Asking A Teen If They Want Advice Is Just A Formality

It’s always amazing to me that children brought up in the same household can be so very different. They may have the same parents, same upbringing, and same opportunities—however, the outcome is anyone’s guess. We see the similarities in our kids—certain characteristics—but quite commonly, they each march to a different drummer. The question is how do you help each of them find their path in life?

I do not accept the philosophy of “You can be anything you want to be” that we all heard growing up. It’s really just something encouraging to tell kids. As they get older, however, we realize there are things they just can’t do. The key is that there is unlimited potential to try anything they want—but, they have to put in the work.

My children, two of which are technically adults, have vastly different capabilities. My middle child is the most social and can definitely read any room he enters. He is quick to assess a situation and knows where a conversation needs to go. He took a drastic step in joining the army, becoming an infantryman. This was surprising as he has a lackadaisical approach toward life. Joining the military was in opposition to his personality—however, he thrives on challenges. I was pleasantly surprised by his determination and so very proud of him. 

The oldest leaves me flummoxed. Although he is regimented and likes routine, the military would not necessarily be a good fit. He wouldn’t thrive in a demanding situation and is quick to shut down if challenged. Unlike his brother, he can’t easily read people and isn’t a social creature. Drawing inference from most situations is not in his wheelhouse. He doesn’t want to go to college, but has considered technical school. He has always liked the mechanics of things, but problem solving would be a challenge for him. Ultimately, he has to decide, but he hasn’t a clue of which direction to take—and I don’t know how to guide him.

The youngest is my most creative and has fabulous artistic talents. She has an interest in digital art and demonstrates she can succeed with what she creates on her iPad—as well as, traditional drawing on paper. She is also filled with an abundance of empathy for people and animals—fluctuating the idea of becoming a doctor, veterinarian, or teacher. She is still young enough to figure things out and surprisingly talking of being an airline pilot. I’m not sure where that came from, but I encourage her to see if it’s a fit.

All three seem to be resistant to parental advice unless they are the ones to ask—even then it’s iffy. The strength to resist choking them as they dismiss my advice is an acquired skill I’ve mastered over the years. I know they need to make their own decisions, doing what they feel is best. How else can they appreciate the success or failure? The problem is I don’t want them to fail more than they have to in order to learn. Naturally, I tell them I listened to my parents and followed all their advice. The laughter breaks the tension, but I do say I wished I had listened more.

The only thing for me to do is be available when they want to talk and use that opportunity to slip in any advice bottled up in my parental arsenal. I will still encourage my oldest to find his path in life—even if we don’t currently know what it is. In the end, all I can really do is introduce them to the world and let them make their own decisions.

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