Wednesday, June 9, 2010

teenager offense

Now that we've broken into the barrier of teenager-hood around here, I have to say I've felt it coming for a while:

The moodiness, the sullen expressions, the completely irrational decisions...they're inching in, little by little. The other day I caught a glimpse of teenager-hood in my eleven-year-old, and man alive, sometimes it seems that my eight-year-old is even closer than the others.

Don't get me wrong, I have good kids. I trust them. I adore them. But I want to keep that relationship strong to help weather the storms that will most undoubtedly come. I want to be on the offensive rather than the defensive.

So the other day I pulled out some notes I took at Women's Conference last year...the ones from a particular talk that I think about all the time. The speakers were Adriane Gill and John Bytheway, and they were good.

They said some things that really affected me. In fact, after reading over them I've stopped myself a couple times in particular situations and taken a different, better route of action simply because I was thinking of those tips they gave.

So I'm gonna share them. We could all use a little offense, right? So here you go:

1) Do your homework. (I loved this one.) Don't expect heartfelt, meaningful conversations if you don't put the effort in. Be prepared with thoughtful, pertinent questions specific to that child's needs. Know each of your child's specific interests (and realize that yes, they most probably are different than yours gosh darn it!), and embrace them. Show them what matters to them matters to you. Work your day around them. You are the mother and that is your #1 job...plan ahead.

2) Be quick to show compassion and slow to judge. Nothing cuts off conversation more quickly than judgment. LISTEN or you will short-circuit future conversations. First try to understand, then to be understood. Being judgmental will stop your child from bringing worries or concerns to you in the future...they won't want to "let you down." Change doesn't come through criticism. Use words like "wow," "really," and "how does that make you feel?" (Love that part too.) We need to evaluate what incentive we give our kids to really talk.

3) Demonstrate patience and respect...Ask before offering advice. Just talk, don't have ulterior motives in what you say. Quality conversations don't happen without listening. Maintain eye contact, don't multitask, ask permission to share thoughts, don't offer unsolicited help. Ask them for advice.

4) Find chances to point them toward Christ. Don't put yourself between spirituality and your teenager. Help them have that relationship. When they have a tough choice or circumstance ask if they've prayed about it. Teach them to what source they should ultimately go for help.

5) Don't avoid technology. It's not going away. It can be a tool or a weapon...we can make it a great tool. Take out time to monitor and teach your teenager appropriate ways to handle technology. (Cell phone, texting etiquette, etc.)

In summary, parenting is practicing the art of "letting go." Help kids become "self-directed." Help them make good decisions...don't make them for them. And most importantly, listen. John Bytheway used this quote I love:

His thoughts were low, his words were few,
and never formed to glisten--
but he was a joy to all his friends,
You should have heard him listen.

Isn't that good stuff? I know there are so many great teen parents out there...if you have any great pearls of wisdom please send them on over.
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