Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Teens in the Home

I recently read a statistic that said 33% of parents say they sometimes have major disagreements with their kids. 33%? Seriously? I would have expected that number to be a lot higher. I concluded that the remaining 67% are either disconnected from their teenagers (i.e., don't care, no guidelines), or they are super-controlling, or their kids are adept at lying or hiding.

I confess...I hate verbal confrontation and will sometimes ignore things to avoid it. I know that avoidance is not the answer and is not the biblical way to parent. Conflict is a part of life and if I avoid it with my kids, I am not teaching them how to handle issues biblically. Verbal disagreements are one way of telling my kids that it's ok for them to have their own thoughts and feelings and even to express them. It can be a teaching tool for how to do that with respect and honor. And that I will love them no matter what.

There does come a time when the old "because I'm the mom, that's why" is no longer effective. If I can remember a few practical steps for having a disagreement with one of my teenagers, I can avoid some of the minefields of living with teens.

1. Establish boundaries before or after the conflict, not in the middle of it. Assure them that it's normal to feel differently than me about certain issues, but that we both have to honor & respect each other even in disagreements. They need to know that ultimately, I, as the parent, will be held accountable before God.

2. Don't take everything that comes out my kids' mouths personally. They are trying to establish their own identities. Give them some room to do that, keeping in mind the boundary of honor & respect.

3. Remain calm- no matter what! Do NOT holler back at them. *sigh* This is most definitely my biggest area of failure. Many times I've looked back at a conflict and realized the ridiculousness of verbal volleying with one of my kids. My teens really need me to be stable. They WILL try to push my buttons. It's always best if I spend more time listening than talking.

4. Be willing to compromise if the issue is negotiable, but stand my ground if it is not. Think biblical non-negotiables.

5. If the conflict is too heated, it's best to both walk away for a time.

6. Never, ever, EVER react to anything that comes out of their mouths. Sometimes they just want to test me. I'm getting quite good at non-reacting. :)

7. After the conflict, make sure my teenager knows how very much I love them.

8. Don't bring up every issue that annoys me. Stick to the subject at hand.

9. Do not use words such as, "always", "never", etc.

10. Do not ever, EVER compare kids! EVER!

One of the most powerful parenting tools I have is my relationship with my kids. I think deep down inside, my children want me to be their parent not their friend. The friend thing will come later, if I've handled the conflicts in a God-honoring way.

The part of having teens in the home that I really enjoy is being able to have adult conversations with them, to volley ideas back and forth and to discuss biblical ideas and where they are at spiritually. They are a real joy!

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Beginnings

I am my own worst enemy.

I have a ton of things in my head to write about, but I don't even get started unless I have it all mapped out ahead of time. Why don't I just sit down and write? I think it has something to do with perfectionism, something about not even starting until I can finish well. I've always struggled with that, even in my daily chores. I've had to train myself to just do it even if it's only 15 minutes.

A new year excites me. It feels like a clean slate, a time of new beginnings. The last several months of last year were spent feeling defeated by the enemy. Life is just messy at times and, I felt like I was drowning in the confusion & chaos of it. Where was the victory that I, as a believer, was supposed to be living in?

A song I used to sing (in my days of 4-part harmony) keeps echoing through my memory:

Lift me up above the shadows, plant my feet on higher ground;
Lift me up above the clouds, Lord, where the pure sunshine is found.
Lift me up above my weakness, lift me up into Thy strength,
Lift me up above the shadows, till I stand with Thee at length.

Lift me up above the shadows, out of sorrow into joy;
Lift me up above my grief, Lord, give me gold for my alloy;
Then, when death must claim my spirit and the storms of life are past,
Lift me up above the shadows, till in heaven I stand at last.

That's where I want to stand...above the shadows. Life is still messy, but a sovereign God knows that. When I really realize how in control He is, and that I don't need to be, I live in sunshine even when there are shadows all around me.

Ahhhh...new beginnings...a clean heart...renewed fellowship with Jesus...strength in submission to God's authority.

(Man, I'd love to sing that song again in harmony with soprano, tenor & bass!!)