One Valentine’s Day, the parents of our teenage daughter’s best friend took the girls and a third friend out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. The dad gave each girl the gift of an exquisite small gold ring. Along with the ring, he gave them a pep talk about their priceless worth and the importance of loving and respecting themselves.
Prior to the dinner, he had contacted my husband and me to ask our permission and we happily consented. After all, he was reinforcing something we felt strongly about and we were glad for our daughter to hear it from more than just us.
Doug and I joke all the time that parenting is a “team sport”—and our team extends beyond ourselves as Mom and Dad. Some experts believe the magic number is five—that every teen needs at least five adult voices in his or her life that will reinforce positive values and a healthy self-image. For our kids, these voices have included:
- their grandparents and other extended family members
- family friends
- youth group leaders/mentors
- teachers and coaches
- parents of some of their friends
It’s been rewarding to see the different perspectives and qualities these other “voices” have contributed, especially at times when Mom and Dad were a little less popular! They offered wisdom in diverse areas like:
- work ethic
- perseverance and self-discipline
- financial management
- spiritual life (faith, encouragement, prayer)
- practical skills like construction, painting, cooking, and car repair
- the value of family
- aspirations for college and a successful career
- modeling a lifelong marriage
Do you have the benefit of other influences in your child’s life that will tell him the same things you would? The unique value of other adults in our kids’ lives is not just the wisdom they offer, but the fact that they are listened to. So, if our voices are temporarily devalued and our influence seems to be waning (especially true during the teen years), we can recruit others to “shore us up.” I go into this in more detail in my book, Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, but basically, it’s great to keep in mind that sometimes other adults offer unique perspectives and insights that we as parents simply lack or that are more impactful when coming from someone else.
For example, when one of our kids was going through a rough patch in high school, his track coach stepped in and brought some much needed perspective, encouragement, and accountability. This coach was also our son’s AP psychology teacher. Because of that expertise, he was able to offer him unique insights that spoke directly to his logical nature, helping him better understand himself and his reactions. It ended up being a win on a number of levels.
Guaranteed: your children will stumble here and there as they make great strides. Sometimes, they will want you there to pick them up, dust them off, and set them straight again. Other times, they’ll prefer you keep your distance and let them handle it. In these instances, having those important third party voices in place will be great backup support.
Who in your life could become an asset for your child—for wisdom, for support, or for building a valuable network ambassadors and mentors? It pays to know who those resources might be, and to keep them in mind, just in case!
What do you think about the idea that “parenting is a team sport?” Who are other adults that you would consider to be on your “team?”
Arlyn Lawrence is the mother of five now-grown children, a veteran of 14 years of homeschooling, and the co-author of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, and What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead (available as a leadership and life skills course for teens in standard and Christian editions). Arlyn and co-author Dennis Trittin speak and provide resources for parents, teens, educators, and mentors about building “life literacy” in children and young adults. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter!