Coping with Your "Brain-damaged" Tween
Bill Cosby said it better than anyone... “It’s BRAIN DAMAGE!” describing why his tween kids acted like they did before bedtime in one of his famous monologues.
After raising two teen girls and a 15-year-old son, I’ve come to a similar conclusion... but I’m speaking today of what can seem at times like temporary brain damage that occurs with kids in the tween years (7-14) as they form their personal beliefs about God.
Studies show our kids are forming beliefs at ages 9 - 12 and acting on them at 13 - 15 etc. What can be so disturbing to parents is the whole “hot” and “cold” attitude that our tweens can exhibit during those years. It’s frustrating as they alternate wildly from day to day or week to week on strongly held and vocal beliefs, ranging from open and vulnerable to cold and isolated as we languish in our earnest attempts to talk with them about life and read their subtle shifts in attitude and accessibility to us. Aarrghh!
Let me encourage you with a few reminders...
- Kids raised in a faith culture of some kind, usually refer to a moment in time when they as children “believed” in their need to follow God. They usually prayed a prayer, asked to be baptized and genuinely experienced God for themselves. Often this occurs in the grade school years, and as this occurred, you can bet their parents breathed a collective sigh of relief.
- Most Christians I know didn’t fully absorb or own their faith as personal and permanent until it was tested. Usually in the high school or early college years. That process of growing up and becoming adult included the true life testing of their childhood convictions of God. It almost always involves some missteps, mistakes and out-and-out “blow it” moments when their discovery process bumps into the real life pain and drama of avoiding God to search out self.
- The tween years include a stretch of life when what is absorbed in the brain has to be slowly filtered down to the heart. What our kids have been “taught” has to become real to them. The process of transferring intellectual knowledge “ABOUT” God into a personal and dynamic relationship “WITH” God is a huge step and can lag for decades in some adults.
The point is this... as parents we can equip, model and teach our preteen kids with a solid faith base for understanding God, the Bible and the truth of scripture, but only a determination to follow through with those values and beliefs in the tween and teen years will work.
Because our tween kids are “BRAIN DAMAGED”!
Their faith like their life values can become stuck in the in-between-zone of their head and their heart, and we cannot force that process prematurely without risking a false positive response. Some of our kids will do whatever they think we want them to do in an effort to avoid being stripped of their newly found freedoms. There is a fine line between behavior modification and a genuine life transformation and only time and the Holy Spirit will tell the tale.
Don’t be in too much of a hurry to move past the brain-damaged season of life, it’s critical... crucial to their development and as parents of faith it’s essential for us to hang tough with our principles when they are bouncing off our proverbial walls night and day demanding we concede. Don’t do it.
Trust that the God who saved you and me can handle their questions, their erratic behaviors and the hormones just fine. Make sure they are regularly exposed to the word of God, be engaged with a community of faith and plugged in with other Christian families. They need places to vent, places to question and places to process verbally what they are hearing, feeling and struggling through for themselves.
All we as parents can do is plant the seeds of truth in our kids' hearts and make sure that we water them regularly... in the end, it’s God who gives the increase.
I Cor 3:6-7 (ESV): I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
Blessings to you faithful parents.