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The Rubber Band Effect

I have been using the “Rubber Band” analogy for years to explain the “letting go” process AND the idea of teenage rebellion. It seems fitting to wrap this whole “letting go” conversation up with this.

Imagine if you will, a rubber band that exists between you and your child. When they are infants, the rubber band is tight. They move to far away and in you “swoop” to pick them up and move them safely back to you.

In other words, they are never more than arm distance away. As it should be. We all know how quickly babies can encounter danger. It’s a lot of hard work and at times it’s downright exhausting. We ask ourselves, will there ever come a day when I can just sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee without worrying about the stairs, the stove, the dogs, the…whatever.

And then it happens. The “Grace Years”. It’s usually between 1st and 5th grade. The years when you can sit down and read a book, or start a conversation with a friend, because you know the kids will be alright on their own for a while. The constant worry is behind you. You can relax. They made it through infancy and toddler-hood.

The best part of the “Grace Years” is these same kids still snuggle with you and say they love you and ask for your advice and you, me, we are lulled into thinking it will always be like this. And because you are secure in your position in their life, you extend them a little leeway. You treat them a bit more like an adult than a baby. You afford them a few extra privileges and you loosen the reigns on them. You start asking for their opinions and inviting them into some of the decision making. They are easy and fun and they share stuff with you and you come to believe that all is well. To use the rubber band analogy, you have provided them with LOTS of slack. You are comfy and they are comfy. All is right with the world.

But not so fast – Just as everyone is getting comfy with the extended rubber band, your child is suddenly ready to step into adulthood through the doors of adolescence and at that moment every fear you ever feared becomes real and you YANK that kid right back in and SLAM, you are suddenly nose to nose with a kid who is looking at you like – “Hey – What do you think you are doing?”

And your brilliant response might sound something like “Hey – Don’t think you are going anywhere young lady or young man. I’m not ready for all this. Stay close so I can keep you safe. There are dangers, real dangers out there in the big wide world. Stay right here where I can keep my eye on you.” HMMM, where have we heard THAT before. Oh, right, the last time you uttered those words, your child was 8 months old and crawling.”

No wonder kids rebel. If they didn’t have the “rubberband” snapped back at them, maybe they wouldn’t have to pull so hard against it.

As the mother of 5 teens, I know, yes I KNOW just how scary the world can be for kids who are UNPREPARED for it. But our kids ARE prepared. As a parent, you can ensure that YOUR kids are ready to cope with real life situations. When you take the time to do that, you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that they will navigate their way with clear heads and a strong connection to you. Keep the rubber band loose. Show your faith in their abilities. Yes, they will continue to make mistakes, but not nearly as many as you think they might and not all of them will end badly.

Keeping your kids close, too close, is a sure way to drive them away. Try extending the rubber band just a bit every day and before you yank them back, take a second and remember, you prepared them.

If you would like more information on how to prepare your children for adolescence, check out the Parenting On Track™ Home Program.