My son was in a relationship with a very smart and cute girl from his high school. She came over and watched football with us, and my wife and I drove them to the prom. I took photos and posted them on Facebook — like a good dad.
When they broke up we were surprised. We liked her, and we knew we would miss having her over. Monday night football would not be the same.
After a month or two, it suddenly came to me — during a football game of all things — that I had not been thinking like a good dad. Who cared about who was in my living room to watch the Patriots or Packers? My focus had been all wrong.
I realized that my kid was way too young to be dating the same girl, to be going steady — as we used to say.
As his dad, it just didn't feel right to let him focus his teen life on a girl. There are other things he should be learning and experiencing.
School work. My son got behind on credits and now has make up assignments. How on earth is he going to get all those packets finished so he can graduate on time?
Church activities. In our family, church activities are important. Church and charitable involvement make for well-rounded, and less self focused boys.
Sports and exercise, individual and team. Many drop out of team sports as they approach graduation from high school. Team sports can be time consuming. Moving on from sports is fine as long as the time spent at practice doesn't turn into TV or gaming time.
X-box. Sorry for that. I had to see if you were paying attention.
My son has a new girlfriend now. She is smart and cute and they spend every minute of the day and into the late (for me) evening. Rather than trying to dissuade her — maybe pulling her aside and telling her that insanity skips a generation and I feel fine — I am going to have to hit this one straight on. There has got to be some moderation, and I am the guy to help create it.
From wing-man to better parent in eight not-so-easy steps
Here are some tips that I am taking to heart to go from my son’s inadvertent wing-man to better dad.
1. Accountability. Have him account for his time, possibly in writing. Buy a date/record book and write down his assignments: chores, school work, church time, x-box time, and girlfriend time. Any other time he needs, or other responsibilities will be noted.
2. Family Responsibilities. He needs to spend time with the family. This week, we have apples that need to be picked before it freezes. It is more than permissible to expect some help. As a teenager, he needs to be helping with family responsibilities. There are often other unscheduled chores that need doing: lawn mowing or snow shoveling, cleaning out the gutters or washing the dog.
3. Meet regularly. Meeting with him weekly creates some accountability time. Parents can give feedback on things he is doing well, and mention things which need improving. Check out his schedule together so you know how to best support him. This is also a good opportunity to see how he feels and spend some time listening to him.
4. Follow through. Follow through and help him self regulate. If he gets an hour of X-box time a day, expect him to know how long he has played and turn off the machine when an hour has passed. If he says he will be home at 10, then 10 it is unless he calls or there is an emergency.
5. Set Goals. Set a goal for his grades, like everything has to be over B average. If there is a problem, extra time on X-box or weekday time with the girlfriend may need to be curtailed.
6. Stay positive. Keep a positive mental attitude for yourself and for your teen. Remember that what you are doing as a parent is not to punish.
7. If you can't beat em', invite em'. Try including his friends or girlfriend in some of your family activities. Have a family night, with a spiritual lesson and a snack where they are welcome to attend. For us, canning is coming up, and then there is the occasional football game. We are happy to save a seat.
8. Make a deal. Be willing to make deals. Don't be so rigid with the schedule that it feels like everyone involved is in the big house.
Don't wait for someone else to teach him how to lead a balanced life that will, in turn, strengthen his relationships. You might not like what they teach or what your teen learns. Instead, take a proactive approach. Just as important, let him see your honest attempts to manage your own time better.
Davison Cheney writes Sports for People Who Don’t know Sports weekly on DeseretNews.com. See his other writings at davisoncheneymegadad.blogspot.com & on Twitter @davisoncheney