Last year I helped both of my kids dye their hair red. My mom said I was crazy, and I myself wondered if I’d gone stark, raving mad, but I figured helping them was better than dealing with red dye all over the bathroom. In the end my son had a red top, my daughter had a red lock, and I had a red spot on my nose.
The teen years present new joys and challenges to parents. My husband and I love interacting with our kids and watching them develop. The challenge comes from their desire for more independence and our doubts over how much freedom they’re mature enough to handle. Every day brings new questions. “Mom, can I get a nose piercing?” “Can I order a beer?” And then I have questions myself: “Should I still be enforcing bed time for my kids?”
Scripture provides common-sense advice: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, NIV)
This reminds me to major on the majors, like being a good role model and passing on the values of faith, love for others, and hard work. Other issues like what time our teens go to bed or the fact that they want to wear a red checkered hat to church are less important.
Let Go of the Need to Be in Control
I’m the first to confess that part of the difficulty of the teenage years lies in my own reluctance to relinquish control. Sometimes our conflicts are about my wanting things my way. Just because I’m the mother. When I let go of this tendency, my relationship with my kids improves.
Choose Your Battles Wisely
My husband and I decided that an earring for my son is okay. Why argue over a little thing like that? But a tattoo? I’m sorry. We’re just not going there. In our family a tattoo is taboo until you’re 50. This means I can get one this year if I want, but my kids can’t…(There I go again, exercising control!) But really, even a tattoo pales in significance compared to responsibility, respect, and diligence.
Allow for Guided, Growing Independence
It’s scary, but sometimes I allow my kids to make their own decisions. I call my son and say, “What time were you thinking of coming back home this evening?” I suggest that my daughter might spend more time studying for a test, but I don’t push her. I let her know she’s the one who will get the grade.
Do you ever stop to evaluate whether you give your kids more negative input (Don’t leave the fridge door open) or more positive input (You did a great job on this project)? I tend to harp on the negatives, but I want to encourage my kids and cheer them on towards higher ground. Encouragement motivates anyone and feeds healthy self-esteem.
I want to foster a positive growing relationship with my teens as they transition into adulthood, but I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know what I’m doing, so I hang on to Paul’s advice about not exasperating our children.
Do any of you out there have teenagers? How do you handle your relationship?