Teen Identity: Guiding your kids In Discovery
“Do you believe the search for identity is an important job for your teenager?”
This was a question posed to me recently in a small group setting among other parents of teens. The knee jerk response to this question varied among the crowd. And there were a lot of “yes, but” and “that depends” in each statement that followed. It seems like a basic question with an obvious answer, until you have to put it into practice. As kids mature into the teen years the job of a parent goes from guard to guide.
Dr. Jim Burns brilliantly states, “Parents must move from ‘controlling to consulting and from micromanaging to mentoring’ if they wish to raise responsible adults who can make wise decisions.”
So, when my 14-year-old son asked if he could get a perm, I was faced with the question, “Do I believe his search for identity is an important job for my teenager?”
While this may seem silly, this decision in this season is about control. My son is not a threat to my leadership, and his simple desire to explore new ideas for his “vibe” by a style of his hair is not the mountain worth dying on. I did wonder if it would look good or if it would be worth the expense. I was nervous kids would mock him or his sisters would make it too much of a “thing”. All things that keep me on “guard” instead of “guide” and short circuiting his God designed brain to develop self-awareness and personal accountability in this time of his life. We don’t need to fear the search for identity, even when our teens are “trying on” preferences that seem super silly and drive us a little crazy on occasion.
I’m learning to let my teen aged kids practice planning, make certain judgment calls and even say yes to my 14-year-old son’s desire to get a perm.
“If you desire to raise a child who exerts appropriate self-awareness, self-control, and independence, offer structure while progressively equipping and empowering your adolescent. God created your teen to make choices and be accountable for them, and in the not-too-distant future, it will be up to him or her to live wisely or foolishly. Allowing your adolescent to practice the skills necessary for adulthood while still in your home is a tremendous gift. It takes more time, patience, grace, and discernment than simply controlling or checking out does, but such is the call of parenting a teen.” Dr. Jeramy Clark and Jerusha Clark (Your Teenager Is Not Crazy)
Now if you were wondering, the perm looks great. He loves it. In fact his actual response was, “I look sick”. That’s a big brag on his trending hairstyle and a huge boost of confidence to a boy who is technically in a typically pretty awkward phase of middle school life. I know not every decision I allow may not end up so great. The process may be difficult, and the stakes may be higher. But again, the goal isn’t to raise someone who recognizes how right I am as the parent but rather raise a kid who can actively choose what’s best.