I’ve moved on to a new and seemingly terrifying stage of parenting – parenting teens. The world tells me this is intimidating: after all, you’re fighting against raging hormones, moody swings, irrational outbursts with emotional hypersensitivity and the clincher: somebody that’s starting to remind you exactly of …you. Your bad habits come throttling back full circle if you don’t model it right. This special breed of adolescent humans also detect hypocrisy like a GPS radar. You better walk your talk or they might bite back.
Nonetheless, you forge ahead, take a deep breath and make the most of it, while trying to demystify the teenage human staring back at you.
This afternoon was good training for me to practice relating to my teen.
But first, a little crisis…
Said teen came back and spent more than an hour gaming in the toilet. Again.
My rules are: No gaming in the toilet. No gaming without asking for permission and letting me know. No gaming till your homework’s done. No gaming more than 30min.
Essentially, he had broken all the rules.
This boy. Rarely disobeys.
But he has disobeyed me three times on this issue for the past three months.
Before I reared my ugly mother- monster head, I thought of what I would do. Usually I would start thinking of kicking in with punitive measures: delete his app (AGAIN), give him a piece of my mind, remove his access to the phone. But wait, I’d already done that previously. And it hadn’t worked.
I had to work at parenting his HEART.
Parenting the Heart
So we sat down. And he obviously knew he was wrong. He apologized and started looking sheepish.
“Why did you do what you did?”
I could see a tear at the side of his eye. He was remorseful but silent.
I repeated my question.
“Am here to help you understand, why you did what you did, so you can do better.”
Then it started slowly…the trust knowing I was not there to condemn him for what he already knew was wrong.
We talked more freely from there….about why he did what he did. He shared with me that he had to watch his friends play during recess and he held back and did not play coz he had limited data and didn’t want to blow his plan. That’s why it was hard to resist when he came home and there was WiFi.
I empathized and commended him that he had the ability to restrain himself in school.
We then proceeded to discuss why it was a lure. We also discovered this particular game though harmless in content, didn’t have a depleting lifespan. So basically, you could play on and on.
I shared why it was important to learn how to run from something that might have a unhealthy hold on you and why it was of greater importance to master control over it rather than let it control you.
We also talked about how self control needs to start with the will- a personal choice to say I will choose not to go “there” because it is not honoring and it’s not right.
Naturally, we also discussed about the potential temptations online or otherwise there might be in the future that would need him to build and exercise this muscle of discernment and self control.
He shared some thoughts about how he felt and ways I could help him manage that better.
We prayed and read a bible verse together to guide us to understand our whys. And we decided to put in some processes to let him try to manage again- to practice making the right choice.
I felt we had connected. Parenting teens is hard work but it is worth the investment. I learnt many times over it is important to not just parent them just to control or change their behaviour but to parent them deep- from the heart. That also means we need to not condemn but CALL out the potential of what we see IN them OUT of them.
John Duffy, clinical psychologist and author of the “The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens.”
“Conversations also shouldn’t center on lecturing. “The occasional conversation may be a chore, a bit of a lecture, or a focus on behavior we as parents do not favor. But the lion’s share of the discussion has got to be connecting, talking, laughing and sharing,” Duffy says.
Connecting, talking, laughing and sharing. That’s the Lion’s Share. Definitely working towards that in the days to come!