Teen Trials

We’ve been discussing discipline for toddlers and preteens. This week we’ve entered the teenage years. Ready or not … mostly not ready, but here’s what I’ve learned…

There are no pat answers, no magic formula, no step by step process that makes great kids.

Each child is an individual with their own talents, abilities and WILL.

I feel a failure often and more than any other stage and for that reason, I hesitate to even tell you what works, because maybe it was a fluke for that child, because it didn’t work for the next… But I have learned these things.

Teenage years is a time for them to evaluate and choose their own values.
They can no longer say, “I believe this because my parents did.” They must know why they believe what they believe for themselves.

Even though our curriculum includes Bible, my husband has added for their last year Bible doctrine. He assigns chapters they must read and present orally to the family. This allows discussion and further explanation.
Tell them why you believe what you believe. Allow them to share their thoughts. But they will soon decide if these values will be theirs. Do not be surprised when they are not. 

They also must figure out how they fit in with life and with what to do with that life.
“What are you going to do when you grow up?” Is a threatening question, especially when they have no idea.
Maybe the better question is “Who do you want to be?”
That question is not some ambiguous, futuristic answer.
There really is only two choices: to follow God with their whole heart, or to do what they want. How they decide, will determine later choices.

If they obey God today, then He will take care of tomorrow.
If they are seeking God, He won't hide what He wants for them to do.
He wants them to know Him. 
He will show them.
But right now, they must be students and school is hard, or boring or not what they want to be doing. They want to see down the road and know what they should do 30 years from now….God takes them step by step. Do school now. Ask for the next step.

If they aren’t seeking God’s choices, then their road will be different and so will their attitude and purpose. (Try not to let these wrong choices steal your own joy, although how a mother lets go is also a stretching process.)

Just Get Them Through
With all that inner turmoil is it any wonder they are moody, sensitive and unpredictable?
I am not excusing that behavior, but it helps to remember what they are processing.
I remind them I’ve been there (back with the dinosaurs, they think), but it's a time of sifting what is important and what is not.
I also refer to older brothers  (tell the older brothers to talk with them).
Other family members or church members can also reinforce what you are saying.

This is not the time to correct everything that is wrong with their characters.
If one son is an absolute slob, rather than demand a clean room, I shut the door to his room. Everyone else has chosen to move out of his room. Not a very equitable arrangement, but no one will share the cleaning when it's mostly his. Sometimes I wonder if he even notices that he's the only one in the room?

Much of the correction now comes, not from me, but from my husband. He talks with them man-to-man about what it takes to be a man. I do not even listen. [Nor do I soften the blows (figuratively, not physically).]

That transition from child to adult is most noticable with school, because I am their teacher all the time.
They begin to resent my instruction and resent schooling. (I think that goes back to God’s directives for men instructing men, although that applies to spiritual teaching, not general knowledge.) What man admits to being lost? or tired? or sick? And now they must say they don't understand and want me to explain how to do math? I don't think so. They are very tired of me helping with their school, so when it comes to life, they are not listening. I don’t know how to avoid that “feeling” but I do back-off from instructing in other ways because of it. They've heard it before, helpful reminders may be construed as nagging.

By the time they’re reached the high school years, they are co-owners of their lawn-care business.
Because they are working outside the house, they don't do regular chores. (This started by necessity. They were gone most of the day, working in 100' weather and tired when they returned.)
This causes a bit of rift for those few left behind at home to clean up everything...but usually it's the one at home's mess anyway.

That is not to say they do nothing at home. When a tree recently fell on our pig house, the older boys didn’t even tell me. They purchased the supplies to re-build it for their pigs they're raising for us and others. 
One son will tell the younger ones, “If you want to go with me, clean something inside the house without mom telling you, then you can go.” Wow, what a surprise for me!

Give them a chance to Succeed.
Driver’s License
Riding in the car with them as they learn to drive is an exercise of extreme lack of control for a mom.
How do you cram 30 years of driving experience into a split second of actual driving?
You can’t.
And you don’t.
They make mistakes.
And you must correct in a calm, controlled voice.
(That’s where chewing ice is an acceptable alternative, much as my dentist tells me otherwise.)

I have to remind myself this one-on-one time is not the time for correcting other issues. They must concentrate on holding the steering wheel, watching the road, and especially in our mountains, staying in their lane.
But it can be a time to talk.

All other noise, boys in the back seat included, must stop. I’ve threatened one boy who couldn’t “remember” that I would bring duck tape and I would use it. He then remembered. No comments. No talking. No music. Let the driver concentrate.

My boys were always good about thanking me after they were allowed to drive. I return the thanks. I’m glad they are becoming men.

If they were ever out of control or could not obey me, they were told to pull over and I would drive. I don’t remember this being an issue, but I have debated a few times about whether to allow a son who could not obey at home to drive.

To receive a license in California, all permit drivers must have 50 hours of practice driving. If we don’t sign that paper, they can’t get their license. And since they drove with me 95% of the time, they had to be nice to me.
My husband helps them with highway driving. (I take all the back roads for a reason.) And with things that weren’t clicking with my instruction. (I can’t be great at everything. I use to make the boys unload a trailer full of hay at the top of the driveway. They would drag the bales to the garage because I couldn’t back the trailer to the garage. This encouraged the boys to learn to back up the trailer before they learned to drive on the road. I still don’t back up trailers. They do it for me.)

Driving can be a good motivator.
If we fought over school, then I’m not going to allow you drive me around.

These aren't principles, nor premises, nor even set in stone. They sometimes change with each child. But if these help you with your child, I'm glad.

These articles are hard. God convicts me to write the article. I fight about whether I will write it. Then He applies those things that I write with my own children--- I wonder if I should even tell you, and then He prompts me to say it like it is...all dirt and no shine...and I breathe a sigh of relief that article is over.
Then He starts working on me for the next I work with my teenager. One thing at a time. One step at a time.
I learn slow. I'm glad He's patient.
I wish I was as patient with my teenager as God is with me. But I'm not.
He continues to give me teenagers that need patience. And I continue to ask Him for His strength.
And I learn to see Him better. Isn't that what life is about?

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I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

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Tell of My Kingdom's Glory
Three Book Series



Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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