The hardest job as a parent is the one you are currently doing. Nursing a baby 4 times a night is exhausting. I remember an unfortunate incident with mistaking the dog howling for Micah crying during that time. Crawling and walking changed the scene right away. Caleb dumped my make-up in the toilet and pulled the Christmas tree down before he could actually walk. Potty training isn’t for wimps. It takes grit and stamina. The rule at our house during potty training days was “NEVER drink from a cup that has been in the car!” I’ll let you think on that one. Cliff’s Grandma Frink told me that if I tickled the babies and made them laugh that they would stutter. I thought she was crazy until Micah started stuttering! I cried for days and then took him to the doctor. Come to find out it was just a stage and his brain was working faster than his mouth could keep up. Not much has changed! LOL. Emergency room trips to patch and sew up the boys were common. Lucas had 2 broken arms by the time he was 6! During one period of time, we were so well known at the urgent care place, that the receptionist noticed that I had a new hair cut! TRUE STORY! You do not want to be so well known to the urgent care folks that they notice when you change your hair!
Every stage is hard but today I want to talk about communicating with teenagers.
I totally believe in aliens. I know for a fact that they exist. God gives you a sweet-smelling, cuddly baby that grows into a loving, fun little person and then ….BAM…… they turn into aliens between 11 and 12. I promise this is the gospel truth. Track with me. These aliens smell different. You pick them up from school or practice and the smell makes your eyes water. You have to ride home with the windows down and Febreze the seats when you get home. These teenage aliens have hands and feet that don’t fit or coordinate with the rest of their body. They knock things over and trip over invisible things. Their ears and noses grow before the rest of them and their teeth fall out and don’t come back in straight. They either run around like crazy people or walk like a slug. “Hurry up” means walk slower and try to look cool even though your mom is screaming at you from the car. I have also noticed that these alien teenagers have a broken volume switch. They are either VERY loud or won’t talk at all! To top it off, they speak their own language. This strange language is accompanied by a lot of eye-rolling and deep sighing.
Today I am going to give you some quick tips to help you learn to communicate with these strange and wonderful creatures we call “teenagers.” These are secrets passed down to me from generations of survivors. I have stalked and annoyed 100’s of successful parents who are now on the other side of the alien experience. Here is what they have to say:
- Take a deep breath. Ok… maybe two deep breaths! This is a stage. Just like sneezing sweet potatoes all over you or eating the dog’s food when you aren’t looking. It will pass.
- Enlist support. There are others who have successfully navigated these waters and they can help. Don’t try to do this alone. There is safety in numbers!
- Engage the strange creature in conversation. Yes, even if you have to talk about Mind Craft, nail polish color, Miranda Sings or rude body sounds. Reach out and see what they want to talk about. You will be VERY surprised at the things you learn when they are just talking.
- Invite the hard questions. A Bible teacher at church reminded me that questioning things is how teenagers develop their reasoning skills. They have to practice. Don’t freak out (trust me.. this is what you will want to do!) when they question things that are fundamental to how you have raised them. Guide them through the process of analyzing their thoughts and give them your reasons for your beliefs. If you don’t invite and allow this kind of conversation, they will go to someone else. You don’t want another teenager or irresponsible adult being the one to shape your teens’ reasoning skills.
- Reinforce your unconditional love for them. During this time of transformation for teens, they need a solid example of love and consistency. Everything around and in them is changing. They need to know you are there no matter what.
- Pick your battles. About 80% of what a teenager says is filler material. They don’t really mean it. They are testing the waters. They are trying to push buttons. They are learning how to communicate using humor. (Heaven help us!) They are practicing. Your job is to sift through what they are saying and identify true character issues that need your attention. You need to focus on things like integrity, thankfulness and accepting responsibility. Don’t get caught up in the 80% and miss the real issues hidden in the 20%. If you don’t pick and choose, you will sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to your kids and not have the impact you need.
Ephesians gives us clear direction on how to communicate and interact with our kids. Obedience is the responsibility of the child and communicating with love and nurture is our responsibility as parents. I know God wouldn’t have reminded us not to provoke our children and to nurture them if it was an impossible task. Remember, the hardest parenting job is the one you are doing now. Rest easy my friends, there are survivors!
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.