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Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Got a Strategic Parenting Plan? Get one!

March 3, 2010

What's the plan, Dad?

What's the plan, Dad?

I do a fair amount of parent education seminars. If you’ve ever caught my act you know my presentation style is very casual. But while it may look like all I’m doing is leading discussions based on teen email from the likes of “Invisible Loser” and “Stuck and Lonely” plus sharing war stories about discovering our daughter on the phone with her boyfriend at 2:37 AM (on a school night!) and morphing into Godzilla in the doorway of our son’s absurdly cluttered room… I actually prepare for every parenting workshop. Seriously. I’m a teacher. Educational objectives and lesson plans and are in my DNA.

All parents are teachers. At 18 your kids will graduate from your private school of human development and race into the world with a bunch of lessons learned… from you.

What will your exit exam measure? Not sure? You’re not alone. In the first 5 years of a child’s life parents have a packed curriculum for their little ones to master (walking, talking, potty training, toy sharing, nose-blowing, etc.). But beyond 1st or 2nd grade parenting objectives start getting fuzzy.

As parents of teens your days of close-at-hand parenting are numbered. So if you are currently a bit unclear about some of your parenting goals maybe I can help. Here’s a question I often ask at my workshops: What are your top 5 parenting objectives? That is, by the time your kid graduates high school and begins the first chapter of adult life, what kind of person would you like him/her to be?

Usual responses include:

· Self-sufficient

· Independent

· Caring

· Responsible

· A good friend

· Productive

· Honest

· Self-confident

· Healthy life style

· Able to make good decisions

It’s a great starter list, but listing goals is obviously easier than working to achieve them so here’s my next question: What are you consciously doing to support the development of the skills and character traits you say you want for your kids? I realize that’s a tough one because we’re all so busy. But if you buy into the premise that parents are teachers and have some accountability for the way their kids turn out then you need a strategic parenting plan.

That means you’ve got to figure out a) what your plan is and b) how to put it into action. How else will your kids get to the place you say you want them to reach by the time their packing for college? Most of us don’t usually think about parenting in such concrete ways. But Mom, Dad, with all due respect, if you’ve got no game plan, your list of parenting objectives are just of bunch of words. Granted, raising kids is an art and not a science, but still, if you’ve got things you want them to learn from you, then you have to teach them.

Here’s my final question for today: What might you be doing (consciously or unconsciously) to undermine your own stated objectives? Maybe you say that you want your child to be self-sufficient, but you’re still dragging your 15 year old out of bed every morning, making him lunch and checking his homework. Maybe you say you want your 14 year old to be self-confident, but you also routinely tell her she’s lazy, rude, self-centered and can’t do anything right.

You get the idea. You need to be aware of your parenting objectives and you need to be the kind of teacher that supports your own curriculum every single day.

One more thing to keep in mind… if you’re not personally modeling what you teach, then you’re teaching something else. Simply put, you can’t expect your kids to treat you with respect if you are routinely rude to them as well as to waiters, cashiers, etc. Your kids are watching, listening and learning.

Class dismissed. See you next time.

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