I was recently getting my hair cut and having one of those slightly awkward conversations with a stylist who I barely know. We were talking about all the important things like the weather and when the season might change. The conversation shifted to family, and she asked about our kids. As I shared we have a 10thand 8thgrader she said, ”At least you’re almost through middle school, because that sucks!” I can’t tell you how many times in my 25+ years of family ministry that I’ve heard it. It’s not always the exact same words, but it sounds something like this:
“Well, we’re headed into the teenage years and we’re hoping to just survive.”
“I know these next few years are going to be hell, so we’re just holding on.”
“Can we just lock them in their room until they are 25 and let them out then?”
The anticipation of the assumed pain and suffering that is coming is enough to make any parent cringe. Who wants to go into an eight to ten year time period where arguments abound, relationships are strained, and a healthy family life feels like a lost cause? Not me!
Did you know that it doesn’t have to be that way? The teenage years don’t have to be a nightmare for you as a parent. This phase can actually be quite fun and, it can often start with you.
Don’t get me wrong, you will DEFINITELY have your fair share of difficulty along the way as you seek to shape and guide the teenage mind (and attitude). We are living this today. There will be difficult and awkward conversations and times when you will have to make hard decisions. You will have to be the parent and be the guardrails your teenager needs. One of the sad things about this mindset of impending doom and the things parents say around it is that our kids often hear what we say, and they know how we feel about them and where they are in life.
So, the questions are these: Does it have to be that bad? Do we as parents have to stay frustrated and angry through this phase, thus creating a contentious and stressful environment in our home? You know that we have the power to set the tone in our home, even when the strong-willed child or teen is trying to take that power from us. Can we actually forgive and forget, recognizing the fact that the teenage brains we are helping to shape often cannot process the way we wish they could? Our kids do not have the capacity to effectively deal with what comes their way, and part of our job is to help them learn and grow, even when it’s hard. Tone matters, so when you are dealing with your teen, do everything you can to set and keep a positive, encouraging tone.
It really doesn’t have to be that bad! The teenage years can be fun and exciting. We get to be a part of leading our kids during the most critical part of their social, emotional, and spiritual development. Don’t check out. Don’t get mad. Don’t stay frustrated. Be engaged.
When leading both at work and at home, I frequently run back to a poem I heard when I was in college. It helps me know that I am not a victim of my circumstances and I have the power (with God’s help) to make it better. It goes right along with Romans 12:2 which says, “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
I think this idea can really apply to me as a parent of teens and I hope it helps you believe that how you approach the teenage years will have a big influence on how it will go with your kids.
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes”
– Charles Swindoll