When YOU Cross the Line With Your Teen

One of the most frequent themes that inevitably arises while chatting with parents of teenagers is most certainly the topic of limits, boundaries and consequences.  With adulthood looming on the horizon, teens love to test the limits and exercise their independence.  As a result, parents are always trying to stay one step ahead of their teen by mastering the art of setting good limits and responding to the rebellion in a way that will be helpful to a teenager.

But what happens when you, the parent/adult,  are the one that crosses the line?  What do you do when you have said or done something that is completely inappropriate and possibly  wounding to them?  Maybe, your behavior was a direct response to your teen’s negative behavior or attitude.  Perhaps, you felt provoked, unprepared or even attacked.  Whatever the case, there is never an excuse for verbal or behavioral retaliations toward our teenagers.   The inappropriate words or behaviors never help or heal a bad situation  and often deeply stab at the heart of your teen.

Unfortunately, most parents have or will cross this line at some point or another.  Recently, I leaped over the line by reacting to the sin of one of my teenagers by sinning right back at them.  During a family devotion (of all things!), one of my kids had been displaying an obstinate and resistant attitude by offering curt answers and sarcastic remarks.  While my husband continued leading us in a discussion, this particular child seemed determined to distract and disable our time together.  My husband calmly attempted to redirect him and remind him of the limits and expectations as a family.  A few minutes later, I thought I heard our grumpy teen utter an ugly, cutting comment toward his brother who had been trying his best to ignore his brother and participate in the conversation.   Frustrated by his unkind manner and his refusal to just be nice to everyone, I abruptly stood up at the table, exclaimed some harsh words his way and physically corrected him in the most immature and unnecessary manner.

The whole table fell silent and I immediately felt a wave of conviction come over me.  My husband’s bewildered expression combined with my son’s tear-filled eyes added to the shame that was swimming around inside my heart.  Ugh. Aaah. Gulp.   “What had I done?!”  How had I let something so minor get to me in such a major way?  After apologizing to my whole family and individually to our son, we proceeded to finish up our time together.  Even though he had accepted my apology, I still pursued a private conversation with him afterward.  I was humbled and blessed by the genuine forgiveness he had offered me as well as his desire to apologize for his earlier behavior.  Despite the grace I had received from my family and my son, throughout the day I found myself wanting to do something more to make things right.  In the midst of this battle in my heart and mind, I was reminded of a passage in the book of Micah.

In this short book in the bible, we are given a true picture of our God who hates sin yet loves the sinner.  Through the prophet Micah, Israel is reminded of how they have repeatedly forgotten their covenant with God by refusing to live by the standards that He had given them.  He tells them that God is angered by their sin and will pass judgment upon them because of it.  In the midst of God’s words of judgment, however, He mercifully offers forgiveness and new life to those who will repent and follow Him. When the people suggest bringing gifts and sacrifices as a way to make things right with God once again, the prophet Micah tells them

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (Amplified Bible)

The same is true for you and I today.  Whether you have sinned against God, your friend, your spouse or your teen, the very best thing that you can do after you repent and confess your sin is to move forward in His grace.  Ask the Lord to help you as you commit to act justly, to love kindness and mercy and to exude humility as you humbly walk with Him.  Your temptation to do anything else will lack the redemptive power that comes when His streams of mercy and love and kindness flow out of you and into your relationships.   This is good.  And this is what the Lord requires of you when you wound someone.   May you find freedom in His forgiveness as you commit to walk this way as a mom, dad, or friend of a teenager.

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