“I am the one thing in life I can control” – Aaron Burr, Hamilton
In recent years, culture has seen an increase in “influencers.” With the rise of social media, common people now have access to public platforms that used to be reserved for the famous or wealthy. “Influencers” build followings on their Youtube channels, Instagram stories, or Facebook feeds. Some of them use their platforms to influence thoughts while others are paid to review or pitch products by companies that want to target the influencer’s following.
Influence is defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary as, “the capacity
to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.” While our virtual personas and lives are growing as social media is more integrated with our daily life, our greatest influence is still in our homes with those in which we are relating closely.
As a parent, it is so tempting to live in the delusion that we have control over our teens (or children or young adults or whatever stage of parenting in which you are). The reality is that our teens, like us, are created with a free will. This is even more magnified in some teens who are described “strong-willed” and escalate from asleep to power struggle faster than our Keurig brews a cup of coffee.
Yet, absence of control does not equal absence of influence. While it’s healthy for us as parents to surrender our sense of control- we must not surrender our sense of influence. The capacity to influence teens is built through:
- prioritizing relationship over being right
- promoting healthy choices over coercion
- empowering over perfection
Influence is the daily practice of being attuned and tender to our teen’s emotional needs, taking ownership of our own mistakes to earn respect, showing interest in passions and talents, and staying regulated when life is tense and challenging.
Aaron Burr is right, the only thing in life we can control is ourselves. We can control our investment in earning influence in our teen’s lives.
STACEY RUBERG, MA, LMHC
Stacey is the Clinical Director for Compass Rose Academy. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Huntington University and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Indiana Wesleyan University. Stacey has been a mental health counselor for 15 years and previously worked in residential, community, and academic settings. She believes redemption can be a part of everyone’s story and has a passion for walking alongside people in that process. Stacey and her husband of twenty years, Keith, are both native Midwesterners. He works for IMG Insurance in Marion and also coaches at Indiana Wesleyan University. They have a daughter, Adria, and a son, Gavin. Stacey enjoys camping, photography, and cheering on her kids in various sporting events.