Today, when adolescent specialists get together, it is not unusual for them to spend more time and concern on parenting issues than on the teens themselves. There has been an extreme shift in the parenting styles of moms and dads, not to mention the culture in which our kids are living. Unfortunately, far too many parents of teens are emotionally and even spiritually unhealthy. One mom told me she has a recurring dream that her child is falling off a cliff, just out of her reach. The dream isn’t necessarily unhealthy, but it may show how much parents worry about saving their kids from the world’s problems.
My good friend, mentor, and parenting expert John Rosemond used the phrase “helicopter parent” to describe parents who are risking their own marriage, physical health, and self-image by hovering over their children and over-parenting them. In a HomeWord radio interview, Rosemond said, “Too many parents are ultimately carrying the heavy burdens of their teen’s problems on their own shoulders.” No teen will be come a responsible adult if their parents carry the load for them. It’s not healthy for either party.
So what do healthy parents of teens look like? These parents take their God-given role of parenting seriously and act like leaders. Leaders lead the way, but they don’t carry the other person’s baggage. Parents-as-leaders teach their children self-management skills. They consult but don’t control, because control freaks are really never in control. They help children learn to discern right values and teach them about sexual purity. Parents who act like leaders also create inviting home environments with plenty of connection, fun, and creativity.
One important aspect of parent-leadership is making sure you have enough margin in your life to have the energy to lead. Often, parents are running around so ragged that there is nothing left but emotional scraps for their families.
Bill Hybels advises fellow pastors to invest at least 50 percent of their leadership energy on themselves. If that sounds selfish or self-centered, the reality is that parents need to do the same and take care of themselves. We parents must allow our children to deal with the consequences of their own decisions. Someone once told me, “Untended fires soon become nothing but a pile of ashes.” I know if I am not tending my own soul care, I am a poor excuse of a father, and a lousy husband.
Healthy couples also make sure they make time for each other. Recently, I was giving a parenting seminar and asked the people, “What percent of your time are you a mom or a dad, and what percent of your time are you a wife or a husband?” The answer was enlightening: about 90 percent time as a parent and 10 percent as a spouse. A child-focused lifestyle isn’t healthy, and frankly, it’s not fair to the kids if you expect to be a healthy role model. Parents have to stay calm, get on the same page to work their plan, and then stay as emotionally and spiritually healthy as they possibly can.