As I watched a morning talk show while doing my workout one particular day, the host’s seventeen-year-old daughter was a guest on the cooking segment. As the young girl walked on the set, her mother’s face and demeanor changed noticeably. Almost instantly, she looked older. Gone was the jovial, confident talk show host that everyone usually saw. I could see the fear in her eyes. I could hear the hesitation in her voice. And I could feel the tension between them. As the familiar dance played out in front of me, it hit me. We all struggle with raising our teenagers.
With my daughters, I often feel like I have to walk on eggshells. While once I was confident, I now experience fear and trepidation. It’s a whole new ballgame with teenagers. And it requires a completely different type of parenting. Regardless of how well you have parented in the past, parenting a teenager can really throw you for a loop.
Teens often don’t know what they think or feel because on an almost daily basis, they are becoming a different person. An adolescent’s values, opinions, and perceptions are fluid and unpredictable. —John Townsend, Boundaries with Teens
I was caught off guard recently when my daughter informed me that I analyzed things too much and was too involved in my kids’ business. Both she and her sister agreed. “You don’t have to be home everyday when I get home from school, sometimes I don’t want to talk. I want to be able to be quiet without explaining myself. Sometimes I want to be alone,” she said.
So, I told myself to back off and give her some space. However, the next day, she came home and verbally vomited on me for forty-five minutes about every aspect of her day, the drama of her friends, and every thought and feeling she had since she left the house that morning. It’s hard to keep up with her. What does she want from mom today? I often wonder.
At some point in adolescence, teens change into someone different. Something may work one day, and raise hell the next. In response, we, as parents, may feel vulnerable.
When our kids become fourteen or fifteen, we can no longer hide behind the guise of being “the parent.” They start relating to us as people. It is healthy to give them a glimpse of mom and dad as human beings. It is natural and normal to give them a peak behind the curtain. However, it is not unusual for teens to be highly critical of their parents, which can be hard to take.
When our kids entered adolescence, we became vulnerable at a deeper level. We opened up, not only about parenting issues, but about our personal struggles too. —John Townsend, Boundaries with Teens
Anyone who has had teenagers knows they believe they are adults, and therefore, no longer need input from you. They may look like adults, but mentally and emotionally, they are far from it. It boils down to this: they don’t know what they don’t know. And their brains are not fully formed until their mid-twenties. But don’t tell that to your teen! I only made that mistake once.
Biologically, a lot is going on inside the minds and bodies of teenagers. While once their thinking was purely black and white, they are now dipping their toes in the waters of abstract thinking. They can be up and down and all over the place. And often they don’t know why they think or feel the way they do. As parents, we just need to ride the wave.
When parents consistently provide teens with warmth and structure, teens become less extreme, impulsive, and moody. In other words they begin to grow up inside. —John Townsend, Boundaries with Teens
Our goal in most of the interactions with our teens needs to be connection and relationship rather than fixing and correcting. It’s not easy being a teenager. We must listen to them and empathize. Offering empathy and compassion in their mood swings allows them to feel safe.
Parenting teenagers is tricky. It is coming together and moving apart. It is aggressive and firm, yet soft and loving. And playful at times. It is a dance to the song of adolescence.
The common language is always love. Love keeps the connection alive no matter how awkward the relationship with our teens may seem. God will give us the patience and wisdom we need. And God promises to always be with us. We can rest knowing He can make our teenagers into something beautiful.
Pre-order Kim’s new book, Pouring In, Tipping the Scales in Favor of a Personal, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in Your Kids coming out February/March 2018.
Pouring In, Tipping the Scales in Favor of a Personal, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in Your Kids
I’ve seen it in your eyes. Christian parents have been watching their teens turn away from the faith for decades, and you fear your kids will do the same. It is never too late to tip the scales in favor of your kids developing a personal, passionate, and permanent faith in Jesus Christ.