I was delighted when a friend of mine invited me to a parenting seminar this morning. Our first son recently turned 13 and I have had my questions and fears and a few challenges, but didn’t quite know where to turn. I have asked my Mom and Dad for advice of course, but I felt like I still needed to learn all I can for the new phase of parenting that I have entered. And so, this session was a God-send. Many of the fears I have had as a parent of a teenager are more to do with the stereo-type that I have heard and internalized, about how the teen years are terrible, more so in fact, than the terrible twos. Oh my how I dreaded the terrible twos, where the stereotype was that my child would constantly be throwing tantrums, demanding his own way and forever saying the word ‘no’. Thank God I survived the twos. But I had heard that the teen years are way tougher than the terrible twos, and so I braced myself for the worst when my son turned 13. I have been living on the edge, watching my son like a hawk, waiting for that moment when he turns from my sweet little son, to a half boy-half man (a man/boy), who I have to do battle with. I’ve been armed and ready – and probably dangerous.
And so, it was good to attend this meeting and have many of my myths about the teen years, debunked. A few of the things that stayed with me from this morning’s session are:
1. Parenting is as much a a responsibility as it is a privilege, and I should not take this privilege lightly. The family is a child’s first and primary learning community and parents are the primary teachers in a child’s life.
2. God gave me children, not only so that I can parent them, but that they can teach me too, and help me to grow.
3. God divinely paired my children and I. He knew that I was the exact kind of mom they needed and that they were the exact children I needed in this journey called life.
4. My goal as a parent of a teenager should not be to survive, but to thrive through this time, as I walk with and help my child through this phase of his life.
5. The teen years are not a battle of biology, they are not a battle against raging hormones, but a battle of the heart, and it is my role as a parent to raise my child in such a way that he will have a strong heart – a heart after God, a heart that is discerning and wise, a heart for mission and community, a heart to make a difference in this world.
6. I need to get myself out of the way in order to minister to my child. His journey as a teen is not about me, it’s about him. Very often we are angry, not at the child’s wrong doing, but angry about how that wrong doing makes us look before others. An example was given of a father of a teen who, when the teen brought home a bad report, asked the child – ‘how could you do this to me?’
7. I should be focused, purposeful and have a goal for my parenting, just like I do in any other area of my life. I should not parent aimlessly and hope that somehow, somewhere, at some time, the child will turn out OK. I should parent with a plan.
8. I should remember that just like I sin and struggle with the same issues over and over again and I am not perfect, the same goes for my son. Grace and humility are key to parenting.
9. In my parenting, I do not rely on myself, but on God. The children I have are a gift from God and He has entrusted them to me for a time, but they always are, and always will remain His. So God should be my first authority and point of reference, along with His Word, in my journey as a parent.
I am grateful for the lessons I learned. I will most probably have to learn these and many more lessons over and over. But I am willing to learn and to practice what I learn. So help me God.