Archive for April, 2013

Tempted to Steal from a Teen?

I am convinced that more and more parents are stealing from their teenagers these days.  No, they aren’t stealing money, electronic devices, clothing, jewelry or any other material possession from their teen.  Instead, they are robbing their teens from learning how to clean up after the messes.   Even though I can go on and on about the chaos that exists in each of my teen’s backpacks, personal spaces and for that matter their entire  room, the messes to which I am referring are the mud puddles that splash on my teenagers as result of their own poor decision making skills, impulsivity and immaturity.  These are the problems that affect their grades, relationships, reputation, emotional stability and often their bank account.

What happened to the adage,  “You mess it up, you clean it up”?!  When this simple little maxim is applied to the life situations that teenagers regularly encounter, then kids have  the albeit uncomfortable opportunity to learn how to clean up after themselves.  These stressful yet powerful opportunities can empower them to become independent, self-confident, humble, and godly young men and women.  When these challenges are robbed from them by parents or other well meaning adults who think it is their job to clean up after their teenager, social, emotional and spiritual growth is almost always stifled.

Like any other parent of a teen, I must admit that there are certainly situations where I have felt compelled to jump in, fix, disguise, minimize or even dismiss a mess that my teen has created.   Recently, one of my kids was involved in a situation at school where a teacher had become very angry at them about something they had flippantly stated.  My child did in fact say some very hurtful remarks but unfortunately a peer chose to inaccurately share what my teen had stated with another teacher.   As a result the teacher asked an administrator to meet with my teenager to discuss the situation as well as the necessary consequences.

Spinning around within me were feelings of compassion coupled with anger toward my teen for speaking unkind words and frustration toward the peer who had impulsively repeated and embellished the remarks.  On top of these emotions, I also felt a measure of insecurity growing within as I imagined what this teacher may be thinking about my parenting abilities.  Thankfully, I was able to remind myself that this was not my mess to clean up.  My role in this situation was primarily to 1) listen to my teen, 2) allow his heart to be exposed (the deceit as well as the good intention),  3) speak the truth in love with regard to his choice of words and behaviors, and finally to 4) offer some options on how to wisely and lovingly “clean up” the mess they made…all by themselves.

Of course, my teenager was resistant to the idea of returning to the situation and making amends.  No teenager enjoys dealing with their own “vomit”.  Most would rather ignore it, dismiss it or have someone else clean it up for them.  But opportunities like these are not given to us so that we can steal the lesson right out from underneath them.  They can be used to help our teenagers grow socially, emotionally, and spiritually while they figure out how to be the captain of the clean-up crew.

The teen years are critical years where kids are vacillating between a regressed child and an emergent adult.  I encourage you to play a vital role in promoting the necessary growth and development that enables an adult to begin to emerge right before your eyes.

Consider your role in the next difficult issue your teen is facing and ask yourself these questions.

  • Is this problem really mine to fix in the first place?  Or does it belong to my teenager?
  • Am I rescuing my teen by shielding them from the consequences, instead of releasing them to experience emotional discomfort while they figure out a reasonable solution to their problem?
  • Am I stuck in the middle of their day to day drama in relationships at home, work, or school instead of letting them stumble through the ups and downs of the social scene (even if they get scratched and bruised along the way)?
  • Am I enabling them to become overly dependent upon me to fix their mistakes instead of empowering them to do it on their own?
  • Am I feeding entitlement or fostering humility?

 

More and more, I hear older adults complain about the lack of independence, humility, work ethic and character in today’s teens and young adults.  Without a doubt, many problems at home and in our culture in general are prohibiting kids from developing these qualities.   Nonetheless, I think most of us can agree that these traits tend to bloom within a person when they have had to learn how to maneuver themselves through troubling, sticky and often embarrassing challenges that life throws at each one of us.   Together, let us commit to be parents who can intentionally equip our teens to learn how to clean up their own messes so that a “harvest of righteousness and peace” may be produced within them.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.  Hebrews 12:11-13

The Final Stretch of the Race

The pistol sounded and we were off.  I was happily running beside my 10 year old son as he was attempting his first 5K race.  Since his decision to run with me was made the night before, there had been no time to properly prepare him for the challenges of the race.  Instead, I encouraged him to stick closely by my side, to let me set the pace and to take breaks whenever he needed them.  After the first mile, however, my energetic and naturally athletic son became bored with the pace I had set.  He dismissed my caution to speed up and suddenly took off on his own, sprinting toward the finish line.

Knowing that he would never be able to keep that pace up for two more miles, I began to scan the groups of runners in front of me.  I was certain I would find him walking the course, desperately trying to catch his breath.  I never did.  Instead, I spotted a kid his size just beyond the finish line, lying flat in a patch of grass.  Apparently, my son triumphantly crossed the finish line with an amazing time but collapsed from exhaustion just after he ran past the time keepers.   His shoes were saturated with sweat. Blood dripped down his feet from open blisters on his toes.  Concerned by what I saw, I asked him how he felt.  I will never forget the grin that appeared and the boasting that followed.  Barely able to summon the energy needed to speak, he proudly uttered, “Mom, I never stopped running and I beat your best time on my very first race!”

As we drove home, Alex admitted that several times throughout the race he had seriously considered stopping.  It seemed that every time he was about to stop and take a break, he would tune into the crowds who were visibly and audibly cheering him on, reminding him to keep pressing on.  Apparently, the most powerful motivators were the cheers my son heard toward the end of the race.  These supplied the fuel he needed to successfully complete the race.

What a great lesson for us to consider as we walk alongside teens.  Teenagers are running the last leg of the race called “childhood”.  While the end of this journey marks the beginning of the next, the manner in which they cross the finish line powerfully affects the way they enter the next race set before them.  Like trainers and coaches, we are called by God to equip, correct, and guide our kids well in the race they are all called to run.  But like a great coach, the same tongue that chides should also cheer.  Amidst the instruction, reprimands, and guidance we give to kids each day, we must make sure that we are also offering plenty of encouragement-words and gestures that fuel these kids to push through the battles they face during the grueling and most demanding stretch of this race called adolescence.

Even for those kids who outwardly reject or even resist words or gestures of affirmation, express them with love anyway.    God can use them at just the right time to defeat the negative and even destructive thoughts they may be entertaining as they run the race before them.   In this final stretch, we will never know when our kids are feeling tempted to give up the race that God has for them.  If our words genuinely reflect the voice of God, we can cling to the fact that His words and His truths have the power to strengthen and renew our kids as they crawl, walk, skip or even sprint to the finish line of adolescence.

And as you, my friend, face the final stretch of parenting kids at home, know that you are receiving the applause of heaven as you faithfully choose to mirror the Father’s limitless love for your teenager.    And like Paul you too can say,

I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (2 Timothy 4:24)

 

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