Imagine that you’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean in a thunderous storm. Waves are coming fast and furiously. Water is splashing inside and out, and luckily you’re still afloat. There is no fast escape.
How do you survive? What is the best strategy?
Just hold on–and be as steadfast as you can.
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You’re experiencing what it’s like to be a parent of an adolescent. I can relate to your worries, concerns, problems, and fears.
You just need to hold on to your values and principles so you can stay the course.
How do I know?
I was once there.
From the many comments and responses I’ve exchanged with parents over the years regarding this period of rowboat rocking, and particularly how it pertains to continuing Jewish education, here are five points I’d like you to consider:
#1. you will have push back. Teens are hard-wired to rebel. It’s what they do. Don’t expect them to act differently. You just need to stay the course and don’t take it personally, but see #2.
#2. the push back will most often be in the areas that coincidentally are important to you. This will make you feel bad and start to question your judgement. You may feel that everything you’ve deemed important will be disregarded. Are you active in the Jewish community? Are you a Jewish educator? Guess what, your teen may give you the hardest time when Jewish education is up for discussion (it shouldn’t be). You’re in for a ride but again, hold on and stay the course. As parents, we are like farmers planting seeds for the future. Teens are into instant gratification. You can see the challenge.
#3. be glad that your teenager is rebelling now, which is better than later, when he/she is in college and faces so many more challenges. Plus, if that happens, you will not be there to set limits, be a supportive ear, or lend in-the-moment advice.
#4. being an authority figure doesn’t mean being authoritarian. Just because you are asserting your right to make decisions for your child, doesn’t mean that you’re ‘bossy’. Parents might be too afraid of taking a strong stance, but your teen will respect you for it, even if that realization comes years later. Remember the planting metaphor (see #2).
#5. I’ve never met anyone who said to me: I wish my parents didn’t ‘make me go’ to Hebrew High School. Granted, I interact with a select group, but I’ve heard this from both adults and teens. More education is a worthwhile pursuit. As Jews, we believe in the inherent value of study. It’s what has helped us survive through the millenia and it’s up to you to continue that tradition. Be strong and steadfast.