“Mama, I’m like . . . doomed! I forgot my blue cheer skirt!”
My daughter’s text was laced with panic. Her high school pep rally started in two hours.
One of the cheer captains had a ferocious temper and I couldn’t let her cheer in a mismatching skirt, so I left my grocery cart in the middle of the aisle and sprinted to my car. I found the blue skirt and then sped to the school.
“Thanks Mama,” she said as she hugged me. “You saved me!”
As I returned to my stranded cart at the grocery store, one of my sons called. “Mom, I forgot my math homework! Can you bring it to me? Please? I’ll get a zero if I don’t turn it in.”
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but for the second time that day, I left the store without groceries.
As I sprinted by a car window, I glimpsed my frazzled reflection and stopped cold.
What was I doing?
I felt like a crazy woman.
How many trips had I made to school, just that week?
Do you ever feel like a frazzled, “mama-on-call” too? You try to be the wise, loving parent God wants you to be, but somehow you wind up in tears in a parking lot, feeling like you’ve lost your mind.
After that frustrating day, I knew I had to stop babying my teens. All the pampering, kid-pleasing, mama-on-call business had to go, not only for my sake—but for the sake of my children. But how could I alter the way I parent, after so many years?
I began by seeking the wise counsel of other moms. I found a few key Scriptures to cling to, such as Proverbs 29:15, MSG:
“Wise discipline imparts wisdom; spoiled adolescents embarrass their parents,” (this pretty much nailed it).
For several days, my husband and I discussed it and prayed about it. Then we made a game plan. Here’s what we decided to do:
1. Let them get “in trouble.”
We decided it was better for our kids to suffer a little right now, than to suffer a lot later on.
So instead of being the hovering mama-on-call, I got tough.
I gave each of them 3 “emergency mom trips” to school per year and I stuck to it (well, mostly). This meant letting my sons get zero’s on forgotten homework. It meant letting my daughter go without things she “desperately” needed, but forgot.
And when they forgot or failed to do what they were supposed to, they ran extra laps, wrote sentences and suffered through detention to make up for it.
While this was painful for me (and kinda painful for them, too), it was the best thing. Here’s why: bailing your kids out blocks growth and maturity.
Of course, there were times when we stepped in. This question helped us decide when to intervene: “Will this prepare our child for the road . . . or the road for our child?”
2. Don’t wake them up in the morning.
I used to wake my children up by turning on the lights, pulling the covers off of their feet, tickling them, singing annoying songs and even yelling, if necessary. (Am I the only one?)
Thankfully I quit wake-up calls, cold-turkey.
“Anybody can train themselves to hear an alarm,” I told my kids. “You can, too. Cheerful wake-up services will no longer be provided.”
I know, it was sorta harsh.
After a few morning meltdowns, late slips and groundings, my kids finally learned to “hear” their alarms and get up like the rest of the world. Eventually, our mornings became much calmer. And I saw how I’d let simple things, like waking up on time, get way out of hand. I’m glad I reigned it in.
3. Make them work.
My husband insisted that our teens help around the house and find a part-time job. I thought the job part was a bit tough, but working outside the home was so good for them.
My daughter enjoyed babysitting and it was so profitable, she nannied all through college. My sons held all kinds of odd jobs, from cutting grass, to construction, to working in a fly-fishing shop. When they graduated from college, their extensive job experience helped them land good jobs.
My son Bryant now owns an outdoor media firm
Working gave my kids a sense of purpose and self-confidence that they could’ve missed, if
we (ok, if I) had kept babying them. Sure, they complained at times, but I’m thankful we required them to work.
Not working would’ve robbed them of rich experiences and learning.
4. Don’t be a go-between with their teachers.
Once I rushed down to my daughter’s middle school like an angry mama-bear-on-call, trying to work out a situation with a teacher as a third party.
I hate that I did that.
Here’s why: my daughter missed the opportunity to advocate for herself. And my intervention only made the situation worse.
Learning to stand up for yourself—in all areas of life—is necessary. “Mama bears” can prevent their kids from developing survival tactics. So I’ve learned it’s better to discuss classroom problems with your kids, advise them and pray* about it with them, but let them work it out—unless it’s something truly harmful. (Click here to download Back-to-School Prayers*, a free 7-day prayer guide for you & your kids for 2021-22.)
5. Be courageous.
Like every mom, I want my children to appreciate me. But if I do my job right, then sometimes, they’re going to get mad.
Sometimes, they will not like me.
And sometimes, my kids (and possibly yours) will roll their eyes, sigh wistfully and wish fervently they’d been born into another family.
If that happens to you, be courageous. Don’t give in. Remember “tough love” is painful in the short-term, but benefical in the long-term.
Now that my children are grown, I don’t have to be so tough on them, anymore (yes!). But when they were teenagers, they needed structure and guidance far more than they needed a pandering, mama-on-call.
6. Stop being overprotective, it may backfire.
Since my twin boys are adventurous types, I had to learn to keep my anxiety in check.
When they played football, it was nerve-wracking.
Having two new drivers at the same time was no picnic, either.
Then came camping trips, caving adventures and the hardest thing yet—rock climbing. On cliffs.
My son Will on a typical weekend. Lord help me…
If I’d held my boys back from these “dangerous” things, rest assured, those wild monkeys would’ve found others. Overprotecting my teens could’ve backfired, resulting in greater danger.
Remember safety isn’t the ultimate goal of parenting. Raising your kids to handle life well, without you, is the goal. But sometimes, anxiety can push you to shelter your children from everything.
Resist the overprotective urge, Mama.
Overprotecting your kids will either make them more fearful—or more rebellious. It can prevent them from developing life skills they desperately need.
7. Parent with the end-goal in mind.
Remember, you’re not raising your kids to be good kids; you’re raising them to be responsible, mature adults.
While I knew that being a mama-on-call prevents maturity in theory, it was hard for me to stop putting tissues & Chapstick in my teenagers’ coat pockets. It was hard to not feel guilty about every mistake and even silly things, like packing canned fruit, instead of fresh, in their lunches. (Okay, don’t judge)
Asking this question finally helped me overcome being a frazzled mama-on-call: “Will this make my kids’ lives better or worse later on?” Keeping the end-goal in mind changed my parenting, because what serves teens now, is very different from what will serve them, later on.
8. Seek after God every day.
Learn how to parent from the best Father there is—don’t attempt to parent without Him!
The best parenting strategy is to spend time with the Lord, daily. Seeking after God helped me parent so much, I wrote a book about my experience, called Seeking a Familiar Face. (Click here to check it out)
As your kids transition, you must transition, too. So get tough. Be intentional. Stop being a mama-on-call. Baby your children a little less, each year.
And remember there are many wonderful things you can always do for your kids, at any age. Ask thoughtful questions. Be a good listener. Pray for them, earnestly. Be their encourager. But most of all, remind your children daily that the Lord loves them and that you love them, too.