Friday, July 3, 2009

Losing Control and Liking It: How to Set Your Teen (and Yourself) Free

Tim Sanford’s book, Losing Control and Liking It,  is written for a very small audience: parents of older teens who are having a hard time letting them go. I did not need this book when our first son left home because he was confident and happy and had the life skills to “make it”. But my second son is his polar opposite. The thought of letting him go out into the real world was giving me the heebie jeebies UNTIL I read this little book.

When we home schooled years ago I read many books that implied that with the right tools I could turn out children who were “practically perfect in every way”. Well, guess what? We did everything the books said and our kids still disappoint us at times (and we still love them when they do.) But what a relief to read Sanford’s book which states that my job as a parent is not to turn out perfect kids who make perfect choices. In fact, Sanford writes that a parent’s main job is to (1) validate and (2) nurture his children. By giving the child a firm foundation of knowing he is noticed, loved and enjoyed, the parent can teach (by words or modeling) how to make wise choices. As a child grows into an adult the parent should be making less and less decisions for him. If he’s done his job of nurturing, validating and teaching, he is able to release the reins of parental control. “Your teen is moving away from your hands-on guidance to your hands-off availability.” (p.38) Sanford says that although we can no longer control the actions of our young adults, we can continue to influence them.

When you influence, all your persuading and inspiring still allows the other person to make the final choice. That person keeps control and is responsible for his or her actions, thoughts and feelings”. (p. 91)

This book came at a crucial time in my life. I didn’t realize I was having control issues. I thought I just wanted what was best for my son and that he was unable to decide that for himself. Now I see that I really have done my best in the nurturing and validating and teaching areas, and it’s up to him to make his own life decisions. I can honestly say I have let go of the controls. But I’m still adjusting! This is not a profound book in the sense that it will nourish you with multiple readings, BUT it’s intensely practical and comforting. If you’ve got teens, give it a try.

No comments: