Big changes occur when we have a teenager. Parenting becomes more difficult. We dread or ignore the changes. Flowing with the changes brings delight, wonder, love, and joy in the teen years just as they did in childhood. But we have to be brave and willing to allow these changes. Those changes can be frightening as control slips more and more through our fingers. Let’s look at two.
Trust Instead of Hovering–Let go of control
When kids are small we feel that we have a sense of control because we are with them, or know who is with them, most of the time. We screen play dates and sleep-overs as if they were going to work for the CIA. We trust our schools and families. Now we have a teenager who wants to be with friends more than anyone else. And, Heaven help us, they can drive. So we must find a good balance between our “hovering” and knowing everything to a place of trusting. Hovering means we are trying to control something that’s impossible to control—everything about another person. Hovering is the opposite of what teens need. Letting go of control and trusting both the teen and God is going to keep us on our knees.
Not only will it be helpful to trust more and hover less, there needs to be changes in our approach to school work and chores. If we have been involved in homework, it’s time to wean teens from our help as much as possible. Being in charge of their school work will prepare them for college and/or the real world where they have to keep up their responsibilities without a lot of help. Chores are not a hill to die on if nagging is needed.
Treat as Adults
As teens move into high school and into young adult hood, if they are still at home (or home from college) we are going to begin to treat our son or daughter as we would another adult. Some sharing of household chores is part of being an adult, but how we try to get others to help can cause unnecessary conflict. Here is a story from Shawnda about how she decided not to nag her young adult son about chores. She sensed Jesus telling her to approach Trey a different way. He began to do more voluntarily.
My husband and I are coming close to having an empty nest. We are somewhat getting used to doing all of the cleaning in the house on our own with no army to shout orders to. We planned on cleaning one Saturday morning and Trey had planned to leave early and go do some errands. My normal is to ask him to help with the cleaning, but mid-sentence of my request for help I said to him, “No. We don’t need help; we just need you to do your part before you go.” In my head I thought, “Hmm…that’s a new thought!” He responded with an OK, did clean his room and bathroom, and did some vacuuming.
I did not tell him what is part was
Here’s the kicker though—I did not tell him what his part was! He made his own choices about it and I thanked him for taking the time and for his good effort. This was an amazing milestone for us.
One of the important things I got out of this incident is something big to really grab hold of—being satisfied with even the smallest amount of effort. At another time, not right then, you discuss some of what your ideas are for the teen’s part of cleaning. You must resist the desire to make a list and to make your agenda more important than the relationship! If we continue in the pattern of suggesting everything to Trey, he will never see on his own what needs to be done.
Relating well with our teens is very satisfying and noticing efforts instead of lacks is an excellent way to promote good will. We feel satisfaction as we watch them grow and see the changes. They feel satisfied because they were not nagged or belittled as we help them move through the Adult Stage.
We will look at a couple more changes in Part Two. The book is now available. The title is
Joy-Filled Parenting with Teens: Hopeful Stories for Successful Relationships.