Because I've been through it with each of my children, I know there is a mysterious point that happens in every child's life when he or she will no longer be a child who wants to be "mommy-ed," but turns away a little as they begin the process of becoming an adult. No amount of seeking to retrieve the innocent years will make this new phase go away. Suddenly, it is God's time for our children to begin growing up! Until that time, there is a long window of opportunity to pour in foundations of morality, truth, values, habits, and character. Then, suddenly, your whole relationship with your children will begin to shift and you know that there will be a detour ahead!
Over the years, a number of moms have asked me about how to keep the heart of preteens and teens when they start drifting away. I have definitely not been a perfect mom, but Clay and I have learned so much and have seen so much of His grace to keep us going along the way. I truly love my children as best friends and companions, and though so many days were irritating, the fruit of remaining under the load of these years, of cultivating patience with our children, has paid off so much more than we could have imagined.
I think it is of the utmost importance to focus on the heart of every child, rather than on their behavior. There is a reason that God uses the word "heart" over 800 times in scripture--"guard your heart," "love with all your heart," "the Lord looks at the heart," "man commits sin in their heart," etc.
Every child has a different personality, with different capacities and abilities. If we really believe we are supposed to study our children and seek to release the passions and personality and drives of their hearts so that they can pursue God's call on their lives, we will seek to be winsome, gracious, life-giving, and encouraging. If their behavior is our only focus, when they are young, we can force them to submit to us through pain or force simply because we are bigger than them! However, the short-term "success" could lead to long-term failure if this control causes us to lose their hearts, and any capacity to love and obey with joy in following our wishes just because they feel connected to us.
If, when your children are young, in the midst of training them and holding up God's ideals, you also serve them and love them unconditionally, then you will be laying a foundation for them to be willing to listen to you when they are older.
Remember this, all children, whatever the age, want to know they have someone on their team, someone who loves them as they are, even amidst the flare-ups and emotional outbursts. We all long to know someone believes in our worth. Speaking forward into our children's lives, even when we don't think they are listening, is building towards the voices they hear in their head, "I must be ok. Mom believes in me."
It's difficult when you sense your children begin to shift to the stage of moving away from you somewhat. Of course, you want your children to grow up and move toward becoming healthy adults. So what are the symptoms that change is coming? One of the biggest clues is more frustration and tears over seemingly small issues--moodiness and attitudes that you didn't see before. And it happens to both boys and girls!
"You never listen to what I am trying to tell you....."
"You always make me feel guilty."
"I'm an adult. I know what I am doing!" ( :))
"I want to do it myself."
"Oh, I don't have anything to wear!"
"I am so ugly."
"No one likes me."
This is all a sign of hormones surging--not a reflection of how good or bad a mother you are, but about your children growing up. I have learned some things over the years that have helped give me entrance to their hearts.
Stay tuned--come back for more on the detour of teenage years!