I was struggling with how to handle my teens and their little rebellious behavior and fits. I don’t have typical teens, I think. I think a typical teen is more hormonal. They don’t know how to handle growing pains and the need for sleep. They are simply different. They are not early risers. At the crack of dawn, they would want to sleep in a little later. They are tired all the time because their bodies are growing and changing. Their hormones are imbalanced. They have emotions, moods, and all these things coming at them, and they don’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know how to handle them. I was taking it personally, in a lot of cases, when it was not personal. It was only a mood swing. It was part of their body crying out, looking for independence. They were trying to figure out the boundaries: “What are my new boundaries? How can I be free from this? I am ready to be on my own.”
I reflected on my kids’ young years and how I trained them up from the time they were little. From eleven months, I started training them with solid discipline. I wasn’t beating and spanking my children. I was training them in how to be a disciplined child. I recounted all of those details. I reflected on the terrible threes. It was the year of “Why this?” “Why that?” “Why this boundary?” I remember Spencer saying one time, “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?” She questioned every boundary. She pushed every boundary. She threw a fit at every corner. She was trying to figure out her independence: “I am ready for a new level of freedom from you. I don’t necessarily have the maturity to obtain it, but I need to see where it is. It needs to increase. I am ready for an increase. I need to push every single door in to try to find what it is.” I had to realize this kid needed an increase in independence. How could I give it to her without giving her too much that she would hurt herself?
As I recounted this, the Lord was like, hey, guess what. Your teens are like a redo of the terrible threes. It was a light bulb moment. Ding! The teens are the recap of the terrible threes. My teens need more independence from me. They have come to the age where they could probably live on their own but they don’t have the maturity. They are tired, exhausted, and hormonal. They don’t know how to deal with all those things. They want new limits. They are trying to figure out who they are. “Mom, you have to let go of me a bit more. You have to give me a bit more space.” They start fighting for it. It doesn’t matter how much you have given them to date. They need more at that point. You can keep it reeled in, but they will only need more. If you give them too much too early, they will need more—probably more than you are willing to give them. They will need more space, more freedom, and fewer limits. They are fighting for that, trying to figure out, “I want to be making my own decisions.” They don’t understand the struggle, but we can.
Don’t we do that as mothers? A friend of mine is constantly the referee when she is with her children. “Mom, can we do this? Mom can we do that?” It could be in the middle of a play. “Mom we need this. Mom we need that.” I can tell she carries the burden to make it all better. She is the one who makes it all better. But we are not the savior of our children. They need to work some things out. They need to learn to solve their own problems. They need to learn to sit still, be quiet, and wait. They don’t need immediate gratification on every single thing. I’m sure if my friend is reading this right now, she is probably wondering if this is her. Probably every one of you is thinking the same, “I’m her friend. Am I like that? Is this me?” It’s not you. Evaluate your own life and see if you act that way.
Are you the savior of your children? Are you trying to make it all better? Do you ever make your children wait for a response? They need to be able to sit and wait a few days. They do not need immediate gratification. Otherwise you will be raising an entitled immediate-gratification adult who is going to be a brat. Evaluate your own parenting. Ask yourself if you are doing that.
Put your hand up. Tell your kids to wait. Tell them to shut up and stop interrupting. Don’t let them interrupt adult conversation for what they think is an emergency. It’s not. Your children can wait—unless there is blood or a broken bone. They need to learn to wait, a lot of times, more than a day. We need to teach them patience by not giving them what they desire, need, or want right away. We do this when they are infants because they don’t have a choice. But this is not where they are when they are older. It should slowly go from you meeting their needs to them meeting their needs or them seeking Jesus to meet their needs. You shouldn’t be their need-meeter or their constant savior.
As I have reflected, God has given me the answers I need on how to handle the teens. I don’t have to make it all better. I don’t have to be their savior. If I am their savior, then Jesus cannot step in and be their Savior.
Their moodiness is not a reflection of my parenting. Their neediness is not a reflection of my parenting. Their rebellious, eye-rolling attitude is not, in fact, my problem. It’s not because of me. It’s not personal. Don’t take it personally. It’s not because they hate me; it’s because they are fighting for some independence. It has nothing to do with me. It has all to do with them.
I never would have learned this had I not sat down and reflected and wrote my own parenting book. Like I said, I sought many mentors. I sought people and asked them what to do. I have had mothers say, “I can talk to you in five months because I am really busy.” I have had mothers say, “I don’t know what I did. Just pray.” “Ask them what I did because I didn’t do anything right. Maybe they can tell you something I did right. Ask my kids.” I have asked people I genuinely respected—Spirit-filled believers—and they could not give me an answer. This is not okay. To train up the next generation, we need to know what we did right. The only way to do this is to step back and reflect: “Here is what we did right, and here is what we did wrong.” One of the things you do right is admitting your weaknesses to your children when you are a failure as a mother. Reveal to them you are not perfect. Only one is perfect, and His name is Jesus.
We can love radically. Only in reflecting and writing my parenting book did I get the exact mentoring I needed. It didn’t come from man. It came from God. He showed me how to reflect on my past.