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There’s this funny thing we do as parents far too much. We actually listen to what our kids have to say. I know, crazy, right? Why would we as the adults, parental figures, supposedly mature men and women ever pay any attention to what our adolescent or younger children have to tell us?
Let me be the first to raise my hand and say that I’m guilty. On more than one occasion, I’ve tried to be that parent who lets their child have an opinion on what they want to do and when they want to do it. To a degree, I still believe that letting my daughter make decisions is important to her development.
But there’s a limit to all this freedom. I realize that there’s a really fine line between giving your child an opinion and them not having a damn clue as to what’s best for them. I think this first hit me square in the face last summer. My daughter was 13 about to turn 14 over the summer break and was totally against going to any summer camps.
At first, I was compassionate. I listened to her reasoning of wanting to have time for her friends and that I didn’t have to dictate what she did every day. Because she has been so mature in other aspects of her life, I gave in and gave her the benefit of the doubt. That lasted about 3 days.
By that time, I realized she was content sitting at home on her phone doing nothing. Occasionally, she would venture outside, but those trips were much too few and far between. That same weekend, I enrolled her in 2-week-long summer camp programs and then had her volunteer 3 days a week for the rest of the summer.
She’s talking just as much but I’m listening less and less.
Did she enjoy it? I’d say mildly. But in our conversations I know she has learned some valuable lessons that will stay with her for the rest of her life. I also learned a valuable lesson that summer. As smart as my daughter might be, she doesn’t always know what’s best for her. Actually, she probably doesn’t understand what’s best for her in most instances, and that’s a perspective I keep in mind when deciding when to impose my will.
I have to admit that it’s still very difficult. I think partly because I’m such a young parent with a grown-up child, a small part of me almost welcomes her need for independence. I know what she’s thinking or how she feels when I tell her what to do. I notice the eye rolls and the huffing and puffing when she really doesn’t want to do something I’ve asked. I hate it, but I’ve become much better at really just not paying any attention.
The fact is I know what’s best for my daughter. I always have her best interest at heart, so when I tell her something or ask her to do something, it’s for a reason and done only with loving intentions. So when she scoffs at going to the ballet but is standing and clapping by the end of the second intermission, I know I’ve done something right. When I tell her she’s not allowed to go to a hotel party (why the hell would a parent of a 13-year-old throw a hotel party anyways??), but can go to the dinner beforehand with her friends, I know I’ve done something right.
We’re in a good place now, my daughter and I. She’s talking just as much but I’m listening less and less. I think it’s helped us both, although I’ll have a hard time getting her to admit it!