I posted this caption underneath the photo :
On a date with Caleb, age 13. He just told me I'm his best friend, because I'm the only person he can talk to about anything. Love this kid.
Typically on IG I post pictures of better quality, but this time I didn't care- because it captured a moment.
Apparently something about this simple, grainy photo and the words underneath them resonated with people...because in just a short time there were over 400 "likes" and almost 40 comments from moms, all expressing the hope that one day their children would be teenagers who said the same thing.
So it really hit me tonight, how blessed I am. I think I just take it for granted sometimes what kind of kids we have. I know my children aren't perfect...but they are amazing kids. And I don't want to take credit for that, because really - truly - they are who they are by the grace of God.
Having said that, I do want to share just a few things that I think God has helped us with in this post... and I'd also like to open this space up for questions about parenting teens. That little Instagram post and the response it drew made me realize that there are a lot of parents out there looking for answers.
I'm sure there are untold numbers of books written on the subject of parenting teens, and I don't consider myself an expert.
But I do have some experience raising teens, and sometimes I think experience is just as good, if not better, than so-called expertise.
I'm sure you can find a lot out there about "giving teens their space" and "making sure you're not a helicopter parent." (I just read a lengthy article on this topic in one of my favorite family magazines, and I almost chucked it out the window as a result. ) I'm willing to bet there are a plethora of professionals who will tell you that teenagers are going to rebel, guaranteed, and that your job as a parent is to just ride out the storm.
If you want to believe that and embrace that, it's certainly your choice.
But as a mom who has raised three teens into adulthood, and who now has three teens in one house (along with five younger children and a 21year old daughter), I would submit to you that it is possible to ENJOY the teen years, and you don't have to dread the day your kids reach them.
I want to keep this short, so here it is in a nutshell:
Pray. Talk. Love.
Those three simple words are my "keys" to success when it comes to parenting teens. And when I say success, I don't mean raising teens who are perfect. Because aside from Mary, nobody has ever parented a perfect teen. They are going to fail. They are going to have attitudes. They are going to have problems. But don't we all ??
So here it is again ....
I have prayed long and hard for my kids since the day they were born. I don't mean a quick sentence offered up to God on my kids' behalf (i.e. God bless Jackson.) I mean hours spent on my knees, earnestly asking the Lord to give my children a heart for Him and for others.
There are times when I can't get to sleep because I'm worried about something going on with one of my children. The best remedy I've found is to take it to Jesus. Sometimes that means tip toeing into my kids' room and praying over them while they're sleeping ...sometimes that means going into my closet (where I like to pray !) and crying my prayers and worries out to God until I feel that weight lifted.
There have been times during the day when I've felt completely at a loss when I'm dealing with certain situations with my teenagers. At those times I really have to stop what I'm doing and get alone with the Lord. Because I have found that I (read that with emphasis - I !!) cannot change my kids' hearts. But Jesus can. I've seen Him do it so many times. I can be staring into the face of one of my kids and I know they are not hearing me. The walls are up, and no matter how I word something, they are in defense mode. But if I take them to God in prayer, and ask HIM to intervene and soften their heart and bring conviction, I am amazed at what results. God is so much better at getting through to my kids than I am.
I have lost count of how many midnight talk sessions I've had with my teens. I am constantly gauging their moods and making sure the lines of communication are open if I sense something is wrong.
We don't let our kids hold grudges or walk around with attitudes in our home - we get to the bottom of things immediately.
This means work. This means letting other things slide sometimes, so that we take the time we need for our kids. This means talking about hard things. But what I've found is that you just can't talk to your kids too much. I don't care what the latest article or book says about "hovering over your kids". That's what we're supposed to do. That's why God made us their parents- so we can guide them.
They need us - even if everything about their demeanor says they don't. They need someone to listen to them, to tell them that what they're going through is normal. Our kids are going to find someone to listen to them if we don't.
I can't emphasize this enough. And it sounds so obvious - I mean, of course we love our kids. But they need to hear it. They need to see it. It's so easy when our kids are little to take them on our laps and tell them we love them, or hug them good night or kiss them in the morning. But teenagers need affection too. They will find love somewhere else if they don't find it in the home.
And they really do need encouragement. More than any other time of life, the teen years are filled with insecurities and self-doubt, and our kids need constant affirmation that they are loved.
I think a really good goal for raising teens is to give twice as much encouragement a day as we do correction. Because so much of my day is spent dealing with correcting : please put your shoes away... please change your tone of voice...please be kind to your siblings... so if I'm not careful all my children hear is that they need to change. That they're not measuring up. I need to balance that out - actually I need to over compensate - with love.
Because just like prayer for your children and talking to your children - you cannot love them too much.
I have seen walls of resentment or anger torn down by a few kind words spoken into the life of my teenagers. I've seen tears of remorse shed when I put my arms around my teens and tell them that I love them so much I refuse to let them move away from me in relationship. I've watched my children flourish when the love is poured on, and although we place great emphasis here on standards and purity and excellence, we also have a lot of grace and a lot of love for our kids.
Isn't that what God does for us ?
|Jonathan, age 15, and his dad :)|
It's late, and I need to put a sleeping baby into his bed. So thanks for reading, and if you have any questions for the comment section, I'll do my best to answer them in the next post.
Lots of love,