by Mark Timm, CEO Ziglar Family
Are you the parent of a teen or pre-teen? If so, then maybe you’ll agree: parenting teenagers and pre-teens is not for the faint of heart!
Starting somewhere around 7th grade, it seems that our sweet little kiddos turn into hormonal whirlwinds, blowing hot and then cold, leaving parents never sure of who’s going to come out of the bedroom each morning.
Along with my wife, Ann, I am raising six teenagers, so you can imagine what a day in our house is like when more than one or two are having an “off” day!
Not too long ago, after a particularly turbulent week, the thought occurred to me: What if teenagers are so difficult because it’s their role to fulfill — their job to do?
Now you may be thinking, “Wait, what? Why would you say that?”
Just consider for a moment: What if the challenging behaviors our teenagers exhibit is not necessarily just “teens being difficult,” but is actually a way of testing us as parents?
I think you’d all agree that our job is not to raise good kids; it’s to raise good adults who will be the future moms, dads, workers, husbands, wives, and parents of future generations.
So if that’s our job, is it then possible that our teenagers are testing us to see if we are up to the challenge of leading them there?
And there’s no doubt about it — the stakes are high.
If we pass the test, then we will likely experience an engaged relationship with our teens, one where we can talk, share, and ultimately trust they will come to us with questions, concerns, hopes, dreams. It’s a top parenting goal: we want our teens to come to us and be vulnerable.
And what if we don’t pass the test?
Well, then likely they will go find someone else to lead them, or confide in someone else for advice and counsel. Of course, yes, there is a chance they may find a good outside person or role model.
But what if they find the wrong person? Without the maturity to discern who may or may not be a great influence, teens can easily turn to someone who is not a good role model, whether that is an adult or even other teens, and can end up going down a rough path.
I know with 100% certainty that I want to be that voice speaking into my teens’ lives as they mature into young adults, so I keep it at the forefront of my mind that the way I respond to their challenging behaviors is vitally important.
My wife, Ann, also believes the teen behavior is a test, but has a slightly different angle on it. She believes one reason they’re testing us is to explore whether there are limits on our love for them.
When kids are little, it’s uncomplicated — they know their parents love them, and they love their parents back. But then there comes a point in time where teens realize, Maybe Mom and Dad only love me because they have to, not because they want to. Or maybe they really don’t love me.
Teens go through a period of questioning whether they’re even lovable at all: with all of the puberty changes, both physical and emotional, they’re bound to wonder, Am I lovable? Do I deserve love?
Ann’s theory is that one reason they’re difficult is because they want to know whether they’re loved genuinely and unconditionally: good or bad, ugly or beautiful, hard or easy. They need to know their parents aren’t people who love them just because they have to, but because they really deeply love them.
Once we’ve passed that test, they will come to us whether times are tough or good.
Imagine how different those conflict situations would look if parents didn’t throw up their hands and say, “I can’t deal with this,” and instead, questioned how best you can pass the “test,” and lead your teens positively into adulthood.
When we are having our worst moments with our teens, Ann and I remind each other that they’re just “doing their job,” and then we buckle down and tackle the test with confidence!
One quick final note: we’re HUGE fans of the awesome Parenting Teens Summit put on by Axis.org, and a new Summit is happening very soon, from Septermber 11th – 30th, 2017!
It is an all-online virtual summit featuring over 50 of the most influential voices in faith and culture. Attendees get to hear practical, proven insight from speakers such as Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Juli Slattery, Dr. Paul David Tripp, Craig Gross, Kimm Carr, Craig Groeschel, and Dr. Kathy Koch, among others.
Here are just a few of their topics:
- Your Teenager’s Not Crazy
- Addictions & Your Family
- Sexuality in the Next Generation
- Teens, The Screen & Your Family
- What Should a Grandparent Do?
- Flourishing in Marriage While Raising Kids
The summit includes forty speakers over two weeks, all designed to help you disciple your child’s faith for a lifetime. This is a FREE online-only experience and we really think you’ll enjoy it and benefit greatly!
You can get all the details and claim your free spot by clicking here.