I have reached the stage of life where I now have 3 teenagers living in my home. Now before you offer me your condolences and sign me up for a yoga class, let me explain. I do not subscribe to the myth that all teenagers rebel, have attitude or are generally like living with an angry cat. I think when we talk about teenage rebellion we create foregone conclusions and self fulfilling prophecies that build in excuses for poor behaviors. This does not have to be.
Your job is to train your child to become what God has created them to be. Notice I did not say train them to become what YOU want them to be... no it is to become what God has created them to be. Parents often times will quote Proverbs 22:6 when it comes to parenting. "train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart." Sounds nice doesn't it. But if we look closer we will see some interesting things here that help in our parenting journey.
To train up a child in the way he should go literally means, "according to their natural bend" Think of it this way. If you have ever bought lumber for a project no doubt you ended up with a board or two that had a bend in it. They dont fit where you want them to go without putting some pressure on and with enough pounding and nails, you can straighten them out. That my friends may work for decks, stairs, door frames and the like but it is terrible parenting.
Training up a child according to their natural bend means assessing how they are wired. What is their learning patterns, their communication styles, their personality preferences, their joys, their fears etc. and parenting/ directing with those traits in mind. Rather than bending your child to fit your personality, maybe bending your parenting to fit your child's personality or natural bend is in order.
To learn your child, you must first listen. My number one job when meeting with teens in my office is to help them feel heard. If they do not feel heard, I am just one more adult in their life who doesn't get it or worse yet doesn't care. Turn off the lecture and turn on your ears. What is your child trying to say?? Next, it takes time. Do you make special time for just your and your kid with no agenda other then enjoying their company and getting to know them more? Next dont be afraid to ask for assistance. The best person to ask on how to reach your teen is your teen. Ask them what you do as parent that makes it difficult for your teen to talk to you. More often than not, it is because they feel you lecture rather than listen.
My oldest a few weeks back had a ten o'clock curfew and when her food had not yet arrived at our local Applebees, rather than call and ask for an extension of her curfew, she left without eating. When I asked her why, she said she didn't want to get in trouble for being late. I told her she was so focused on not doing the wrong thing, she forgot to do the right thing. She then said that I am not the easiest person to talk to because I sometimes get terse and dont listen. OUCH.
Yes it stung but I needed to hear it. We made adjustments in our relationship as a result and I would have missed the opportunity to know my child's heart without first needing to listen. Make it your point to know your child's heart and watch what happens to the typical teenage rebellion. Your relationship with them will be anything but typical.
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