Summary: Parenting teens.
Jesse is the envy of all the young men in his senior class; he is tall, handsome and naturally gets good grades. He lettered in three varsity sports and still seems to have time to be the president of his church youth group and help out at the local nursing home. He sings first tenor in the a cappella choir and the saxophone comes so naturally to him that he won first place in the school talent show. His deep commitment to Christ pleases his parents and his pastor and all dream of a bright future for his life. As his senior year of high school ends, he is nominated and recommended for almost every end-of-the-year school award as well as several athletic and academic scholarships.
You probably are asking, “Where is this kid so I can introduce him to my daughter or find out from his parents what they did?” Sorry -- he doesn’t exist. He is a figment of my sermon-writing imagination. But, there is not a parent in the world who has not dreamed of similar hopes for their son or daughter. Many dreams go well beyond high school days and include the podium of an Olympic event, the platform of the presidency, the pedestal of some fortune 500 company or even the pulpit of a leading church or ministry in America.
Keep dreaming. Extend your faith for your child. Announce a prophetic future that is worthy of our best efforts. Daily, parents are rocking their kids to sleep praying, wondering and dreaming of what they will become. We know that, in reality, these Jesse’s are few and far between, if they even exist at all. Most parents end up settling for far less then what they had hoped for. In his book, Hide and Seek, author James Dobson provides an honest assessment of what all too often happens with our kids:
The vast majority of our children are not dazzlingly brilliant, extremely witty, highly coordinated, tremendously talented, or universally popular! They are just plain kids with oversized needs to be loved and accepted as they are. (1)
I can’t think of any endeavor in life that receives more advice than parenting. Everyone seems to be an expert. Yet one item still puzzles me. We were deep into parenting with four kids, all of them pre-teens. While our kids were still pre-adolescents, grim-faced parents would almost always smile at us and say, “enjoy it while you can, it won’t last – not for long.” As if announcing the coming of some great natural disaster, each naysayer would -- in all seriousness -- shake their head, caution us of impending doom and then tell us their war stories. It was as if they had survived some horrible global disaster. I guess they felt it was their mission to caution us of the difficult days ahead. What were those difficult and disastrous days? ADOLESCENCE!
If I can offer some advice as we launch into this topic I call “Surviving the Challenging and Changing Teen Years,” let me suggest these two-
· You cannot parent the way you did when your teens were little.
If we are aware at all during these years we will soon
learn that our children’s adolescent years are markedly different than their childhood years. If we want a home filled with peace and harmony (as well as teenagers who are well adjusted) then we as parents must be willing to change. We must change our parenting approach and -- equally important – we must change ourselves!
· Never forget this insight: rigidity is lethal.
This leads me to my second piece of advice. Let me say it
even stronger: little kids can accept rigidity – in fact it produces security for them. Not so with teenagers; they recoil virtually every time. Parents who refuse to be flexible and expect teenagers to respond as they did when they were children are guaranteeing that their child will rebel. Those parents who give wiggle room – holding their adolescents loosely -- are those who truly are secure and mature.
These parents are willing to:
· give some room in lieu of sending them to their room,
· release control instead of clutching too tightly,
· offer humor rather than hunkering down,
· convey forgiveness instead of fakery,
· listen rather than lecture.
Let’s be honest – to parents, change is threatening. Upsetting the status quo is fear-inducing. The reason that parents need to change is because our children are changing. They are becoming adults. The years between 10 and 19 are nothing but change. The journey has begun and believe me no resistance will stop what is about to the happen in the home and the heart.
He is called “male:” A child with no cares goes to sleep with teddy bears and – next thing you know, wakes up with a driver’s license. Playing catch with dad has given way to hanging out with his friends at the pizza joint. “Hey dad, could you drop me off a little ways from school?” “Aw, Dad -- kissing is old school. Never in front of my buds.” His voice is changing and his hormones raging. The sign over the club house door used to read, “No girls allowed.” Now he notices and blushes at their attention. Soon he will exchange the baseball diamond for a diamond ring. Gone are the nights that he slipped into bed with mom and dad because of a bad dream, a high fever, or just a longing to be loved. He is called “male.”