Here’s my first post on Dove’s brand new Parenting Blog

When I was a kid, I always thought I was getting away with murder when I read under the covers past bedtime. But now, I wonder. Did my parents look in, see the flashlight under the covers, and sneak away with a smile? I know I would. I love to see my kids engrossed in a good story.

But now, my kids are teens and instead of a book under the covers, often it’s a device.  And while little screens can offer plenty of harmless fun, they can also lead to heartbreaking devastation—all with a swipe and a click. So when I see a glow under the covers, I’m far less likely than my parents to sneak away with a smile.

Parenting in 2016

It’s never been harder to be a teen—or a parent—than in 2016. Consider the changes that the class of ’16 has experienced. (I’ve been watching this class closely, since my oldest child is part of it!) When they entered 7th grade, most (but not all) of them had flip phones. Texting was the rage. But virtually every 12th grader began school this year with smart phone in hand, loaded with internet access and social media options, galore. It’s as if the cross walk from childhood to adulthood has gone from being a quiet neighborhood side street to a six lane interstate highway in five short years.

I’ve never wanted to be a helicopter parent.  I don’t want to embarrass my kids by holding their hands, as they cross into adulthood. Nor do I want to turn my back and leave them to navigate the high traffic volume of the internet and social media without my help.

While some parents err on the side of leniency, that’s never been my bent. We were the last parents to give our teens their own phones. (At least that’s what our kids say.) We’ve been slow to hand out social media privileges, then quick to layer on password protections, and to monitor everything from texts to internet usage.

This isn’t because we have bad kids. (We think they’re quite exceptional, actually!) It’s just because they’re kids, and we don’t want them to get hurt.

However, with our first child graduating, Ken and I are increasingly aware that parenting is like a control panel full of knobs and dials. Gradually each knob is turned down more and used less. Then eventually, as parents, we back away from control completely.

HOLD & FOLD

I read a parenting book last summer which I found helpful, called Losing Control and Liking It by Tim Sanford. Tim suggests a HOLD & FOLD parenting approach. We should HOLD responsibility for the things we can control as parents. Such as:

  • Is my tween ready for a phone yet?
  • Can he handle the temptation of having it in his room at night?
  • What apps does he have? How is he using social media? How much time is he spending online?

There are so many ways for kids to get hurt online, and we, the parents, must HOLD responsibility for protecting them. Sometimes this means saying, “No, you’re not ready for that.” Other times it means saying, “Honey, I’m taking your phone for a week. That picture you posted was insensitive and hurtful.”

But as our kids grow older, we gradually do more and more FOLDing. When my daughter leaves for college next fall, if I’m still trying to control what apps she downloads or how late she stays up playing Candy Crush, I’ll be grabbing, not FOLDing—which only makes everyone (me included) frustrated and miserable.

Yes, parenting in 2016 offers new challenges, but letting our kids grow up isn’t one of them. Each child needs a parent who is thoughtfully considering when to HOLD and when to FOLD, as she makes her way to the other side of childhood.

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