A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Tweens, teens, control–and having my kid’s heart

tweens teens

Man, it was a tweeny sort of day.

That whole thing about drama being reserved for girls? Fogeddaboutit. His attitude wafted through the house like rank gym socks. Nothing is right, the world is against me, why did God give me siblings, yada yada yada.

And frankly, my default mood on these days is zero tolerance. Well—let me clarify. Zero tolerance is okay. But I have less of a zero-tolerance-with-calm-steadfastness and more military-general-style, iron-fisted control. Visions of a thirteen-year-old version of my son with the same immature self-focus were swirling in my mind, and I was ready to yank out my parental Uzi. Get thee behind me, entitled American child!

I kept telling myself that I was “nipping this in the bud.” But some part of me felt like my size-zero friend the other day, the one whose puppy with the massive paws is starting to pull her on the leash.

For a long time I’ve sensed my 100%-boy boys (read: testosterone, Nerf weapons, energy stampeding through the house, regularly aired out bedrooms, the entire yard consumed with rowdy, creative play) are like lion cubs rolling and pouncing around my house. I possess only a short while to have them well-trained (and, uh, toss a couple of slabs of meat their way), till they’re a lot bigger than me.

But I found these words from DesiringGod.com thought-provoking:

I know parents who require perfection from their children. Failure is not an option. Demanding heaven on earth from them, they make it hell instead, squeezing, scolding, and cajoling them into the very sense of failure they’re desperate to help them avoid.

And then…something happened last week with my eleven-year-old. He encountered some serious temptation. He resisted it, and told us about it, those baby blue eyes swimming in liquid while he sat on our bed. I was, well, really proud of him. A lot of victories were celebrated quietly, as he and my husband and I hugged and prayed together. Meanwhile, my heart broke for him, and the days that are only going to get more complicated for all of us.

And I remembered: This isn’t just about control. It’s about relationship.

Of course I want to remain consistent and strong in my parenting, to not grow weak as my children’s personalities gather strength. Yes; these years that unspool before me are a time for courage, and for loving enough to hold firm, wisely-considered boundaries for my kids.

I guess I’m saying…I don’t want to lose what we have, what we’ve made as a family, just because my son’s added another digit to his age. Just because “teenagers”—a twentienth century creation—are difficult. I think my preparation for those wacko years starts now, when they’re wrestling with my husband on the carpet, or I’m sitting with them on the front porch in the soft tones of sunrise, sipping a cup of tea and cuddling in our jammies.

My husband and I were in youth ministry for six years, and we loved it. We love the real questions these kids start asking; the way they wrestle with their identity and relationships and souls. We liked the privilege of just being there.

I recalled this very wise, highly recommended article on Homeschooling Blindspots (applicable to pretty much all vigilant Christian parents), which counseled that in all our efforts to discipline, even more critical is that we have our kids’ hearts.

Maybe I can distill it all like this: I don’t really want to parent out of fear. I want to parent out of faith. Out of real love (not to be confused with worry) for my son. Not out of some knee-jerk, what-if, let-‘em-know-who’s-boss kind of stigma. Firm? Yes. Contentious and pitted against each other…rather than us against all he’s facing?

No way.

He needs a compassionate ally. Not a best friend, I know–at least from me. But someone in the foxhole. A wingman.

Something tells me that “Fathers, do not exasperate your children” applies to the mamas, too. As I was reminded recently, as far as loving your neighbor as yourself goes…my child is my neighbor, too.

So instead of sticking with the normal school disciplines last week, I nudged my son’s shoulder early, whispering if he’d want to come with me to the refugee center that day while I taught. He just shadowed my day, even dialoguing about the sermon podcast I listened to as we wove through traffic. We closed the day at the coffee shop, and with a lot of conversation in the car.

His verdict to my husband: “I’m hoping she’ll let me go back next week. I think the best part was that we got a lot of time to talk.”

Man, I love that boy.

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1 Comment

  1. Soooo thankful for your relationship with him.

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