Brad Mathias asks parents to consider sacrificing their time to explain, correct and encourage their teens through the most difficult life transitions.
I believe every parent endures the irritation of chronic teen-hearing loss syndrome from time to time. You come home from work, the dishes are not touched, the kitchen and living room are trashed with books, dirty clothes and school folders, backpacks, jackets, shoes all flung randomly across whatever space is available. Teenagers live here.
I’ve talked with my son (who is 13 now) at least fifty times in the past year about turning off lights, picking up after himself, being aware of his environment. Yet, until I threaten to restrict his TV time, or care for his iPod for a few days, he seems to be deaf to my frequent requests for his cooperation in keeping his room and our home from becoming trashed.
It seems to me, that my parents were very consistent in their administration of our home. Make you bed, clean your room, mow the lawn, take out the trash, etc... But, as a parent, now I’m realizing just how much work and effort it takes to be so consistent and faithful to my family. Why is this so difficult?
One thought, our teenagers are in the middle of a massive life transition and are caught in their day-to-day struggles for identity and purpose. School is their battleground and it’s a fierce place to endure for eight hours every day. I forget that. I also forget the devastating impact of hormones on sanity and intelligence. “I don’t know” is a not so brilliant of an explanation for one’s actions. Yet, my kids use it frequently without any apologizing whatsoever. I’ve tried it at work from time to time and it really doesn’t fly. Our kids are engaged in a “truth war” and in that battle they hear thousands of voices all crying out for their allegiance or attention, and that's before they get home. Perspective and patience for today's parent is essential to breaking through the “noise” of our kids' minds. Perspective is needed to understand how much is really going on in their noggins and patience is needed for our kids to absorb, observe and test what we’re teaching them to be true.
So what is a parent of a teen to do? Beat them senseless? Duct tape them to their doors? Shock therapy? Or, maybe sit them in a corner? Be careful if you ONLY use punishment to get your desired outcome, they just might actually respond by behavior modifying (faking it) into our perfectly planned images.
I’m concerned that in our fear and anxiety, we may repeat the generational mistake of our traditional parents who simply “reacted” to our culture and tried to force us to accept their behaviors in one swallow, without allowing us to understand and embrace those life long beliefs as our own. That didn’t work out so well did it? During the past two decades, eighty-eight to ninety percent of churched kids rejected their faith when they went to college, never to return again. I know for myself, I rejected my parents values by age nineteen and spent the next decade running blindly into more and more misery and self-destruction.
I would propose that we possibly pause a moment and actually make the time to repeatedly and consistently talk with our kids about those boundaries we have in our lives, to firmly but gently enforce our house rules with as much patience, love and respect as we can bring to our hearing challenged children. Why? Because in the end, we MUST win our children’s hearts. Not their minds. Our hope needs to actually show them the love of Christ in our lives, our actions, not just our weekly church attendance. What could be more proof of love than the sacrifice of our time to explain, correct and encourage our teens through the most difficult of life transitions?
Don’t misread this, there is definitely a specific time and place to correct our teens overt rebellion, disrespect or obvious laziness. But it’s critical we check our motives carefully and then consistently walk out our values with our kids, one day at a time.
In the end, God promises to back us up not because we get it perfectly right all the time, but because His grace saved us and it’s quite capable of saving our teens one home at time, helping us all to "keep our families on the the road and in between the lines.”