“Who is this new child in my home? This can’t be the child I held on my lap and read to, then heard prayers, gave a hug and kiss and tucked in for a nice night’s sleep! Now I see a child that is much different from anything I ever imagined my child would be! I’m bewildered. My child seems bewildered. To be truthful, I’m scared. I thought I was being the perfect parent, but my child is not being the perfect child. The results I am seeing are not what I expected.”
Many parents of teenagers may very well be thinking the above thoughts. There is no doubt that being the parent of a teenager is a really tough task.
We may tell our children that we will always love them. When children become teens, that love is truly tested. Now, we must prove that love. We must put our pride aside and do what is best for the child, even if it may be embarrassing at times. Love is understanding. Love is patient. Love doesn’t keep score. Love is long-suffering. Love is kind. Love doesn’t have to have its own way. Love is gentle. Can we really display these characteristics with this seemingly new person? When the apostle, Paul, described love in I Corinthians 13, he didn’t say to show these characteristics except with teenagers. Even when our children are not so lovable, we are still supposed to love them and that means displaying the characteristics of love named in the Bible.
We need to remember that the teen years are really tough for the child as well as for the parent. The “acting out” that often accompanies a teen is often the result of the same feelings we may be having as parents. They are scared, bewildered, uncertain, dealing with a new body (a body that is larger and looks different). The teen has not learned the proper way to vent deep emotional feelings. Unfortunately, many parents have not learned this lesson either. The result may be a shouting match between parent and child.
When you stop and think about it, isn’t it rather ridiculous for a parent to be shouting at a child to tell the child not to shout at the parent? Two wrongs don’t make a right! “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) This truly works. To shout to a child who is already shouting is like pouring gasoline on a fire. It just causes more shouting. No one says it is easy, but we must set an example of the behavior we expect from a child.
Quite often, teens say things they don’t really mean, so we need to learn to look at the heart rather than simply going by the words spoken. A teen may shout, “I hate you!” What they are really thinking and feeling may be “I loved you and I don’t feel you loving me back, and now I am hurting and wish I could feel that love!” It is common for teens to feel alone and that no one understands them. If they can’t feel understanding at home, they will look for it elsewhere. Does this mean that we should let the child get away with being disrespectful? No. It should be pointed out that disrespect has been shown and the child needs to be told what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Also, the child needs to be told that disagreement is alright, but there is a correct way to disagree. He/she then needs to be taught the acceptable way to disagree. Parents and children can then discuss the issues that are really at the root of the trouble.
“Keeping cool” when a teenage child is showing a hot temper is not easy, but the love for the child can be the very thing that gives us the strength to do just that. It helps to know that many parents have gone through the same challenges, many parents are going through those challenges now, and many more parents will do so in the future. We are not alone and we must not abandon our teens just because it is not pleasant to deal with them.