28 September 2009

Hands off Parenting?...Or not? And a little bit of EMA

I'm having a little dilemma at the moment.

When DO you let your Teenagers take responsibility for themselves? To leave them to make decisions and choices on their own?

TD has been at college for 3 weeks now. Her timetable is varied, time wise. For 3 days she starts at 8.40am, which means she leaves the house at about 8am, and 2 of these finish at about 1pm. The other 2 she has 11.10 starts, and these finish a little later, 3.15pm.

Almost every single day so far, she's not come back home until 9-10pm. I do get phone calls or texts, telling me she's going to a friends/meeting up with friends in town etc..

OK I thought, she's 16, I realise a strong social network IS important at this age, my addled brain does allow me to remember that much!

Also, it's good she's letting me know where she is. I ask if she wants a meal here or is she eating with friends & when will she be home? Just standard questions. Nothing interfering in those. So far almost all her meals have been eaten at about 11pm in the kitchen, whilst still 'texting' the friends she has just spent 7-8 hours with!

There's been little evidence of any coursework being done, and 2 of her courses are 'very heavy' on the coursework* front. I'm sure they must have given her some by now?? Although of course, when would she have time to do any coursework, what with all the socialising??

TD also complains at the moment about how unfair it is that a lot of her friends get EMA and she doesn't, so she has 'no' money. Erm...apart from all that money we hand out on a very regular basis.

If you're not aware of what EMA is, it's a Government initiative to get school leavers to attend Further Education in the form of a bribe to keep unemployment figures down. I'm sorry if I offend anyone by saying that, it's just my personal view. I know that's not what it's supposed to be about, its about helping families with lower incomes continue with Further Education, when possibly they would not have done so, due to financial constraints. But it seems to have changed into the very reason a lot of Teenagers actually go to college.
Basically, if a household income is under £30,000 a year, the student gets up to £30 a week (means tested) to attend college, and is based on attendance. The student has to have (not sure of the exact number) 90% attendance to claim it. This is tough for families getting just over the £30,000, as the student doesn't qualify for EMA, but they still have all the expense of College life.

So, as you can imagine, my suggestion of a part-time job for TD did not go down too well. Why should she go and get a job when lots of her friends get £30 a week for going to college, when she goes for nothing! Don't you just love the logic in that.....this is the opinion of one teenager, but I think it's the feeling of many who don't receive EMA. Gee.... thanks Government, for the encouraging 'Work Ethic' message you're promoting.

On the part-time job front, TD says her 'College recommends not getting a job in the 1st year'....presumably this is to do with the amount of coursework given..Hmm (*see above).
Or, of course, stupid me, it's to allow their students to fit in 8hrs of socialising a day!

Sorry, I've digressed a little.

Back to the dilemma.

I'd hoped that over the years, I'd given TD some guidance, enough to help her make informed choices for herself. And I do understand there is a transition stage, for us mere parents, of 'letting go' and allowing Teenagers to make their own mistakes. But how far should we let them go before saying something? Because at the moment, if I say anything I get accused of 'not giving her any responsibility'.

When your children are small, you wouldn't dream of letting them walk out in front of a car. You teach them about road safety, and watch them to make sure they've learnt. And you jump in bloody quick if they haven't. Eventually they learn, I know.

So for now I'm trying a little hands off parenting.

Trying not to put my twopence worth in. I did the 'its about balance, a bit of socializing, a bit of college work, maybe a part time job...balance' talk....that went down as well as you might expect!.....I seem to remember the words 'always telling me what to do and how to do it' were in there somewhere...

TD is not walking out in front of cars, not literally anyway, she's not a toddler. So I am trying to stand back, hands off, well to be honest, it's more like holding them clamped over my mouth, while she makes her own mistakes, and hopefully learns from them. But it is very hard.

This is definitely one of those times when you question your parenting skills.
Am I doing this right?...Wrong?

Who knows? Only time will tell...


  1. My girls are 20, 18 and 17 and Little Man is 8. I know exactly what you are going through and I think you are doing fine. The "Hands Off" approach will stay in place until your trust is abused, but hopefully it won't be! She will be fine. Have a little thought for me 20 yr old moved out just after Xmas and 18 yr old is off to Uni on Sunday, I feel quite bereft, life will never be the same again but we have to let them go....

  2. What a great mum you are to have given this so much thought and trying to work out what's best for her. She's a good girl doing all the right things by keeping you informed as to where she is but if you're worried say something to her.
    You're doing better than me. I had a recent row with my 17 year old girl where the words "This is not a bloody hotel, you know" came out. (sigh!) I have become my mother ...

  3. Breathe in, count to ten whilst breathing out saying softly..." i WILL refrain from any kind of physical violance when she comes in, opens the fridge and goes upstairs, WITHOUT EVEN A WORD TO ME..." there...feels better already!? Mxx

  4. Typical teenager! We had similar concerns as one of my step sons was incredibly work shy. It took a lot of managing him but now he has a full time career in photography and is doing incredibly well. He is a writer too and eventually wants to be in films but as he now see's things - he realises photography could get him a job as a photographic location scout as a way into films so he sticks at it as he can see the future - these skills won't be wasted. You have to use a bit of tough love and deny her things she really wants - as long as she is well fed and clothed and has transport costs etc she will soon find that getting a job to earn for her social life and other things is the way to do it. It's a life skill she really needs to learn. Even if she only gets a part time job of say one day a week, she is earning some money and it is the principle of the thing. Uni/college always say don't get a job if you can help it but in the real world that is not always possible and it isn't healthy either. It is her right of passage to learn to earn and feel good about being a litle self sufficient! Good luck!

  5. Thanks for your recent comments :)

    unfortunately I have had to make my blog invite only. If you still want to read my ramblings then please e mail me (address on my profile page) and I will send you an invite x

  6. Oh sweetie - poor you!! It's such a hard one...too much interference and you risk alienating her, not enough and you risk seeing her helpless. Unfortunately as a Mum I think it's your job to interfere just a little bit!!! Sit down with her and have a talk about the future (hey - you can see I don't have teenage children yet)!! But ask her what she wants to do and try to point her in the right direction...maybe even keep an eye out for a part-time job that you can suggest she applies for. 16 is not an easy age - (I remember it well)!!! You think you know so much, but really you're still a baby and you still need help from your Mummy! Hang in there with her honey... xxx

  7. Looking Fab: I'm hoping thats how it will work! So far, so good, but early days yet. Oh I feel for you, 2 of your babies have flown the nest. I'm so not looking forward to that one.

    Selina: Not such a great mum, or I would know what to do! It's good shes telling me where she is, but all she is doing is socialising, it frustrating the hell out of me. Talking to her..Mmmm..Like trying to talk with a grizzly bear! Haha...'Hotel' comment, I think I might have said that one too!

  8. What Happened?: I think I might need to count to 100...Haha..so true, am pleased shes not the only one to do the 'fridge & straight upstairs, without a hello' thing. I always end up trying to talk to her when she's already 2 flights up, it never works! Which just ends up with both of us annoyed.

    MOB: I know, completely typical! But that doesnt stop me from grinding my teeth in frustration. Its not only the lack of job, its also the 7-8hrs a day spent with friends and lack of college work getting done because of that.It's really good to hear your step son managed to sort it out, eventually, well done him! So there is light at the end of the tunnel then..Haha

  9. MT: oops...may be bit late for the alienating option! Already done that one...Thats what bought on the 'hands off' decision. As I said to Selina, sometimes trying to talk to her is like walking on eggshells, with a grumpy grizzly bear! I have to word it correctly or it will end up with us arguing. I agree, she thinks she knows all there is, but she IS still a little girl at heart....thats why its so hard sitting on my 'Hands'.

  10. I am in the same place with my DD. we are working on the 'hands off' thing, but I worry that we could end up being too hands off.
    She does need a bit of a fire lit under her to get even a modicum of studying done, everything revolves around her social life.

  11. Miss B: Oh I'm feeling that 'revolves around her social life' comment! Exactly the same with TD. I know what you mean about the too hands off, it does concern me, alot. I made a bit of a deal (bribe??) with her this weekend, after she asked for £20 to go to the cinema with friends (previously I would've just said yes). 2-3hrs coursework, or NO. At present, no coursework done, & she's just cancelled her evening out! So that didnt work then...Grrrr

  12. Oh gosh, life with the teens seem so much harder than with the little ones. Today my 3 and half called me 'step mom', meaning like cinderela's step mum....
    Now, I'm not an expert on teens, I just remember my teen years and how strictly my parents were (the opposite of hand off) but I think some rules for the social hours seem important. Maybe say 2 days a week and weekends she could stay out with friends but the rest she should come home and do her home work, help etc? Although I'm sure you probably tried everything at this stage.
    Good luck and hopefully things improve for you both.

  13. Wait a minute - she's 16 and she's already in college?? Over here they don't usually start college until 18! Anyway - 16 seems fairly young too me to be "too hands off." I try very hard to make my 15 year old take the responsibility of doing his homework, etc. and accepting the consequences. Then lecture about how the grades he's receiving now will depend on what college he'll get into - blah, blah, blah. Fingers crossed - so far this year it seems to have finally sunk in. Her letting you know where she is, etc. seems responsible (and only considerate). Maybe wait and see what the grades are looking like before intervening.

    Wandering off shaking my head . . . college at 16!

    BTW - wandered over from Chic Mama's place - nice to find someone else with teenagers!

  14. Gigi: Yes, here they finish 'compulsory' education at 16 & move on to 2 or 3 years of college, taking 3 or 4 subject they have 'chosen' and whether they get to take them is dependant on the grades they got at school. TD chose Drama, photography & Art/textiles. She just missed the B grade needed for Drama, so only got to take the other 2, plus retakes of English & Maths. The problem we are having at present is the lack of 'coursework' getting done, as the two courses are almost completely project (sketchbooks) based. She's too busy with her social life. She is also, now, reconsidering the Art course, feels she wants to drop it, so therefore why do the work?! Its extremely frustrating. The 'hands off' is, of course, only to a certain degree, I think it was just my way of 'venting' as a reaction to her accusation of 'not giving her ANY responsility' whilst trying to talk to her about doing said coursework. Teenagers..huh!

  15. Hah! When my son brings up "giving him real responsibility" I bring up mortgage payments; school tuition; etc. Maybe cut off the cash and she'll get a job? Easy to say; harder to do (I sooo know!!). Sometimes I think tough love is the way to go. And then others. . . Whose to know what will work for one kid and won't work for another? Much luck to you - I'll be seeing how successful you are at your situation so I can try your tactics on mine!

  16. I think that mabye you should give me loads of money and i should drop out of college?
    And move into a flat with arriane... not that i'm planning ahead mummy ;)
    Aha... I'm looking for jobs (to let everyone know im not a slob or a slouch... like sam..)
    Mummy, don't be so harsh on yourself, I wouldn't want you to be any different with your parenting skills, honestly, you always have a fair point... But don't cut the money off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WOULDNT BE ABLE TO LIVE. :D
    Anywho... mummy, i love you and i need 1000 pounds to go to crete with harry next year ;)

  17. Anon: (or maybe NOT so anon) Out of the mouths of Babes....xxx