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!


charitylynne said...

"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."

YES!!!!! I totally agree. Our kids have many friends, but they only have one mother, and i believe there is a sense of security that comes from knowing we love them enough to risk them not liking us in order to do what's best for them. (if that run-on sentence makes any sense) Good post!

JanAl said...

Great points!!!!
Esp #2, they say things out of frustration, just as I do.
I am still in the beginning stages of going through the teen years,
and yet, I have another 10 years before Asher is 13! Yikes!
Definitely a season of humility.

Chris said...

sometimes being an empty nester has it's rewards........