Parenting is far better when we journey with our child instead of judging them. – Kara Powell
As our kids get older and grow into young adolescents, teens and then young adults, we see a change in their behavior. We go from being their superhero to zero. Where once we were idolized by them, now we seem to be an obstruction or an objection. Our kids are growing up and pushing us away. We may think this is rebellion or that they are rejecting who we are as parents or that they “hate” us for being their parents, but it could also be their natural process of leaving the nest, moving beyond our walls, forming their own identity, and learning to be them and not us. Although, that feels a bit weird, doesn’t it?! Why can’t they be just like us? Why do they have to reject the very foundation we have placed before them? We worked so hard at it. It’s not like they stayed up hours on end till they went to sleep or driving to the ER two times in one week or drove back home five times in a week because they forgot something every day. Sometimes there’s a reason for what our kids do and other times there’s not. At times it can feel like our children are protesting their parents.
The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate- Psalm 103: 13
Tim Sanford, a youth specialist and writer, says, “It’s important to get to the ‘itch’ (core reason) behind the ‘scratch’ (outward behavior or attitude).” Whether dealing with basic issues such as respect or complex issues such as at-risk behavior, parents sometimes struggle to understand the difference between healthy teenage autonomy and blatant teen rebellion. What looks like rebellion may actually be a teen’s natural “itch” for greater independence.”
Random side fact: A lion cub leaves his mom around 2-3 years old which is equivalent to a human teenager. The lion starts hunting, fending for its own, not following his mom around two, moving further and further away, and eventually finding it’s own pack or finding their role within their current pack.
- And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.- Isaiah 64:8
- So how might we respond to our kids natural desire to disconnect, leave the nest, and become their own person?
Our desire to resist change and position ourselves against our children doesn’t help. Our goal is to understand them before they understand us. To empathize with them and communicate with them that they have been heard. Fighting with our children and showing a lack of empathy can manifest in a variety of ways:
The “How Dare They” Mentality
It’s important that we have an understanding of what they are going through. Judgement leads to further protest. Judgement pushes them away faster. Judgement shows a lack of empathy and care for them. How much grace has God shown you?
“It’s All About Me”
It’s the old adage, “it’s my way or the highway”. How might you expect a kid or anyone to respond when we communicate that it’s about me not you? My feelings are important, not yours? Our needs change as we grow older. The way we connect and interact with one another will change too. It’s important to understand who they are and what they need. How might God be asking us to surrender our desires for the benefit of others?
“Grit Ya Teeth and Bear it”
Often times our pride derails the conversation, our position becomes unmovable and uncompromisable, we stop listening and frustration sets in.
My teenagers likely won’t understand me until they know I’ve understood them. – Kara Powell
It’s really hard to raise a kid or teenager. It’s really hard to let them go and become their own person. We can protest against the change or discover joy in who God is shaping them to be. Obviously that still means we have boundaries, but the way we enact those boundaries change as they grow older. Perhaps God is not just shaping them during this time but also shaping the parents. May we discover the Joy of listening and connecting with one another in a whole new way. May we seek to understand more than to be understood. May we look to how God relates to us and mirror than in how we relate to our kids.
- Spend dedicated time with your kids/teens where it’s about their wants
(I don’t like shopping or video games but maybe for an hour I can go shopping or play the video game with my kid)
- Seek to Listen: Ask open ended questions like, “What was that like for you?” Or, “Tell me more about that experience.” “What is one thing I need to do better?” or “What’s one struggle you have?”
- Be slow to respond… but quick to listen. It’s easy to say, “No, no, no.” But perhaps there’s something more to what they are asking
A Great resource talking about Empathy