As a parent of young kids, you may already be worrying about this phase.
Or perhaps you are a parent currently trying to stay afloat in the midst of it.
Or maybe you are looking back with relief having survived it relatively unscathed!
Without a doubt, this is often the most challenging, confusing and frightening time for parents, as their children move from childhood towards adulthood. Because they are neither child nor adult, parents find themselves in a continual balancing act:
- of needing to allow more freedom while maintaining wise limits
- of doing less hand holding but seeking more heart connection
The height of challenge tends to occur in the 6th-8th grade years. It’s in this season, that I sense the most angst and get the most agonizing questions like, “What has happened to my son?” or “What have you done to my daughter?”
Everything is changing:
- Efforts to control them bring about rebellious power struggles
- They may resist increasingly difficult school work preferring instead what comes easy and is entertaining
- They stiff arm your attempts to lecture them
- They readily find things to grumble and argue about
- What their peers think matters more while what you think matters less
- Your efforts to teach them are often met with cool indifference or impatience
Your role needs to adapt as they grow older.
When your children were younger, they watched you and took in basic information about life, about faith, and even about character. As adolescents, they are now “trying on” what they learned and at times they also experiment with “taking it off.” They want to walk in their own shoes and experience life for themselves. They can readily express what they don’t like but they are less clear about what they do like and what they believe. They are just beginning to formulate their own ideas and own them. Up to this point, they have taken in the ideas of others and for the most part believed what you told them.
Efforts at behavior management will fall flat.
They may not only fall flat but they may explode in your face. This adjusted role for parents requires even more focus. You may be longing to return to what you had in earlier years but those years are gone. Embrace this new season by not fighting it but purposing to enter into the world of your adolescent and walking purposely with your son or daughter. This is not a time to be uninvolved (including their virtual world). With purposeful engagement and wise adjustments, you will help them get through this time easier and quicker!
- To be related to and connected with. They still need YOU
- To feel significant and accepted – that they matter
- Purpose – VISION to motivate them.
Ultimately they will find these needs fully satisfied only as they connect with God and comprehend their acceptance by and worth in Him. And they will find their deepest satisfaction when they walk in God’s purposes for them. They will seek to fill these needs however in whatever way they can. If you aren’t connecting, they will connect with someone else. If They don’t feel accepted by you, they will find someone who does accept them. If they lose vision, they will find little reason to work hard at anything and grow complacent.
Here’s a few ideas to keep in mind:
- What you model will be more influential than what you say – they will pick up on what you try to cover up. Therefore, practice what you preach.
- Do more listening and less talking. Listening builds connection which is your best avenue of influence. Lecturing builds distance.
- Don’t panic. Be patient. Be mindful of what your words and body language express.
- Purpose to become a safe resource where they can bring their questions. Don’t judge their true feelings and thoughts but be a source of guidance as they work through them.
- A adult (and who better than you) they can share their honest struggles with is often all that is needed for authentic repentance in the heart to take place.
- Be a source of affirmation and affection, so that they won’t feel the need to seek it elsewhere.
- Set fair and wise limits. As much as they need increasing freedom, they also need firm limits.
- They now need to learn how to live by the lessons you have taught them and it will take practice: both successes and failures. Be OK with the learning process which includes mistakes and poor judgment at times.
- Allow them to “speak their minds” and “stand up for what they believe.” Expect them to advocate for themselves. Don’t rob them of opportunities to think for themselves. This will prepare them to rescue themselves from bad situations/relationships in the future and not become victims without control.
I will be speaking in more depth about this topic at the Paideia Conference coming up at the end of July and hope to see many of you there!