When do you drop the rope with your teenager with the whole college application process? That
is today's question on Tips on Teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and
family therapist who specializes in helping kids, teens, and families live happier lives.
I lead two organizations, the group Private Practice Teen Therapy Center and the nonprofit
organization Child and Teen Counseling, both here in Woodland Hills, California. Every Wednesday
at noon, I come to you live on Facebook to answer your parenting questions. Let's jump into today's
question. My son is starting his senior year in high school. He talks a lot about colleges he
might want to go to, but he's not doing what he needs to do to begin applying. He's not getting
the applications. He's not getting recommendations from teachers and coaches. He's going
to have a big year with APs and such, and I doubt he's going to have time to do anything once school
starts. I'm worried he's not going to get into the colleges
he wants to if he doesn't start working on it. I've had friends tell me I should just drop the rope
but I'm afraid he's going to be disappointed. It's causing a lot of arguments and I don't like
it. I want my son to go to a good college. Where do I draw the line and how do I help him make sure he
does what he needs to do so he can reach his potential? Thank you for the question. I think it's
a very popular question right now. A lot of incoming seniors are gearing up to do the application
process and it's anxiety filled for both our teenagers and for us as parents. I get it. Um, what
I would advise you to do is maybe you should consider dropping the rope. What does that mean?
So, you and your teenager are in this tug -of -war, right? You're pulling, you're pulling. You're
saying, do the applications, research the schools, get your letters for a rec. And he's like,
no! I want to talk to my friends instead. And you're like, ah! You're getting very worried that
he's not going to get into college.
Well, maybe that's what needs to happen. Maybe he needs to not get into college. Now, right now,
I know you're clutching your pearls, but bear with me. Stay with me on this. The more ... sounds
like there's a lot of ... there's this power struggle. And the more you're wanting to do it, the
less he wants to. Now, it sounds like he has some drive, because he's doing APs, and he's looking
into college, and he wants to go to college. He has some ambition, which is great, but I wonder
if how you're intervening and trying to get him do it is getting in the way. So, for example, he
does want to go to college, doesn't want to apply, but every time you say, hey, apply, he doesn't
want to do it. It's kind of like when you want, he may have the impulse to clean his room, he may
want to clean his room, but as soon as you say, clean your room, nope, not doing it, not doing it.
Now, this is a big power struggle. So, what if you pull back? You let him know you're here to support
him, you let him know
he has all the tools, whether it's you, whether it's the college advisor at high school, whether
it's the private college advisor you hired, whatever that is, you know, make sure he has the
tools and say, hey, we're here for you. And make sure he knows the due dates. And maybe that will
light the fire under him to recognize, oh wow, I've got to do this on my own. Because his friends
are all doing it. His friends are all getting ready, right? So maybe that's what he'll need to
get over the hump. And if it doesn't, let's assume, let's take the worst -case scenario. He doesn't
do his applications, doesn't get him in on time, or he does them, but he does them haphazardly.
And he doesn't get into any of the colleges he wants to go to. And He's disappointed. That's a
wonderful experience for him to have at 17 or 18, because it's not life -ending. It's just a setback.
Setbacks are something we all have to go through. It's part of being human. It builds resilience,
builds character, builds wisdom.
Then if he has this setback, and doesn't get into any college he wants to go to, and he has to take
a gap year, or he goes to a community college for a year or two, and then transfers to the college
he wants to go to, maybe that's the wake -up call he needs. Instead of doing it all for him, pushing
it through and pushing him and then he goes to college and doesn't really have that experience
of doing it for himself. I'm not saying he has to himself, but if he's not wanting help, don't
offer help. No one wants help and they don't want help. You know, if you don't want help and someone
keeps trying to shove help down your throat, you don't want the help and you resist it as much
as possible. And I know right now you're thinking, but if he goes to community college, he'll
never be successful in life, which is an absolute lot. Because it really makes no difference
where you go to college. It matters how eager you are, and how you approach college, how motivated
you are, what internships you
go get, and you get that in any college. It's not about where you go to college, it's how you do
college. And also, if he does go to community college for a year or two, no one cares what he does
as lower division GE. It doesn't make a difference. No one cares if you do English 101 Act. It
makes no difference. He's not going to be running for Senate in 30 years and go, oh wait, but you
went to Pierce college for two years. I don't think you're a set of material. It's gonna be irrelevant.
In fact, it probably will be part of his great, you know, pulling himself up by his bootstrap
story. So the only thing he's going to miss is that college experience of being on campus in another
state with a bunch of friends. He'll miss that. And maybe that's okay. Maybe he doesn't have
the maturity to go do that yet. If he doesn't have the maturity to get this process done now. And
it's important for you to be okay with it and let him make his choices. You're not going to be pleased
with all his choices.
No parent is pleased with all their kid's choices. It just doesn't happen. Your parents are
not pleased with all your choices. You will not be pleased with all your kid's choices. My parents
are probably not pleased with all my choices. I will not be pleased with all my kid's choices.
But overall, if I have a sound relationship with them, a trusting relationship where we're
not always fighting, where it's a relationship based on compassion and empathy, I think we'll
do okay. So if, worst case scenario, this kid does not get into the college he wants to go to Or
has to go to the community college and doesn't he falls short of his aims instead of wagging the
finger Put that finger back in your pocket and said put the arm around your shoulder and say hey,
it's okay I'm here for you I understand because you know what it feels like Everyone on earth
has had the experience of falling short on something that was important to them We've all had
setbacks and it's okay to have those as long as we
learn from them It's not from shame, but through love that we learn from those things I know I
sound like a hippie, but it's I really believe in this anyways That is our question for today.
Thank you for sending your questions. We love your questions. We've already got a question
lined up for next week, but keep your questions coming. If you have a question, you can email
us at tipsonteens at teentherapycenter .com, or you can direct message us right here on Facebook.
Love to hear from you. We'll see you again next Wednesday at 12 o 'clock. Again, my name is Kent
Toussaint from Teen Therapy Center and Child and Teen Counseling, and I'll see you next week,
guys. Bye -bye.
Sometimes parents walk fine line deciding when it’s appropriate to let their kids fail. What if this question happens to center around big decisions that will have a huge impact on your child’s life?
“My son is starting his senior year in high school. He talks a lot about colleges he might want to go to, but he’s not doing what he needs to do to begin applying. He’s not getting the applications and he’s not getting recommendations from teachers and coaches. He’s going to have a big year with AP’s and such, and I doubt he’s going to have time to do anything once school starts. I’m worried he’s not going to get into the colleges he wants to if he doesn’t start working on it. I’ve had friends tell me I should just ‘drop the rope,’ but I’m afraid he’s going to be disappointed. It’s causing a lot of arguments, and I don’t like it. I want my son to go to a good college. Where do I draw the line and how do I help him make sure he does what he needs to do so he can reach his potential?”
Tips On Teens is a vlog that our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint, hosts every Wednesday at 12:00pm on Facebook Live. He will be answering parenting questions submitted to us by you to our email at TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. Send us any questions you might have about parenting kids and teens and Kent will be answering them every week!
Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE! Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/
If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.