The Kids Are All Right forum member Storm spends more time with her teenagers than most of us do, as she home schools. It’s just as well she loves her kids’ company so much! As she says, even if they weren’t related they’d be the kind of people she’d like to hang out with.
Storm came from a difficult childhood, and this drives her to be a better parent to her own children. In this reader profile, she shares her thoughts on parenting teenagers.
So what’s the Storm story?
I’m Storm, a 40-something mum of three rugrats (DD17, DD15 and DS11), whom I also happen to have been home schooling for the last 11 years (yes, I can see your horrified looks!), so I’m a teacher too – without the holidays or pay but I still think I have the best of both worlds.
I’ve been married for 20 years to a wonderful man who also is also a commercial builder, which explains why after 15 years our house is still a work in progress. I must confess that over the years I have eyed off various corners of our bush block looking for areas that would allow me to dig a shallow grave during my moments of utter despair at the speed of our build. I figured it would take a while for someone to find the courage to tackle the snakes and funnel web spiders to search for his body. Hindsight can be a lousy way to learn!
“I am a Motherless Mother, as my own mother died before my children were born. The whole child-rearing thing for me has been like an exercise navigating the high seas on a moonless night minus a compass and I’m still waiting for my feet to touch dry land (though I think it’s now in sight)”
I’d love to say that we live on acreage with chooks, fruit trees and a large productive veggie garden but alas, I’m sad to say instead that we live in outer suburbia with a terraced veggie garden (the pitfalls of living on the side of a cliff) where I have to fight the possums, bandicoots and lizards for the meagre offerings off our limited producing plants (who knew Water Dragons love cherry tomatoes too?) and unfortunately no chooks…
I am also a Motherless Mother, as my own mother died before my children were born. So the whole child-rearing thing for me has been like an exercise navigating the high seas on a moonless night minus a compass and I’m still waiting for my feet to touch dry land (though I think it’s now in sight).
Some of the things I really enjoy are gardening, archery, horse riding, skiing, martial arts, reading and visiting cemeteries (the older the better) though of late haven’t been able to find the time to do many of them, but I’m working on it.
What is your greatest challenge you face parenting your teenager?
In all honesty, I actually don’t really find parenting teens challenging – the earlier years though … it’s nothing short of miraculous that they didn’t find themselves in boarding school in Switzerland!
I like the fact that they can now be rational (yes, you read right), can have an in-depth discussion, see both sides of the coin and put forward a convincing rebuttal should they disagree with me. So give me teens any day, I’m loving it!
How would you describe your parenting style? How does this differ to how you were parented or how friends parent their teens?
I have the dubious honour of having an abusive father so I can’t say my childhood memories are filled with sunshine and lollipops.
I’ve always known that I never wanted my children to think of me as I thought (and still do) of my father – it’s actually been a very strong driving force in helping me control myself in moments of anger and frustration.
From my own childhood experience, I’ve always known that hurting your children (physically, emotionally or mentally), humiliating them, controlling or dis-empowering them, only breeds anger and resentment, not love and respect.
So, I’d like to think that I parent from the angle of the child: things like them having known boundaries and not having the goal posts moved on a whim, considering how my words and actions will affect them before I say them out loud or carry them out, being reasonable with consequences and being consistent. I think I treat them how I would like to have been treated. I never want my children to live in fear, especially in fear of me.
“From my own childhood experience, I’ve always known that hurting your children (physically, emotionally or mentally), humiliating them, controlling or dis-empowering them, only breeds anger and resentment, not love and respect.”
It was very tough for my mother too as she was so far from home (mum was Scandinavian) and really had nowhere to turn – I don’t blame her for staying and though I wish she hadn’t, I understand why she did. In her shoes I would have done things differently but I have the advantage of knowing just how damaging it is from a child’s point of view and I would never want my children subjected to what I had to suffer.
On saying that though my mum was the Yin to my dad’s Yang and proof that every cloud does have a silver lining. It was through my mum that I learned about unconditional love and respect. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for my mum I don’t know if it would have been possible for me to have the close relationship I do have with my own children today.
What’s the greatest thing about parenting teens?
The best thing is being able to live life at their level; they keep me young (at heart at least). We share a lot of the same interests in books, movies, TV shows and humour. Everyday has its own special moments and I love hearing their take on life – it’s always interesting. I know that if I wasn’t related to my children they would still be the kind of people that I would like to mix with.
Please share with us one rule, guideline or boundary you have with your teen, and what happens if they break it.
We don’t have “rules” per say just guidelines ( like “do unto others…”). What’s most important to me though are trust and respect. As to what would happen should they break either … I honestly have no idea but I guess it would depend on what age they were when it happened and just how severe a breach it was.
What’s the greatest piece of advice you would give a parent whose child is nearing the teen years?
Respect them and listen to them. It’s their life after all and you can’t impose on them your ideals as to what they do with it. All you can do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
Love them and don’t stop letting them know that they are loved, even if you’re at odds with each other.
For me, parenting teens actually starts back from day one – “start as you mean to go on”. The hard work is really done early on and by the teens years you’re reaping what you’ve sown.
“It’s their life and you can’t impose on them your ideals as to what they do with it”
What are the top three issues of concern (or interest) for you as a parent of teenagers?
- Teaching kids real life skills rather than just focusing on academics. School is not the be all and end all to a successful life and theses days it gives children even less preparation for living out in the real world. So aiming for a balance between the two, keeping in mind that their days as carefree “children” are numbered. Personally, I like to make sure they get to wring every ounce of fun out of being a child because once they become adults, there’s no going back.
- Being too connected or too dependent on modern technology. Yes it’s great that we have things like the Internet and smart phones etc at our disposal, but to be able to learn to turn it all off and just be. Kids (and adults alike) have far more stimulation in their lives through electronic media than ever before and I think that many people, both young and old, are losing the ability to switch off and relax. I think it’s a big factor in the increase of anxiety-related illnesses today.
- How teens conduct themselves online/Internet etiquette. I find it kind of scary how so many young people put so much of themselves out on display in public media without any thought as to who may see it. I also personally I believe that you should only post things that you’d be prepared to say to someone’s face, though with what I’ve already seen online it would appear that that’s not the norm, more’s the pity.
What do you like about being part of The Kids Are All Right community? Is there something we’re doing not quite right or can improve upon?
I think it’s a great place that parents can go to ask for help or share ideas, stories and experiences about their children. Everyone here has had different life experiences so we can all bring something new to the table so to speak.
My greatest wish is for all parents to have a good relationship with their children – their children deserve it 🙂
More reader spotlights
- “Kids are human beings, whose lives belong to them and no one else” Reader spotlight – Mimbles
- “The greatest challenge is keeping up with the changes” Reader Spotlight – Allymum
Does the way you were parented influence the way you parent your own children?