Parenting the Bumpy Teen Years

Several years ago,  Joy and I were laying on her bed, talking. She said, "I am determined not to become a teenager who is controlled by hormones or attitudes! It seems so silly. I don't think I will go through the phases the older kids did!"

Having lived through the ups and downs of her older siblings,  Joy, who is very even-keeled by natural temperament, wanted to try to skip the bumpiness of the teen years. But, try though we or they might, there just is a passage from little child, dependent on Mom and Dad, to the place where our teens begin to own their own convictions, exercise their own authority and will, and grow up--and it comes with bumps!  All teens experience the growth process a little differently, but all must go through the growing pains inherent with moving from dependence to independence. Tension is natural when children pull away from childhood to become strong, mature adults.

Joy  officially entered this phase, as did all of her siblings. and had to go through her own story of ups, downs, and high emotions. I am very blessed because Joy has a great heart and is patient with her not-so-perfect-or-patient mom. All of my children, somewhere in the teen years (and sometimes a little earlier) suddenly, out of nowhere,  started having issues with normal life moments like emptying the dishwasher, or picking up their room.  Suddenly there was fussing and tears over even minor things like who washed the dishes last or who had done more chores.

Little attitudes of anger and frustration began bubbling up out of the blue. I am not talking about immorality or rebellion--those are serious issues that many teens experience, too. But, out of experience, I have learned a lot from my other three after years of not understanding what was going on or how to bear with the ups and downs.  The truth is, hormones are present in boys and girls. And boys can be moody, too!

One of my strongest memories was of a time I asked my easy-going child to empty the dishwasher. All of a sudden, this gentle-spirited young man became a lion--you would have thought I had asked him to give his life as a ransom for the other kids! He went ballistic. "Why does everyone eat so much? They all make messes every day and there is no end to dirty dishes around here--everyone needs to become responsible for their own messes!" 

Of course, I couldn't have agreed with him more--but this was just about a five minute job of emptying one dishwasher!  When a usually gracious child turns into a teen and shows a cranky side even occasionally, it seems even more of a big deal, somehow, than when a child who's always been more outgoing and perhaps noisy does the exact same thing!

But the mood swings and teen issues and choices make for some bumpy roads. Seems to me that this season of life with teens is when parents get weary of their ideals and begin to compromise on issues. Then there are the added pressures of social media issues we're all dealing with, trying to balance Facebook, cell phones, gaming, and media. Most kids this age have a lot of pressure to conform and want so much to have friends and community. Often it seems the potential community of good companions grows smaller than in the elementary years, because it is a time when teens start going off into dangerous areas.

I think it is difficult for moms to remember that their children have good attributes during a hormonal explosion and the wide varieties of volatile emotional discussions we get wrapped up in. Talking things through can take hours and hours.

Relationship, relationship, relationship, and investing time--even when you don't think they want it--is very important.

Though Sarah tells me she is glad that I kept on her about "attitudes" and didn't let her get away with much, she also says it was the times we went walking every morning, the personal times of reading a magazine together, the coffee times that she believes truly helped keep her heart close to mine and to the Lord. For the boys, I focused on taking them to breakfast, loving them, talking, lots of chocolate chip cookies, back scratches, and pursuing them no matter how they behaved.

My favorite verse for the teen years  is, "A gentle answer turns away wrath," followed closely by, "It is the kindness and mercy of the Lord that leads to repentance."  In other words, we are supposed to be the mature, loving constant ones--even though we have given our lifeblood and time for so many years. I am here to say they do come out of it eventually and learn to see Mom as the anchor that held their lives together with the grace of God.

Parenting in the bumpy teen years requires deep breathing. Depending on God's grace again and again, seeking to walk in it constantly. And much courage. It is worth the cost of all the time and emotional investment and prayer. Helping your children find community is important, as is spending time together joyfully! Praying God encourages you today, and especially if you are the mama of a teenager!

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