April 7, 2012

On teenagers...

In ten years we will be living with a sixteen year old and a fourteen year old. I have heard this should strike fear in the heart of the most courageous parent. Often I hear people say things like “Oooo, just wait until she becomes a teenager!” and “Oh, the teen years are horrible; just wait and see…” or “Your kids may be good now but they won’t be for long. When they hit adolescence…” and “Oh, nothing you do now will change the fact that teens are horrible!”


I don’t have a crystal ball. I cannot predict what the future will bring and neither do any of these naysayers. I have no idea what our life like with two teens will be. And more importantly, I will not be one of those parents who are blind and confidently say: “My child will never…”   

But I do know a couple of things.

While they are small and in these formative years I have two choices as we prepare for adolescence. I can either parent reactively, dealing with the stages of life as they come, inching ill-equipped towards adolescence and hoping for the best while bracing myself for the worst.


I can parent proactively. I can read all I can, learn all I can, listen to experts all I can, ask for advice all I can and, above all, pray all I can. 

I can work hard at parenting them these early years knowing that what I do now may not be the cure-all for adolescence problems later on but it is what the Lord has commanded me to do: to love them, to do my best at raising them in his ways, and to leave the rest to him.

I think of my children as vegetables. I can ensure a poor crop if I plant them and leave their successful growth to chance. Or I can plant them and water them with life instruction, and fertilize them with the Word of God, and tenderly care for them with boundaries and structure. I may still not get the produce I want, but I know the second approach gives me the better odds.

I also know that I will quit expecting the worst and begin praying for the best for my children. I don’t want to spend the next ten years in fear of their teens. I would rather spend this time laying a good foundation, enjoying their changes, and preparing the soil.

I plan to reap a good harvest. I know many teens that are a delight to their parents and I plan for my children to be that kind of teen. I am not being unrealistic, I’m being hopeful. I am not being delusional, I’m trusting that God will honor the hard labor Matt and I are doing today.

Yes, my children have choices. Yes, they may make poor decisions. Yes, they may be awful teenagers because they are, like all of us, sinful people with free will. They may, against all we have taught them, walk away from their faith. They may become defiant and disobedient. They may do all kinds of things we pray they won’t do. They may.


I refuse to contribute to this by creating self-fulfilling prophecies for them. I will not let them hear me say that adolescents are horrible, even today. I will speak positive and encouraging words to them as they reach that confusing, hormonal, difficult time of their lives. I want them to know I delight in them no matter what they’re going through because I delight in the gift of who they are, whatever their behavior. I want them to know that even while they feel out of control with their emotions and their bodies their parents will be a rock for them.

I know this seems impossible and in reality, it is. But, just like we do in any other difficult time of our life, Matt and I lean on the broader, stronger shoulders of Christ. We can be a rock for our children only because we are standing on the Rock of Ages. We can extend impossible grace to them only because of the impossible grace we’ve been given.

Maybe if their parents embrace adolescence Isabel and Noah will face it with a more positive outlook. They don’t know any different right now. What if all they ever hear from me is how much I look forward to their teen years? How would that change their perspective? How will it change mine?

And can I ask something of you?

I don’t want any more warnings about the teen years. I’m not afraid. I choose to wait for them expectantly and joyfully come what may. It is a time of wonder when kids are becoming adults and finding their own way. Instead, please pray for our family, if you will. 

Rebellious teenagers are miserable teenagers. 

So rather than expect Isabel and Noah’s misery, please pray that they will break the mold and be happy-ish teens. If I’m wrong, I hope you lift us up in prayer while the storm passes by and help us with your advice and wisdom. If I’m right, I hope you rejoice with us. But the fact remains that only time will tell and I choose hope

Parents of delightful teenagers, speak up! What is one thing you did when they were small that you feel made a difference during their adolescence? And if your children became difficult teenagers, tell what you would do differently for those of us who are just beginning! 


Darla McKeown said...

I love your post......my 3 are delightful adults now, but a few years ago I had 3 teenagers in my home. My husband and I went through much the same thought process as you.....we determined to enjoy each age and parent as God intended us to when he entrusted these 3 human beings into our care. We refused to say "terrible twos".....we delighted in our 2-year-olds. Our daughter was (and is) very strong-willed. And we had to work very hard to mold that strong will into the right direction. But how wonderfully rewarding to see her mature into a strong woman who loves the Lord with all her heart. We refused to dread and speak negatively about their adolescent stages. The teen years were so enjoyable even if sometimes challenging. We experienced so much with our kids, and continued to pour love and discipline into them into adulthood. Please be encouraged....you are absolutely on the right track! Stay close to them....don't draw away when they begin to. Keep the lines of communication open. Blessings to you and your family!

Gaby said...

Thank you, Darla. I love hearing from the been-there-done-that parents. You all have such wisdom to impart!

Amy Sullivan said...

I happen to love teenagers! I don't have any of my own, but my mornings are filled with the teenagers of others. One of the keys I see to great teens? Involved parents. So many times I am astunded at what kids will tell me when I ask them. I wonder do their parents ask? Do they know what they are watching, where they are going, or who they are dating?

I am already praying for my daughters. Perfect teens they won't be, but covered in prayer and love? You know it.

Gaby said...

I love them too, Amy. I taught them for a decade and I met the gamut. I agree: not perfect, but prayed for like crazy!

Chrissie said...

I totally agree. I am expecting my first child in the summer and while I have received many, many congratulations I do not appreciate when people say things like, "you won't be so excited that he's so active once he's here" or, other things speaking negative expectations over our child and our parenting experience. I am not naive, I know it won't all be easy peasy but please don't speak that negativity over our lives. Parenting is tough, it takes perseverance and strength, lots of laughter and flexibility and a balance with consistent love and discipline. But we will be experiencing all of it sooner rather than later. We will need support not judgement. We will make mistakes but there is grace to cover. I am not sure why we are so quick to speak the negtive over one another, is it all abuot insecurity or comparison? I have certainly been guilty of it in the past. My jealousy of friends and judgement of their parenting (assuming I could do better) meant my words were not always supportive and affirming but I have asked for forgiveness and am being intentional to speak only words of encouragement to parents/friends now. I am a better friend, and I hope that I will be a good example of encouragement and genuine friendship to my son. I don't want him to hear me speaking with nasty words - even if thy are veiled in sugar.

Beitagrubb said...

Great post, Gaby! I feel the same way. I don`t like people to tell me things about how my children are going to be or what they will do or feel. My teen years were so special as I spent them along side my mom learning to be a wife and mother. I will ask her what she did that made a difference but I think it was always spend time with us. We were home schooled (I think that makes a big difference), every thing we read was monitored and we watched very little TV. I think all of this with consistent discipline when we were younger influenced our teen years. When we were young we developed a heart of respect toward others.

Gaby said...

Thank you, Rachel. People like you, that I know in real life, are what I strive for my children to be :)

Gaby said...

Yes, Chrissie! Words are powerful, aren't they? I do believe that tackling something with a positive attitude makes it much easier to get through than dreading it.

Debbie said...

I could not agree with you more, and I am sitting in that nearly empty nest of hindsight. Your attitude is spot on in my view. I am no expert on child raising, but I do know what I know as a mother (and also what I gleaned as a teacher of adolescents WATCHING other parents grow their children.)

I used to watch and talk to parents with kids older than mine from school and church. Frankly, I didn't want advice from those whose mantra was, "Well... what are you going to do? All kids act like that." I sought out the parents who didn't believe that rubbish for a minute, and I listened to them.

Wise older mothers than I gave me great deal advice. If I write it all, I'll write a blog post, but here's a few that they all had in common:

Love the LORD with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and let your children know that you do. Show them in your life how God's way makes for a happy way, a way that they truly WANT to follow.

Never forget that Satan has a scheme regarding your children, but ALSO never forget that God and Satan are not equal adversaries. God is greater, and so is His plan for them.

Family. Family. Family. Family. Family.
Did I mention the importance of family?

Guard their innocence as you would a precious jewel. Flood their minds with whatever is good and noble and pure and lovely...

OK, that was too long. Perhaps I SHOULD do a blog post. I'm sure some wonderful moms out there would have more to add.

I'll just say that you, my blog friend, are RIGHT. I'm very convicted to be praying more for our young families out there. I ask for YOUR prayers over my own daughters who are in a very dangerous phase of their own lives as young, independent, women.

Debbie said...

Embarrassed for the length of my previous comment, but you hit a hot button with me.

I also forgot to answer your question from my blog.

Yes, we did indeed sit down and eat at both of those tables. Some tables that I do are just for fun, but when the family is home we do eat at them. I'm a lousy cook so the decor is good camouflage.

But now, my children are 20 and 23. They are past the sippy cup years. I will say (on the topic of the previous post) that mealtime around a table has always been a priority here.

Anyway, just answering!

Glenda Childers said...

Anything you do to build genuine relationship with your kids when they are smaller will get you through any bumps as they get older. (my opinion) Our kids are 27 and 31 and we are still best of friends. We have a ridiculous amount of fun together.

A giant AMEN to this post.

Gaby said...

Glenda, the opinion of someone who has raised to loving adults is more than welcome. Thank you for sharing!