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Teens Making Their Own Decisions: We Don’t Always Agree—And That’s Okay

Agreeing with my kids’ choices can be hard on the best days. I know clashes with our kids are the nature of this whole parenting and growing up thing, but it gets trickier when they get older. At least it did for me. Now the choices are about bigger things than what to be for Halloween or what grades are considered “passing.”

As the parent, I was used to having the final say and the power of veto. But things began to change as my kids became actual young adults.

There came a point when they were making big decisions I didn’t agree with. What made it even tougher, and more frustrating, was that my job was to train them to be adults. That meant letting them make their own decisions and living with the consequences.

Oh. The. Horror!

I’ve seen other parents struggle with this too. It can be hard for the teens, but it can be even harder for the parents to watch our kids struggle with the outcome of their decisions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bitten my tongue over the years. (Hint: there’s a permanent groove in it.) I don’t even know how many arguments I’ve won in my mind while standing in the shower alone.

There are some decisions my kids have made that are an inevitable part of becoming an adult. Whether I liked it or not.

I’ve Let them My Teens Make their own Choices about:

1. Relationships

They break up. They make up. They break-up again. It can’t be escaped, so I simply learned to accept its existence.

Few people get through life without having a relationship that cycles from break up to make up to break up, again. At a certain point, I realized that my job as a parent was to be a supportive bystander. To listen, if they wanted to talk, but not to stomp all over their maturing emotions with my opinion on their relationships.

It’s tricky when I can see things as an outsider that they’re not seeing. But my personal mantra is: a person can’t learn from experience if their experience is hijacked by another person. Meaning me, obviously.

My rule for myself is that if the relationship was dysfunctional to the point of physical or emotional abuse, I would step in. Thankfully, their teenage relationships had the typical ups and downs and I kept my opinions to myself. It was a nearly impossible feat, but I managed.

2. Jobs

I’ve been working since I was a kid, but everyone establishes their own work ethic in their own way. Trying to control how my kids handle their job responsibilities would be harmful to their development into responsible adults.

I tried to avoid the “back in the day” lecture.

I tried to encourage my kids to persevere if they were feeling under the weather, but I left them alone when they didn’t want to go to work.

I let my kids take the reins when it came to skipping a day of work (or sometimes school). Allowing them to risk losing a part-time job or to experience negative consequences for their work-related choices wasn’t easy, but I thought it was important. My goal was to let them steer the ship whether it was smooth sailing or crashing onto a rocky shore.

3. Their health

My responsibility to my children has always been to take care of their health. Like most parents, I have spent a fair amount of time in doctors’ and dentists’ waiting rooms. Then my children suddenly became legal adults, responsible for their own health, even if I still see my babies when I look at them.

I’ve allowed myself to speak out more often on this particular topic, but there had to be a point where I accepted that their choices were beyond my control.

My son had some allergy issues a few years back. We knew he was allergic and/or sensitive to some foods, but we weren’t sure which foods. I paid for a full (read: expensive) blood panel. It came back he was allergic and/or sensitive to gluten, eggs, dairy, mushrooms, and sugar. He basically needed a gluten free, vegan diet, but he could eat meat.

He was living at home at the time and I prepared his food for the most part. We spent many hellish months trying to find foods he would like, places he could eat, and new recipes. Then he started cheating. He felt the physical consequences, but I couldn’t follow him around and smack pizza out of his hand or lock down the kitchen. I have to accept that he’s an adult and it’s his body.

For more thoughts on decision making:

My goal has always been to raise my kids to become adults who think for themselves. I just didn’t realize that my challenge as a mother would be learning to let them.

Alison Seay lives in Baltimore, Maryland in a small house, with her big weird family, and a fat old wiener dog. She writes full-time under a pen name and runs several online vintage stores. Occasionally, she goes a little wild and writes something as herself. This is one of those times.

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