The teenage years are tough for everyone, including the parents. As your children begin to grow into young adults before your eyes, they often go through some growing pains in the process. Often this includes attempting to assert their own independence, but it doesn’t always come out in the best way. After experiencing this with her son, this mom wrote a letter of tough love reminding her son that he was, in fact, not quite as grown and independent as he thinks.
Mom Writes Letter of Tough Love to Put Her Son in His Place
Most often when disciplining a disobedient teenager, parents resort to taking things away from them: TV, phone, new clothes, or hangouts with friends. Entirely fed up with the way her son had been behaving, a single mum who went by the name of Estella Havisham decided enough was enough. In 2015, she wrote a letter to her 13-year-old son Aaron, outlining that if he was going to continue to disrespect her authority, then he would have to start taking on more “adult” responsibilities.
Though some people have commented saying that perhaps she was a bit harsh, most are very supportive of her use of tough love. The letter, pictured below, certainly gave Aaron a quick dose of reality.
Since you seem to have forgotten that you are only 13 and I’m the parent, and that you won’t be controlled, I guess you will need to learn a lesson in independence. Also, as you threw in my face that you are making money now, it will be easier to buy back all the items I bought for you in the past. If you would like your lamp/lightbulbs or access to the internet, you will need to pay your share of costs:
Also you will need to empty the trash Mon, Wed & Friday as well as sweep and vacuum those days. You will need to keep your bathroom clean weekly, prepare your own meals and clean up after yourself. If you fail to do so I will charge you a $30 maid fee for every day I have to do it. If you decide you would rather be MY CHILD again instead of a roommate, we can negotiate terms.” (1)
Estella didn’t intend for the picture of the letter to go viral, in fact, she didn’t intend to post it publicly at all. She meant to just send it to a few family members. By the time she realized what had happened, she decided there was no reason to take it down, as it was inspiring other parents to give their unruly teenagers some much-needed tough love as well. (1)
How to Raise Kids to Be Respectful
Raising kids to be respectful and contributing members not just to your household, but to their communities and society as a whole, is no easy task. It certainly goes far beyond just giving tough love every once in a while.
Kids, no matter how old they are, need limits and expectations to be set and stuck to. This will help guide them to being self-disciplined in the future. For example, setting the precedent that no TV is allowed until all of their homework is finished will help them when they go off to college and they no longer have someone watching over their shoulder. (2, 4)
In addition to that, you must have a system in place to discipline your children when the rules you have established are not followed. A warning method, for instance, in which repercussions of their actions get progressively more strict. It is imperative that you are consistent with that system, no ifs, ands, or buts. If you discipline them for something one day and not another, the lesson behind the rules and ensuing discipline if they are broken is lost. (2, 4)
Reward Good Behavior
It’s easy to fall in a pattern of being on high alert for bad behavior to the point where good behavior goes unnoticed or at least appears to. Anytime you see your child or teen doing something good, be it treating someone with kindness, doing their chores without being asked, or offering to help out beyond what is typically expected of them, show your appreciation. (5)
A simple “thank you” goes a long way to your child feeling seen doing good things, not just when they mess up. If you can, extend that to “Thank you for clearing the table without being asked, it really makes my evening better.” or “That was so kind of you to hold the door for that person, I’m happy I have such a thoughtful daughter/son.” (5)
Your thank-yous’ can go beyond just words, as well. If when disciplining our children we tend to take things away, then we should reward them for doing something good. Again, these don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Tell them to invite their best friend over for a sleepover, take them to the movies, let them get their ears pierced – little things that say “I see what you did, I appreciate it, and I want to reward you for it”. (5)
Read: Dad’s Emotional Post about Raising His Baby Daughter Alone after Her Mom Left Them
Lead By Example
From a very early age, kids begin to mimic and repeat the things their parents do and say. If you want to raise a conscientious child who cares for and respects others, who works hard and communicates how they are feeling in a calm, clear way, then you have to be that person yourself. (2, 3, 4)Allow your kids to see you disciplining yourself:
“Today I was supposed to clean the kitchen, but I procrastinated. Now that it’s the evening, I have to clean it before I sit down to relax, even though I am tired.”
Also, think about it this way:
- If you yell and scream when you’re angry, so will they.
- If you are rude to others (ex. Customer service employees), your kids will learn to disrespect others.
- If you don’t clean up after yourself, your kids will do the same.
Parenting is scary. You want to protect your child, keep them safe, and help them grow to be good people. Sometimes this results in you putting extremely strict rules in place, with no room for adjustment as your child gets older. Show them that you trust them and give them the opportunity to prove to you that they deserve more freedom and independence. Rules that are overly strict that allow kids, especially teenagers, no autonomy to make their own decisions typically just leads to them rebelling. (2)
Instead of punishing them before they’ve done anything wrong, give them some guidelines and tools so that they will be safe in situations. Make sure that they know they can always call you, even if they think they messed up. Will there be repercussions? Sure, but if they are too scared to even call you when things go wrong, they could be in even worse trouble. (2)
When it does come time to discipline, for example when you have to pick them up from a party because they were drinking and are now throwing up, show them some love first. Even if you are furious, yelling at them when they are vomiting out the window of the car probably won’t do much. The next morning, go in and talk to them about why what they did was irresponsible and dangerous, then lay out what their punishment will be. (2)
Spend Time With Your Kids
Though this is easier when your children are young, make sure that you continue to spend quality time with your kids even as they get older. Think about your common interests: may both you and your son love musicals, so make a pact that you will go to one together at least once per year. Perhaps your daughter loves the outdoors, so take her camping or go hiking together. (2, 3)
Quality time with your kids just having fun together nurtures a loving and respectful relationship between you. They will be more apt to respect the ground rules that you’ve set out for them when you’ve built a solid relationship. (2, 3)
Encourage Purposeful Pastime Activities
Nothing teaches children empathy and kind-heartedness quite like getting out and volunteering. Get your kids involved in volunteer work as early as you can, and most importantly, volunteer with them. Not only will this count towards quality time spent together, but it will teach your children to be more selfless and understanding towards others. (4)
The Bottom Line
There is no magic bullet to parenting, and sometimes your children will get in trouble or disobey you no matter how amazing of a parent you are. Learning to be flexible, admit when you have been wrong, and treat your kids with love and respect will be reflected back through them. The teenage years will be turbulent, but they will come out on the other side as compassionate and respectful, contributing adults.
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- “This angry mum’s note to her teenager has gone viral and it’s easy to see whyWrites ‘Tough Love’ Letter To Her 13 Year-Old Son – Parents Everywhere Applaud Her.” Independent. September 18. 2015.
- “Nine Steps to More Effective Parenting.” Kids Health
- “7 Tips for Raising Caring Kids.” Harvard
- “How Parents Can Raise a Good Child.” Very Well Family. Katherine Lee. December 14, 2020.
- “7 Ways to Raise a Well-Rounded Kid.” Parents. Amy Capetta. July 14, 2015