As the mother of 3 of them, ages 11, 13, and 15, they thought I'd be an expert.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
This stage of parenting has me baffled. And exhausted. And fearful on occasion. And I started the workshop by making the disclaimer that I am NOT an expert, and that if anyone tells you they ARE an expert on parenting adolescents, they're probably lying. Most of parents stayed anyway.
One thing I have learned in this season of parenting is that it's going quickly. Our oldest is going to be a Junior in High School this Fall, so I know I only have 2 more years of her living in my house (hopefully?). So we're kicking it in to high gear as we try to pour all of the important discipling lessons into her before we have to let her loose.
Moses gives instructions to the people in Deuteronomy 6:5-7:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength. The commandments I give you today must be in your hearts. Make sure your children learn them. Talk about them when you are at home. Talk about them when you walk along the road. Speak about them when you go to bed. And speak about them when you get up.
The difficulty, you parents of teens know, is that life seems to be moving too fast to make this a reality in our homes on a consistent basis. Kids are in and out of the house at crazy hours, "busy" on their computers, in their own worlds with the earbuds that seem to be a permanent fixture on their heads.
How do we connect with teenagers long enough to keep teaching the important lessons they need to learn before they leave home?
1. Meals at the table
I know, I know....it's hard. But one regular meal at the table every day, or at least a few times a week, gives us an opportunity to ask some open-ended questions like....
- What was the best thing that happened at school today?
- What did you guys talk about in Sunday School class this morning?
- If you could change one thing about your schedule this week, what would it be?
- What's something you wish you had more time for?
2. Chores. Together.
Even though our kids are busy, they still need to learn about responsibility. They need to know how to finish a job you ask them to do, how to do their very best instead of just enough to get by. They need to know how to keep an animal alive (okay, this one is optional, but it's been good for us). As the parent voted "Most Likely To Be a Drill-Sergeant" in our home, it's easy for me to assign tasks to my kids to try to regain some sort of order at our house. But when I do that, I often miss out on time shoulder-to-shoulder with my kids where they may be more likely to open up about life and friends and questions they've been having. Assign your kid the chore of doing dishes, but offer to help them with the drying. Weeding the garden is always more fun with a buddy (okay, it may never be fun. Less miserable, maybe).
3. Daily Routines
Find something to do regularly with your kid....something built in to your life that doesn't require a special invitation where their parent alarm goes off. I started walking the dogs with one of my daughters recently. Every morning at the same time we agreed to get up and walk the dogs - they need the exercise and so do I! I mentioned that I had been wanting to do some scripture memorization, and asked if she could help me with that while we walk. Sometimes we just walk. Mostly I try to be quiet so I can hear what she's been thinking about. Maybe you have a kid who needs to practice pitching, or one who wants to learn to cook. Create some regular routines with your kids to be shoulder-to-shoulder with them.
I'm not sure how this is all going to turn out. But I'm gonna keep trying, because these 3 beauties are the most important job God has given me. I don't want to blow it.