Updated: May 20
Just because your child is a teenager and approaching young adulthood doesn't mean that you stop parenting and allow your child to make life decisions that could hurt his/her long term success. It's ok that we step in and make hard decisions for our children (whether they agree with it or not). Now, I'm not saying that you can't have a conversation with your child regarding your decision, but the decision still should be made by YOU. Parenting is not just about providing, protecting, and disciplining. It's also about providing guidance and making decisions that maybe unpopular to the child.
Case in point, almost a year ago, I had a conversation with a parent who wanted me to help his child improve their ACT score. Now, I really don't mind assisting anyone; however, the problem lies that the
child is in his senior year and has plans to attend a 4 yr university next fall. And the parent is asking right before the child's last semester in high school.
As we peel back the layers of what's really going on, the child took the ACT twice (score low on both attempts) and never had any prep classes nor developed a strategy to improve his/her scores. Also, I find out that this child (like so many others) spent all of his/her extra time engaged in various sports. Now, I don't believe that students shouldn't be engaged in extracurricular activities, but the priority has to be toward a child's academic and professional development. And oftentimes, parents don't step in to make the difficult decision to focus more on his/her child's academic success especially if the child wants to attend college.
Now, I don't fault parents for not understanding the importance of prepping their children for college because many just don't know nor understand the process. My parents (like many others) didn't know nor understand the college prep process and left me to make decisions that should've been handled by adults. This is one of my motivating factors as to why UUNIK Academy provides ACT/College prep sessions.
(Back to the story) As the parent and I continued to engage, I hear a common theme that I've heard with many other parents, 'I've talked to him/her of what he/she needs to do'. While I am in favor of allowing your child to make certain daily decisions in his/her life, I believe that the parent has to step in and make hard decisions that can positively impact his/her child's life longterm. Also, as parents, we have to understand that our teenagers are STILL children, not adults. If our children are planning to go to college, we must put them in great situations to excel academically 1st and hold them accountable. This also includes discipline if the agreement is broken. When I say discipline, I mean withholding extracurricular activities as well as losing privileges (i.e. cell phone). Discipline can also result in extra household chores or volunteering to help a neighbor or two.
The parent and I talked for almost an hour when he/she finally realized that he/she should have stepped in and decided that his/her child will sacrifice extracurricular activities to improve his ACT scores. Parents, the temporary displeasure that your child feels when you remove something he loves doing will not compare to the life long heartache of not reaching his full educational potential. We have too many examples of grown adults who didn't reached their full academic and professional potential because of decisions that were made for them as children.
As we get older as human beings, we need guidance and leadership from those who have already traveled the path that we've yet entered. This is especially true for teenagers and young adults. Too many of our teenaged youth are mentally and emotionally immature to make decisions that will impact them for the rest of our lives. Another sad fact is that some of us as parents are
in the same 'mental' and 'emotional' boat as their children.
The moral of the story is that if we want a better world and existence for our children, we must be the 'light house' for their daily behavior and decision making. Oftentimes, we have to be the 'bad cop' and make difficult decisions that will position our children in a better place.
Reggie Jenkins, executive director of UUNIK Academy, firstname.lastname@example.org