“You just WAIT until they are old enough to be really rebellious!”
These were some of the first words I heard from well-meaning folks twenty-two years ago, as I held my bright-eyed, strong-willed little girl in my arms.
I’ll admit: I wasn’t looking forward to those dreaded years, but comments like that didn’t help. I figured I had a few years to come up with a “plan of attack” though. And, thankfully, the first twelve years provided plenty of learning opportunities for my sweet husband and me. Mostly, they were opportunities to learn the best ways to love our kids.
Years ago, the Lord impressed a verse on my heart as I was sitting on our couch reading to our pre-teens. We were reading the story of George Mueller, who had served the Lord with a passion that ultimately brought many to Christ. I wondered what my teens would choose to do with their lives…and then, I saw this verse in an entirely new light:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11
I had been reading this verse all my life but at that moment I saw it in a new light: God had a plan for EACH of my children. It wasn’t just for me—that promise was for them, too. It overshadowed the moments of angst we were having, and those all-too-common struggles for right relationship. I really saw each of my children as truly precious to the Lord. It made me very aware of my part in God’s plan, too, because as their mother, I was a big part of what God was doing in their lives at that point. As a mom, I am God’s divine choice to help Him as He prepares our children for the plans He has already made for them. My job was to nurture and guide them into God’s plan—to help them find their purpose.
Instead of dreading the teen years, I now look forward to them. Why? Because that when weary moms and dads get to see the first signs of buds that appear on the branches we have been tending to so carefully. It’s those final few years that we have our children under our care and supervision. The teen years provide opportunities for late-night conversations about the real stuff that life is made of.
The world says that when we have teens we should gradually give them more and more freedom: 13 yr olds are now being left to parent themselves, and 16 year-olds are often making life-altering decisions will little guidance from their parents.
But how different God’s view is of parenting! Consider what David had to say in Psalm 127:4:
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
God says that our children are like arrows in the hands of a warrior! This is a great image for us to remember as we get ready to launch our arrows out into the world: rather than giving more and more freedom and imparting less instruction, we should be giving more instruction! Before an archer gets ready to launch his arrows, he carefully draws the bow and arrow into himself, carefully determining trajectory and keeping his eyes on the target.
Am I suggesting that we don’t give our teens a measure of freedom? No. Our job is to prepare them for adulthood. They will need freedom in order to grow and test their first flight wings. But let’s be careful not to launch them too soon or carelessly. Let’s keep our eyes on preparing them for that specific task to which God is calling them—and be open to the idea that it will not always be what we had hoped it would be. Remember, God is the Master planner! We are simply caretakers for a few years of great opportunity and influence in the lives of our children.
The teen years go by fast. But contrary to the world’s thinking, they are not a time for less parenting. They are a time of great opportunity— a time for greater wisdom and involvement. The teen years are not an instant maturity of child to adult, but a gradual deepening of a friendship between child and parent. It’s an opportunity to use careful wisdom when disciplining and to ask for forgiveness when it’s required.
Don’t miss these precious years. Don’t dread them. Take advantage of them.
Wondering how? Here are a few simple goals to consider:
- Make your home the place where your teens want to bring their friends.
We’ve found that making our home “the place” has required some flexibility over the years … but that flexibility has resulted in wonderful memories of pizza parties, game nights, movie nights and even wonderful interactions around a big pot of taco soup. Make sure your teens know that you welcome their friends into your house. Not only does it give you great insight into the character of their friends, it allows you a greater platform to speak into their lives.
- Be willing to stay up late.
I don’t know why, but teens become night owls. So we became night owls too. Sometimes, against our will! But those late-night conversations are a huge part of the important stuff. Prop your eyelids open … it’s worth it!
- Learn to apologize.
Your teens will respect you and learn from your example if you can admit it when you are wrong. After all, we ask forgiveness for our entire lifetime!
- Be the parents.
You’re an archer. You’re preparing your kids for a battle—and this requires both nurture and discipline. Our kids were not created to be boomerangs! They’re not supposed to come back… right? They were created as arrows. You don’t get a second chance. One launch. A few short years. Don’t grow weary in investing in your teens.
The harvest is coming. Sow wisely and lovingly. And ENJOY these precious years!