my oldest son started making decisions that I found worrisome, I responded by making more rules. Did I ask anyone for any ideas about this (including my husband)? The answer is no, because in my eyes I could – and should – be able to figure this all out on my own. I would tell myself that, “I am a good mom; I know what to do.” In my ego, I made many decisions that actually made things worse!
As you can imagine, my son did not respond well to the way I was trying to control his every move. He continued to misbehave. He finally brought me to my knees. I had no choice but to ask for help.
What I learned back then was that my “know it all” approach was actually damaging to my family. Running my family and my life through my own narrow view did not work. One night when things came to a head, I broke down and told my husband I thought we needed some outside help with our son. We started by asking friends for help. What I thought I would receive from people was judgment (what a terrible mother!) but what I actually got was support. My friends listened, sympathized, and shared similar situations in their own lives. One of them helped me find a group of parents who challenged my controlling ways. I had to hear feedback about the way I was running my life and family. It was often hard to hear, but I started to see that my controlling ways were actually causing some of the behavior in my son. I recognized how my behavior had eroded the trust my son had for me.
By reaching out to others, I discovered that if I want my kid to grow and be the best he can be, I needed to do so first. I saw my family begin to follow my lead – when I was willing to listen and be more flexible, so were they. When I was willing to hear what they saw in me (both good and bad), they were willing to hear me as well.
I believe it really does take a village to raise kids of character in today’s world. Previously, I always thought the village was just to take care of our kids. Now I know better. The village is to help me be the best parent I can be.
Do you have a village? If not, my advice is go find one that is full of people who will tell you the truth – what they really see in you – both good and bad. It certainly worked for me!