Friday, August 13, 2010
It's Not Easy Being a Teen!
Though I have not yet reared my own teenagers (my children are 6, 7, and 9 at this point), I have been working closely with teenagers for the past 13 years. One thing that I have learned along the way is that the teen years are some of the most difficult times in a person’s life! I mean, just think about it for a minute. First of all, everything is changing at lightening speed. You are suddenly attending a larger school, having more homework with less help. You are held more accountable for your own decisions. Your hormones are raging and your body is going through changes that you really would rather not talk about. All around you people are telling you that you’re becoming an adult and have to start acting like one, but in the same breath they hold you back because you’re still just a kid. Your emotions are out of control and you haven’t learned to rein them in yet, which causes you to lash out at people you love and you end up with hurting relationships (usually one or both of your parents). In the midst of all of this that’s going on, you still have to work hard at school, get good grades, and figure out what you’re going to do with your life after high school. If you are allowed to date (that’s an entirely different discussion) then you have a whole other realm of problems. Am I saying that we should just accept all this as an excuse for a bad attitude? Should you, as a teen make people put up with you just because it’s a difficult time in your life? Absolutely not! I do, however, think that it is vitally important that parents acknowledge these issues and treat them with the care they deserve. What if we took principles from scripture such as showing grace and mercy, patience, and being slow to anger and applied those principles to our relationships between parent and teen? As a parent, I don’t believe that we can allow disrespect and disobedience from our children. It’s our job to instill the right character traits into our teens, and teach them through scriptures how to grow into God-fearing men and women. However, I do believe that if we would loosen up our parental hold just a tad as they move into their teenage years and then more and more as they go through them, then by the time they are out of high school and headed for college they will be more secure in their independence. We cannot expect them to grow into adulthood overnight, but if we treat them like children until the day they move out of our house then that is exactly what we expect. Children should be guided into adulthood through their teen years, and that means allowing them the independence to make their own choices. It means giving them a loving environment where they can make wrong choices, knowing that they will be loved and picked back up. It is so much better to let them make mistakes when they are home, then to control them for 18 years and let them make the mistakes when they’re out on their own with no one to pick them back up. The flip side of my observation is true as well. It’s not easy being a parent of a teen. I always encourage the teenagers that I work with to be understanding of their parents. I remind them that they are commanded by God to honor and obey their parents, even if they feel that they are being unfair. I try to explain to them how difficult it is to be a parent, especially of a teenager. Your parents love you and only want what’s best for you. Seemingly overnight they went from having a happy bundle of joy to having this moody, usually unpleasant, tyrant slumming around the house. Where you used to talk to your parents about everything under the sun, now they are lucky to get a few grunts from you. Again, I go back to principles in scripture. Love one another as you love yourself, honor your mother and father, be long-suffering, always forgiving, showing kindness to each other. If we applied these things to our parent/teen relationships just think of how much peace there would be in the home! If you are a teen or a parent of a teen, and things at home seem to be unbearable then stop everything you are doing and sit down with your teen to straighten things out. Talk to each other with mutual respect, as two adults, and work out your differences. Show forgiveness to one another, accept each other in understanding of where you are at, and allow some independence with clear boundaries. Guide your teen into adulthood and see how things at home change. Just don’t expect them to always make the right choice. If they fall, lay out clear disciplines, reality discipline works best, and then move on from it giving the same independence as before. I believe with all my heart that this makes a difference. I am not naive enough to think that everything will be pie in the sky, but I am positive that life at home will at least be a little more peaceful.