Slaying the Techno-Beast at Home

Most kids today have had their hands on a gadget before they ever formed their first word. Technology is so integrated into their lives, that few if any can even imagine a world without it. If we are perfectly honest, we probably played a major role in feeding our children’s passion for all things media. Brilliant marketing strategies compelled us to purchase digital products that bore the names of geniuses or that contained convincing words like “leap” in them. We were sure that these “educational” toys could somehow give our kid an edge socially, academically or developmentally. We marveled at the way they were lulled and mesmerized by them and thought surely something wonderful was happening in their mind.

By the time our little tots become teens, however, many of us started to view technology a bit differently. Now, the smartphones, tablets, game systems and computers seem more like a beast threatening to devour us all. We try hard to tame this behemoth by setting guidelines, limits and by forcing them to endure life without a gadget in their hand every once in a while. Now, we find ourselves hoping and praying that their brain won’t be permanently harmed by the constant staring, scrolling, and screening.

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This digital age and all that comes with it has become a regular conversation among parents of pre-teens and teens. We consult with one another to see how others are dealing with it all. “When should he get a smartphone?” “How long is too long in front of a screen?” “What kind of wifi filters do you use?” These are just a few of the questions I am frequently asked. Parents are worried, confused and tired of the daily disputes that often arise when limits or guidelines are set and enforced. Kids want more. And, moms and dads dream about the days when none of this existed at all.

Even though I have often felt the urge to toss every computer, gaming system, tablet and smartphone in the trash to instantly get rid of these, I know that in many ways we have greatly benefitted from technology. Eradicating it doesn’t really address the bigger problem. When we get mad or lose our temper because our kids seem more disobedient or distracted, we must ask ourselves what is really going on. Why are we so agitated? Could it be that the daily dilemmas remind us that our deeper longing to feel more connected with one another is not being satisfied? Or, perhaps, these battles indicate our great desire for order, peace and a bit of predictability at home. Connection and order are essential and both point toward part of God’s plan for man.

Quite often, our teen’s overdependence upon technology stems from their thirst to feel more connected or included. Because God created us for relationships, our teens desperately want to learn how to relate to one another. They long for authentic, life-giving relationships where they can be heard as they discuss, disagree and work through conflicts.

Even though social media seems to offer a forum for this, more than ever, teens seem to be struggling to create deeper connections and to maintain order and harmony. Nonetheless, the systems or devices themselves are not the problem. Our willingness to let these interfere with our ability to create committed relationships with one another seems to be the bigger problem. Our kids rely on us to teach them how to communicate, resolve conflict, and work toward peace. They need their moms and dads to show how messy and magnificent human relationships can be. Their devices won’t offer them this model nor will most of their peers. Like many things, our homes will become a place of connection and peace to the extent that we model this.

Become aware of how much you are pulling out your smartphone, staring at your tablet or tuning into a screen instead of chatting with your spouse, child or friend. When there is discord, work hard to stay tuned in and open up the lines of communication to resolve conflicts. Slay the beast by pursuing your teen, by creating order and predictability through the use of guidelines and limits, and by being more intentional about being fully present whenever you are interacting with friends and family. And last, but certainly not least, ask God to give you wisdom, insight and direction so that you can defeat the disconnection and discord that is all too often blamed on the products and platforms of the digital age.

A One Word Resolution Solution.

Hello there! It has been a long time since I’ve posted on my blog! Happy New Year! Happy January! As you know, this first month of the year offers us the opportunity to make a resolution, to start over by setting a few goals and looking ahead. By now, you either were gung ho, made a resolution and are hopefully right on track. Or, maybe you’re like me. Resolutions stress you out and overwhelm you as you recognize just how many areas of your life need a little help. Making healthier decisions. Working harder at my marriage. Being kinder to my kids, especially when they’re in trouble or I am just plain grumpy.  Maybe, just smiling more. Staying more focused and disciplined in my walk with God. I could go on and on.

Way back when, I tried to set a few resolutions each January. Sadly,  it seemed that after just a few days or weeks, my best intentions went by the wayside. A string around my finger, Post-It notes, phone reminders, alarms, or even giant signs pasted on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator didn’t seem to help at all. These little devices that are supposed to help us remember, didn’t really work for me and never really helped with the motivation factor.  So, instead of feeling guilty about my inability to remain committed, I avoided making resolutions altogether.

A few years ago, however, I was introduced to a book called My One Word. The author, Mike Ashcraft, is a pastor in Wilmington, NC who actually agrees that making a list of resolutions isn’t always the best way to make lasting changes. Instead, he invites his congregation to “choose one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year.” Each January they each pick a word and tie it to a Scripture that will help them cling to a biblical truth or promise related to the area where a transformation is desired.

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Inspired by this new twist on New Year’s commitments, I decided to do this two years ago. In 2013, my word was “believe”. After God led me to a series of challenges, I wanted to finish the year steadily believing that He was at work even if I could not see what He was doing. This past year, I chose the word “today”.  Since my second teen would be entering his Senior year in high school, I wanted remain fully present and focus on what God had for me each day. For both words I chose a relevant scripture and put it on a bookmark in my Bible. I also made something artistic that depicted the word and displayed it somewhere in my home. After two years of picking a word instead of a resolution, I continue to be amazed at how God used just one word combined with His word to continually refine me throughout the year. Sometimes someone would say it at just the right time, even though they had no idea that it was “my” word.  Other times, I would heard “my” word on the radio, in a sermon or in a song. Throughout the year, God continually used the word in creative ways to remind me of the desire I had laid before him in January.

As I begin this year, I decided to alter this tradition a little by picking a second word that specifically applies to my relationship with my teenagers. I challenge you to join me in doing this as well. Consider selecting a word and then sharing it with your teens or an accountability partner to let them know what you are asking the Lord to form in your relationship with them this year.  Remember to find a Scripture that is connected to the word that will help you lean on Him as He molds you and shapes you this year. To inspire you to think about what you might like to do differently in your relationship with your teen, here are a few possibilities: Delight, Pursue, Wait, Listen, Love, Engage, Encourage, Mercy, Watch, or Discern.

So,if you haven’t made a resolution yet, or if you’re like me and you’ve already failed to keep the one you made, try this for a change! For more ideas you might want to check out the book or the website www.myoneword.com. Both offer many ideas to help you use this simple little tool to bring about lasting change in your life. Ask God to lead you to just the right word and expect Him to use this word as a powerful reminder throughout the year. After you pick out a Scripture associated with your word, write the word and the verse down and post it where you will regularly see it. Most of all, make sure you spend time in His word so that He can refine you and mold you into the parent that He has called you to be for your teen. Regardless of what happens in the year ahead, we can take heart in the fact that our faithful God is always at work in the life of a mom who is yielded to Him.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.   Isaiah 64:8

 

 

CALLING ALL MOMS OF YOUNG KIDS: Here’s the truth about parenting teens.

Years before many parents are even close to raising a teenager, it seems that many already dread the day when their preschooler becomes a high schooler.  They’ve heard the frequent complaints and concerns about raising teenagers.  They’ve endured the countless admonitions that come from distressed or disgruntled parents. “Enjoy them now,” they say with gloom in their voice. “Everything goes downhill once they hit those teen years.”  These frightened parents of younger children just nod their heads, look at the sweet faces of their children and try hard to soak in these good years since what lies around the corner doesn’t sound too wonderful.

Well, I have made it around that bend and am now a mom to three teenagers (ages 19, 17 and 14). While parenting teenagers has certainly come with its ups and downs, I am on a mission to tell every young mom about the joys of raising teenagers. Even though I have genuinely enjoyed every stage of my kids’ development, I have to say that this season is undoubtedly my favorite. Here are my top ten reasons why raising teenagers is far more awesome than awful:

  1. You will laugh a lot, if you let yourself. If your kid is funny now, just wait. Our silly son did and said the funniest things when he was a little guy. At 17, he is just plain hilarious. Even though he can cross a line at times while displaying his wit, I love the everyday laughter he brings into our home.
  2. You get to see their gifts and talents blossom like never before. When they’re little you wonder what they’ll be like when they’re older. When they’re older, you look back and trace their gifts and talents back to the early days when you had no idea that this would flourish from that.
  3. You will see independence and strength arise when you least expect it. You will be so amazed at their ability to stand alone when challenges appear. You will be so proud of the strength and courage that blooms as they grow.
  4. You will love having deeper, thought provoking conversations. Your teen’s newfound abilities to question, debate, and discuss just about anything under the sun will delight you and drive you crazy as well. Some might tell you this is a negative trait. But, I am here to tell you that heated discussions can be a wonderful opportunity to connect with your teen as you make room for them to find their voice.
  5. You will see glimpses of who they will be as a man, woman, husband, wife, father and mother. While these may make you sad at times, they will also motivate you to equip them for what lies ahead. These often encourage me and remind me that they will be just fine.
  6. You will make wonderful memories doing things everyone enjoys. When we were finally able to play games and sports and do outdoor activities that my husband and I love, the competition and the fun went through the roof. Beating our kids was sickeningly satisfying. And, when they beat us? Well, let’s just say, the fun multiplied for them too.
  7. You will love their unfiltered, unbridled perspective on life. Even though their opinions might come flying out of their mouth at the wrong time, a teen’s honest take on things can be a breath of fresh air in a world where truth seems to be a disappearing commodity. Not only that, you may need to hear their honest take on you at times.
  8. You definitely won’t get bored. Teenagers are passionate and exuberant about almost everything and anything They might not always be fervent about the things you want them to be impassioned by, but their zeal will bring an energy into your home that you will need as yours runs dry.
  9. You get to live with a dreamer. Your teen’s dreams about their future will inspire you to begin re-imagining what yours will be like as well. Our teenagers can teach us how to take risks and trust God as we lean on Him to start writing the next chapter.

 

And, the #1 reason is…

You have the privilege of knowing that you faithfully walked beside your kid and cheered them on as they complete the last stretch of childhood and cross over into adulthood. Even though I still ache at the memory of my oldest packing up to go to college, I also feel grateful that I got to walk beside her every stretch of the way.

Parents of young kids, enjoy the season you are in and look forward with anticipation to the coming years when you will be raising a teen. And, you parents of tweens and teens, know that even in the midst of the hardest days, you are smack in the middle of one of the most awesome and awe-filled seasons of parenting. Soak it in and enjoy the gifts that God has to offer you in the home stretch.

Paying Attention to Our Words

This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of Sophie Magazine. 

One of the most powerful resources we have as parents are our words. What flows from our mouths has the power to build up and encourage or tear down and dishearten. Many great books have been written on this topic. A favorite of mine is How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish. In it the authors use humor and helpful illustrations to give the reader with skills and insight to motivate kids with words. Another favorite is the Bible. Throughout God’s word we are repeatedly offered nuggets of wisdom to help us guide our word choice. Some of the most profound are found in the book of Proverbs.

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The words ofthe reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.Pr. 12:18

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Pr. 15:4

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Pr. 29:20

The gist of these verses is that words have great power. The wise parent should learn to be intentional and prudent in speech.

Believe it or not, even those words that are hidden in our heads carry great influence. These are the phrases that we instantly form as we make observations throughout our day. They shape how we feel and then respond to what we see. In my work as a counselor, these secret perspectives offer a critical insight about the paradigm from which a person may be operating.  For example, one parent might say, “I’m afraid my daughter is emotionally sinking from all of the stressors she is facing.” While another parent may say, “I have noticed that my teen daughter is lacking some key coping skills to manage her stress,” about a similar situation. The difference may seem subtle and unimportant but the variance in word choice is quite significant. The first parent’s fear may actually drive the way they helps their daughter address the problem. The second’s parent simple observation will also affect the tone and manner in which they come alongside their teen. Even though the differences may seem subtle or overly analytical, when we are addressing problems, a slight distance like this can significantly impact the hope we feel and the solutions we generate as we help ourselves and our teens.

Of course, both our thoughts (observations) and feelings have enormous value.  But when we pay more attention to the fear we have, we actually engage a completely different portion of our brain. Because fear is experienced in our primitive brain, fear-based responses to situations tend to lead to one of two extreme reactions. The first is a tendency to be more passive, which may lead us to withdraw, ignore, or even to create a barrier of protection between the problem and our teen. We may pull away from actually addressing the problem, hoping it will all disappear. The second is a tendency to hold a more aggressive stance. This may cause us to become threatening or overly controlling as we strive to control the situation and the outcome. Both of these fear based responses provoke a roller coaster of emotions, especially if we shift from one extreme to the other.

When we choose to pay attention to what is required instead of focusing on our fears deep fears, however, a completely different part of our brain is activated. This region is known as the cortex and it operates very differently than our more primitive and protective portion of our brain. When we operate from this region we are more able to generate the most rational, creative and thoughtful responses to the difficulties we face as parents. Not only that, it is as we use our cortex that we are able to fix our eyes on Christ. Utilizing His help and our best brain, we will find it much easier to minimize fear and maximize our hope. Above all, we provide our teens with a godly example of stress management.

Words matter.  So, pay attention to what is coming out of your mouth. The way we audibly or mentally combine them greatly impacts how we address the dilemmas we and our kids face each day. I challenge you to notice your first response to a predicament you may be in. If you are reacting or coping out of fear adjust your posture to a more hope filled, Christ centered observation. You will be amazed at how this slight adjustment can positively impact how you and your teenager individually and collectively move through the next problem that arises.

Entitlement: Keeping teens from becoming Veruca

Do you remember Veruca Salt in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? She was the spoiled, little rich girl that demanded that her father buy her the goose that lays chocolate eggs. When Wonka tells him that he cannot have it, Veruca begins to whine and sing a song about her many other demands. Her father passively smiles and says, “Anything you say dear.” I remember watching this movie many times as a young child and always being repelled by Varuca’s self-centered attitude.  Like other viewers, I was drawn to Charlie Bucket whose humble manner softens Mr Wonka and compels him to select him as the company’s CEO. Unlike Veruca, who perfectly portrayed entitlement, young Charlie depicted rare character traits like sincerity, humility and honesty.  Unfortunately, over 40 years after this movie was released, it appears we have millions of Verucas in our midst and a severe shortage of Charlies.

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Image courtesy of debspoons/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

From the toddler screaming at the big-box store to the teen storming away from mom when she said ‘no’ to another purchase to the group of kids who laugh and mock their friend for having an “old fashioned” cell phone. Entitled kids abound these days!  This problem is a big one to combat. Everywhere our teens go alluring ads compete for their attention. These images whisper and sometimes even shout, “You need me, you must have me, you will be delighted by me.” Because they are more digitally connected than any other generation before them, they are constantly aware of the things that other people around the globe possess. If they so much as search for that item on the internet then almost instantly, they will see ads appear on the sidebar of their social media sites or search engine results. Even if a parent tries hard to keep their kids from being entitled by placing reasonable limits on purchases, many admit that they must deal with the guilt that rises up when they see their friend’s kids with a new cellphone, game system, laptop or latest gadget. There is pressure from all sides to cave in to this entitlement beast and buy into the delusion that we or our kids ought to have what we want when we want it.

Over the years I have come across articles and books that attempt to address this massive problem in today’s youth.  There are many helpful suggestions out there that include things like delaying or denying instant gratification, practicing gratitude as a family, serving the homeless or underprivileged populations in your community together or even sending your teens on short term missions overseas. While these are all very important and helpful strategies, none of these really nips at the birthplace of entitlement. What will really determine whether  our kids resemble Veruca or Charlie will depend most on what they believe about who they are and who God is. These beliefs will powerfully impact both their internal dialogue and their external focus.

Entitlement germinates from a teen’s belief that they are utterly good and worthy. This belief perpetuates the idea that they are capable and should be in control of all things. While this may seem like a great message to send our kids, it is a humanistic message and quite contrary to Scripture.  God, our Maker, says we are depraved and undeserving because of our sinful nature. (Rom 3:9-18, Eph 2:1-5). This truth reminds our teens that He alone is worthy to be provident over all things.  Only in Christ are we considered righteous and justified.  And, only as we recognize that all things come from His hand will we humbly recognize our utter dependence on God and His provision. (I Chron. 29:11, Ps. 103:19, James 1:17)

A teen’s core beliefs impact their internal dialogue.

The voice of entitlement says,

“You deserve…”  or “They owe you…” or “Go get what you want/need.”

The voice of humility and dependence upon God says,

You don’t deserve…”  or “God owes me nothing”or “God will graciously provide you with just what you need…”

 A teen’s internal dialogue impacts their focus.

Teens who buy into the core beliefs of entitlement focus on their personal happiness, contentment, position and what they can receive.  On the contrary, teens who believe that every good thing comes from God alone find their contentment in Him as they gratefully receive and share the blessings He lovingly chooses to bestow upon them.  Because of this, they will defer praise to the only One who deserves glory.

So, what can a parent do to influence your teen to grow into an adult who demonstrates godly humility instead of earthly entitlement?

Reinforce godly principles by first examining your own beliefs. Ask God to reveal your inner thoughts and focus.

Model a life of humility by your response to blessings and in your decisions to make purchases.

Challenge your teen’s core beliefs through probing questions and regular discussions. Help them see the emptiness that comes from an entitled way of life.

Express gratitude to the One who gave it to you in the first place. Isn’t it so refreshing when you encounter a young person who acts more like Charlie than Veruca? Together, let’s commit to helping our teens move away from the lure of entitlement that ultimately robs them of knowing where true contentment lies.

 

Dealing with Our Weary Heart in the Midst of Unmet Expectations

The picture you see before you looks radically different from the image that was hung in your mental museum.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out.  What you see barely resembles the beautiful canvas you meticulously planned out. The prayers and pleas begin. Please God. Change the scenery…the person…the situation…my heart.  Hope fades as the bridge connecting the gap from where you are to where you long to be grows wider and longer and steeper. Regroup. Reframe.  Remember. He  is able. Even, when you are not.

Nonetheless, sorrow, disappointment, and perhaps, even despair quietly creep in to the innermost cavities of your heart.  These emotions bring exhaustion and weariness along with them.  The burden grows heavier.  You’ve been here before and were not planning on returning to this place.  Yet, somehow the path brought you back here.  The unmet expectations once again form a weight you never thought you’d have to carry again.

Your spouse isn’t who you  thought they were.

Raising kids no longer brings joy or satisfaction to your life.

The path you dreamed and desired so deeply is so different from the path you are on.

The mundane tasks of life crowd away the hope that things will ever change.

This unwanted stone is your reality.  But, oh how I know you long for something else.  Our hearts feels the weight of it all. Our mind replays, recreates, reimagines. Our body begins to drag.  No one wants this heaviness. What will you do with the weight that accompanies this place? Do you hear the voices that rise up from the pack that you are carrying?  The deceptive one lures you to protect your heart, to shield it from feeling any of this?  It promises relief by rejecting what you feel. It warns that these emotions will cripple you and cause your soul to crumble? This voice speaks a message that provokes fear or shame or guilt to swirl within you as you wrestle with how to deal with your reality and the uncomfortable emotions that continue to rise. The more you engage with this dialogue the more you begin to believe that Christians, those who really trust in the Lord, aren’t supposed to be sad and weary.  The voice will keep sounding until you continue to suppress the emotions and form a smile on the outside.  Your heart will begin to hide and sink and disappear.  A dissonance slowly occurs. The outside no longer reflects the agony on the inside.  A war is being waged.  If you continue to give in to this voice, more of you will slip away as you frantically place your energy in protecting the inside and painting the outside.

Amidst the noise that accompanies all this construction, a gentle whisper persistently beckons you to a land where the heart can freely feel and the mind can be renewed.  You want to believe that this hopeful place exists.  Could it be as real as the place you are in?  You try to imagine this but fear strikes you and reminds you that more desire can mean more death. The invitation to this place of authenticity relentlessly surrounds you.  Could this be from God, the lover of your soul?  He continues to invite you to sit and wish and wail on one side of the gap while He sits with you with His eyes able to see the other side.  In the midst of the deepest disappointment, our Great God dares us to lean on Him, to trust Him, to rest in Him.  He offers His promises to us as we lay down our expectations, our fears, our facades and fix our eyes solely on Him. The walls inside begin to crumble in this resting place and our captive heart is set free.  Here we can glimpse the Father’s heart for us.  As we remain here, we are gently coaxed to courageously expect more, dream more, desire more…from Him alone. His promises are enough. He is able.

Living with expectations, with hopes and dreams and desires for our lives can be so difficult at times.  Over and over again, we confront the todays that we could not possibly foresee yesterday. What will you do with the pain that resounds in your heart?  Where will your emotions propel you?  A place of striving, of concocting, of building facades?  Or a place of rest and renewal where your heart is known and loved and set free?

May all that you feel propel you to His feet, to experience His gift of grace, of rest, of renewed hope. In this place alone,you will surely experience rest for your soul.

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

 

Creating Conversations with Teens: Personal Observations and Insights

Two weeks ago I shared a challenge I had given myself.  Recognizing that much of my conversations with my own teens revolved around COMMANDS, CRITICISMS OR CORRECTIONS, I decided I needed to be more intentional to create conversations centered upon creating a richer CONNECTION.   I invited my readers to join in this challenge to increase our efforts to create deeper conversations with our teens. Whether you were able to join me or not, I would love to hear about your triumphs as well as your struggles in this area.  And if you have any great ideas or insights , please comment on this blog.  My own observations and insights are listed below.

Before I say anything, I must say that God sure does have a sense of humor.   Because of winter weather, school was released early one day. The next two days were snow days and the final day of the week, they reported to school on a delay. The Lord definitely increased the amount of time I had to work on this area with my teens!  And while I absolutely love snow days, I am not a fan of the messiness that seems to be associated with these days in our home.  I think you know what I mean- wet snow pants, boots, jackets and gloves all over the place; empty cups, plates and snack wrappers; socks, blankets and pillows left in the family room from after they lolligagged on the couch for hours.   While their time at home was indeed a blessing, there were definitely moments where it was much HARDER for me to minimize the three C’s in conversations with my kids in order to increase the connection!  Throughout the last two weeks, however, I did learn a bit about what interfered and what added to my ability to remain intentional in our dialogues with each other.

Here are a few things that hampered my willingness/ability to focus on connecting conversations.

Amnesia: Simply put, I forgot what I was trying to do.  When this challenge was not on the forefront of my mind, I sadly found myself commanding, directing, correcting or even criticizing.  While my goal was not to completely avoid directive interactions, if I wasn’t consciously thinking about my desire to be intentional in my conversations, I often failed to create deeper dialogue.  Change is hard and it’s easy to forget about our goals.

Agenda/Activities: My agenda, my wishes, my needs.  These all trumped my ability to have deeper conversations.  Rushing from one activity to the next, wanting/needing something for myself and getting caught up in the busyness of my day kept my eyes and heart turned inward instead of outward.

Attitude:  Just like our teens, our own emotional state can interfere with our desire to discover what is going on in the heart and mind of our kids.  Exhaustion, anxiety, and irritability often made it difficult to move beyond the three C’s.  If I was not in the word daily and talking with the Lord on a regular basis, oh how I could become a big grump.  Lord, how I need you.

Despite the problems that hampered my ability to remain intentional, there were some things I noticed that really aided me in my challenge to be more intentional.  Perhaps, they will spur you on in your efforts.

Continual Prayer/ Surrender:  Constantly praying, confessing and leaning into the Lord helped me to stay present, focused and committed to creating a deeper conversation.  Thankfully, when I am weak, He is strong!

Communicating with a Confidant: Sharing this challenge with my husband as well as a friend helped me to work harder at minimizing my commando language and maximize my caring words.  God bolsters us up as our friends spur us on.

Connecting with their Friends: This may seem odd, but when my teens had friends in our home, it seemed easier to create dialogue with all of them.  The conversation with friends in the kitchen or family room seemed to offer me a bridge to my kids’ hearts. Even after their friends left, sweet conversations often continued.

Creating an Atmosphere: Snow days most certainly helped me in this regard.  A fire, bowls of chili, hot cups of cocoa, and delectable delights all seemed to foster connections in our homes.  With two teen boys at home, I was repeatedly reminded that good food or lots of food surely is a way to a young man’s heart!

Calling on their Expertise: I am a techno-dummy and my teens are techno-savvy.  When I asked my boys to help me out with anything to do with media or technology, they jumped in and longed to show me all that they knew.  This jump started conversation about their interests and passions.  I now have a Sound Cloud account and can tell you about “all the cool things you can find on there!”

Whether my observations and insights help you or not, remember that Jesus offers us the perfect example of selflessly interacting with others.  Read the Bible and study His example.  And, remember with Christ in us, we have the ability to deeply love and connect with our teens as well.   Romans 12:1 says,  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.”  I think it is awesome when we consider that listening and loving our teens well as a “spiritual act of worship”.   As you consider being intentional in your conversation with your teens, I pray that you will find streams of living water flowing out of you as you ask Him to help you move toward a healthier connection with your teen.

REMEMBER, share your thoughts by clicking the comment icon above.  We would ALL love to hear from you!

“Mom, you know I can hear you.”

Recently, my husband and I were talking and enjoying some alone time before dinner.  He was updating me on the events of his day and I was briefing him about the highlights of my day at home.  In the midst of my rather uneventful summary, I mentioned the name of one of our kids along with something amusing he’d done earlier in the day.  Immediately, we both heard “Mom, you know I can hear you,” coming from the next room over.  Although he was supposedly listening to music in the study, he was still able to hear what I had said about him.

I am always amazed by this.  Why is it that when I want my kids to fully listen to what I have to say, they often seem to tune me out?  And when I am not speaking to them at all, but happen to mention their name, they hear every single word?

This frequent scenario has had me wonder what lies behind our teen’s ability to listen incredibly well at one moment and totally tune people out at other times.  I did a little googling to see if there are studies about this phenomenon.   While I could not find any hard research, I repeatedly came across the oft repeated quote below from Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Remember that a person’s name to that person is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

Although I cannot prove or disprove whether these words are always true,  I do know that my own kids don’t always act like their name is a sweet sound to their ears. 

Our kids hear their names many times throughout the day.  Unfortunately, many of the phrases or sentences that contain their name are often filled with commands, criticism or even correction.  Over time they begin to distinguish and even predict the tone of voice that is linked to these types of statements or requests.   The slightest detection of that tone from mom or dad and they begin to enter tune out mode.  But, when that particular tone of voice is absent or replaced with delight, their brain suddenly tunes into the “sweetest” sound they’ve known since they were an infant.  Curious to know what is being said about them, they listen well.

As a mom I must admit I probably do the very same thing.  When my kids were younger, I heard “Mommy” so much throughout the day that I often chose to delay my response until the demand became so desperate or determined that I could no longer ignore it.  That word, “mommy” had been such sweet music to my ears the first time I heard it uttered.  Nonetheless, over the years I somehow learned to tune out the mommy melody as well.

I can also think of moments, however,  when my name was used by a child, a spouse or a dear friend in the midst of statements that contained heartfelt words of encouragement, blessing or affirmation.   In those moments, I fully tuned into the phrases attached to my name.  The words were filled with blessing and deeply touched my heart.  

The Lord is kind to bless us in this way as well.  Quite often, the Holy Spirit will whisper my name followed by a word of Scripture or words of encouragement that I longed to hear.   Whether these gentle words of endearment, encouragement or even admonition included my name, they often washed over me like a gently, flowing stream.

Teachers, parents, siblings, peers and many other people speak my child’s name on a daily basis.   I wonder, however, how often their name is followed by life giving words that are intentionally spoken toward their heart and soul.   No wonder they seemingly tune out their name when they hear it; especially, when they detect “the” tone.   Like you and me, they can predict what will follow by the way their name sounds.  Could it be that they are so used to hearing requests or reprimands after their name that they stop listening?

We must remember how many adolescents feel torn down instead of built up during this season of life.  If the words aren’t coming from those around them, they are often beating themselves up in their own head.  I am certain that many are eager and ready to hear their “favorite word” in phrases or sentences that include kind, gentle, affirming and life giving words that will fill them.

What would happen if you intentionally said the name of your teen in conjunction with words of encouragement, delight, positive observation or love at least two or three times per day?

Together, let’s commit to do this over the next week.  I encourage each of you reading to become more intentional about the phrases or sentences that include your child’s name.  Of course, you will need to continue to give them direction, instruction and even correction.  But intentionally increase the amount of words, sentences, phrases that include words that build them up when you say their name. These can be directed toward him or spoken in front of him.  Pray that the Lord will fill you up with His perspective of your child so that you can speak to their heart in a special way.  Ask Him to give you the actual phrase or insight into how your words should be composed so that your teen can hear them well.  Moreover, take time to tune into Him so that you can hear what words He has to say to you.

If you are willing to try this for at least seven days, I would love to hear from you.  Please share your thoughts, observations, struggles and triumphs in the comment section below.  May God bless you as you speak the name of your child in conjunction with words that bring life to their soul.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.    Proverbs 16:24

Resisting Resolutions and Seizing Today

For many parents of teenagers, the retrospection that characterizes this time of year does not seem as appealing as it did in years gone by.  Because parenting teenagers can often be chock full of trials, failures, emotional upheavals and turbulent transitions, I completely understand why many of us aren’t too interested in revisiting those moments all over again.  I also was planning on taking a pass on the tradition this year.  Oddly enough, something happened as I began to hear the resolutions of others and view the year end collages posted by friends on social media sites.  A mental flip-a-gram of sorts began to be fashioned in my mind- a myriad of memorable moments layered on top of personal perceptions and new found reflections.

belly busting laughter from spontaneous utterances
… flowing tears and fighting fears as the oldest leaves home

relentless rivalry between siblings
…regrouping as restlessness and angst begins to brew

kids inching higher and mouths open wider
…detecting personal growth while acknowledging room for more

sideline cheers as remarkable strides appear out of nowhere
…withdrawing, turning down the mental chatter to behold the whispers of my God

in town, out of town, running late, no time to waste
…desperately looking for another pause, to stop, breathe, behold

confrontations, attitudes and a home full of heightened hormones
…craving order yet allowing the mess to mold us

late night talks about everything under the sun
… overwhelmed by the gift of family

daily decisions, dilemmas and dark days
…recognizing my need for God, begging Him to move mightily in our midst

hand in hand, wearied gazes, spontaneous dates, quiet evenings with my love
…seeing them come, seeing them go

freedom increasing, resistance decreasing
…finding some peace, fanning the flame

basket loads of everyday moments
…struggling to absorb the extraordinary in the ordinary

After repeatedly replaying the extended version of this flip-a-gram, I realized that a mixed bag of sentiments was beginning to grow within me.  Sorrow, relief, gratitude, hope, joy, awe and a dozen other feelings were linked to each thought, image and longing that I recounted.  Not surprisingly, this heavy satchel of contradictory emotions did not compel me to make a list of resolutions.  Instead, the mayhem, marvels and “aha” moments that have come from raising my three teenagers over the last year coupled with the transitions and triumphs I have experienced as their parent reminded me of just one word.  The word is TODAY.  While resolutions can certainly lead to change, I believe this one word will move my attention to just the right place over the next year.

TODAY I will resolve to do what today requires of me.
TODAY is here now, full of possibilities, opportunities, and challenges.
TODAY’s moments are worth noting.
TODAY I can allow myself to be filled anew with God’s grace, mercy and love for me and for others.
TODAY is manageable, doable, bearable.
TODAY has great purpose.
TODAY offers me an invitation to shift my gaze from the horizon beyond me to the ground beneath me, the steps ahead of me.
TODAY, I get a chance to apply what I learned yesterday.
TODAY, I have just what I need to endure the unexpected challenges and to revel in the unearned graces.
TODAY, I can determine to love and encourage my family well.
TODAY, my teens are indeed, changing. TODAY, I am too.

Surely, 365 fully embraced TODAYS are certain to equal another year of layers on top of layers of instants and insights that God will again use to weave me, my husband and our house full of teenagers into people who will reflect Him, honor Him and love Him more and more as time goes by.

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “TODAY,”
so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.       Hebrews 3:13-14

 

STOP and DIG: What’s Happening in Your Own Heart Today?

As an adolescent therapist, I have the privilege of listening to teens as they share their deepest and darkest secrets as well as their everyday complaints and concerns. In the midst of many of these conversations I will gently ask the teenager to “stop and dig” for just a minute. They quickly learn that this phrase invites them to stop talking about the dirty details of the dilemma in order to take a moment to purposefully explore what might be happening in the heart and mind beneath the surface. What are they (or even the other people in the situation) really wanting or needing?   What are their expectations of themselves, the others?  Could God be allowing this struggle for some greater purpose in their own lives?

In these pauses, kids are encouraged and taught how to tune into the deepest desires that might just be dwelling, bubbling and even burning in their heart.  I ask them to connect these longings with the unmet expectations they are experiencing and/or their own strategies, devices or demands to get these needs met.   When they begin to understand what their heart really longs for and how they lean on others or themselves to meet these needs, many begin to see critical patterns in their lives that are worth noting. These intentional moments often help many teens to begin to recognize and consider their constant need for a relationship with the Only One who can fully satisfy the needs of His children.

What about you mom, dad, youth worker?  What “above ground” challenges are you facing today?  What do you see happening around you?  I invite you to pause in your day, to take a moment to stop and dig.  What could be going on inside of you beneath it all?  What might your teen, spouse or even friend be experiencing as well?  As you consider whatever it is that lies before you, stop and think about what you REALLY long for?  What do you find yourself doing to satisfy those deeper needs?  Perhaps, it is a need for order, for healing, for safety, for change, for joy or maybe the salvation of your son or daughter.   As children of God, many of our desires definitely mirror the heart of God.  Still others can become idols that represent desires that are above God or come before God.  When we take time to sit before Him, God will use His Spirit and His Word God to unveil both the desires and deceits of our hearts.

Unfortunately, we often spin our wheels above the surface trying to attack, manage, or solve the problems on our own.  In the end we are left with very little fuel to dig up what lurks below.  Before today ends like it did yesterday and the day before that, I invite you, my friend, to take a moment and sit before God and His Word.  Think slowly for a minute about the problems and challenges that you are currently facing.  Then ask the Lord to expose what might be going on in  YOUR heart.  As parents of teens we often spend so much time tuned into the heart of our teens, that we neglect what might be happening in our own.  As you bring your heart before the Father, you need not fear the hands of the great surgeon.  He will lovingly listen to the cries that lurk in the crevices of your own heart.   He loves you so much and deeply longs for you to trust Him with your heart. Only He can satisfy the longings that you have, whatever they may be.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
 “I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds.

Jeremiah 17:7-10

 

 

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