My son is 17. He’s a really good kid. I am very proud of him. He’s funny, sensitive, witty, kind, sincere, handsome, gentlemanly and smart. Of course, these are just a few of his qualities. I spend nearly every day, all day with him and have since I started homeschooling him in 7th grade. I enjoy having him home with me. He’s fun.
Of course, he’s a lot like other teens who are nearing adulthood. He desires his autonomy and to be treated like a grown-up. Lately I’ve wondered when parenting ends. Not motherhood, mind you….parenting. I know there are a lot of parents out there who continue to parent and micromanage their kids once they are adults. I also know a lot of parents who just quit parenting during the teen years because it became too hard to deal with. Both are extremes, of course. I fall somewhere in the middle and float between. There are days when it seems like everything we’ve taught him, he’s forgotten. Ugh. Those days drive me nuts. And then there are days when all the stars and planets align and I think to myself, “Man! He’s gonna be a tremendous man!”
Lately, though, my husband and I tried an experiment. We’d been having some really tough days with Scout pushing boundaries. It felt like he was really chopping away at the proverbial umbilical cord. I found myself feeling more like a nag than a mother. It wasn’t that he was doing anything “bad”, he was just testing and pushing. Normal stuff, but tiring nonetheless. My husband and I talked and came to several conclusions:
- He’s really learned all he’s going to from us. We’ve had him his whole life. He knows the rules. He knows the expectations. If he hasn’t learned by now, well…….
- He’s a really good kid. I mean, REALLY good kid. He’s a rule follower, respectful, and has a good head on his shoulders. He’s never in trouble and he always chooses really good friends.
- Perhaps it’s time to test our parenting while he’s still “in the nest”. We need to be confident in how we’ve raised him and no better time to test that than the present when, should he falter, the consequences aren’t a detrimental as they might be in the world.
So we began “un-parenting”. I simply stopped parenting him. What I mean is, his behavior, words, and day to day choices became his own. Of course I still asked him to do his part around the house, but only asked him once. If there was an issue between his sisters and him, I let them deal with it. (Unless of course it got out of hand, then I did, but it rarely does.) His time management became his own regarding his college class he’s taking. I didn’t remind him to do his homework or to study for tests. If I needed things from him, I spoke to him as if he was another fellow adult. I asked him if he had the time, would he be able to _______________. He just became a fellow adult in the house.
You know what happened? He rose to the occasion. All the things I used to nag at him to do or say or whatever, he just did on his own without my reminder. He became accountable for himself without me asking. He was more helpful and more respectful. He even…..are you sitting down?……defended me to his sisters one day. Told them they needed to obey. I know, right? It was very cool.
It’s been fun to watch. Fun to see our young man be the person we’ve been training him to be. Of course, he’s not perfect and I’m sure once he’s out in the real world, he’ll have his challenges just like everyone else. This time of un-parenting has really released me, in a way, to become a friend to my son and to see that what I’ve worked so hard for is coming to fruition. It makes me feel more confident about launching him into the world.