I recently had a chance to sit and chat with a friend in my office. We talked the normal things like life and ministry and all that but a comment has stuck out in my mind. We hit the idea of ego-centricity in our lives. Admittedly the point was that as infants we begin as very self-centered and egotistical animals! (No malicious intent here just go with me for a minute.) Then we kind of come out of it as we develop our relational and communication skills a bit. But when we get older we tend to swing back into that ego-centered life once again.
It’s disgusting how rapidly it happens! For some it starts in early adolescents while in others it happens a little later, but the truth of the matter is we all go through it. Some never get out of that phase!
This friend indicated that the second most ego-centered stage in life is the teenage or adolescence. It’s only superseded by our selfish desires at birth! As our children slide back into this selfish mode during adolescence, we, as parents, have a challenging time to say the least. How do we parent a child who only cares about his or her own needs? How do we communicate with a person who really doesn’t value our opinion? How do we discipline a child who’s older and typical forms of correction just don’t seem to be working anymore?
Disclaimer: I’m not an expert! I don’t pretend to be one. I do,’t even do this stuff well myself, but wow do I wish I would remember it in the moment! This is written to help you better understand your adolescent child and how to communicate with them more effectively.
Listen. It might seem a little obvious but sometimes just listening to your adolescent child makes a world of difference. And when you listen do it without a phone in your hand or a screen between you. For boys a little hint: they don’t really like eye contact. Take them for a drive and talk to them then. Go golfing or to the batting cage. Perhaps they’re into games and screens, play a game with them and just listen to them then.
Don’t fix it. As a dad this one is pretty hard for me. Our tendency as parents is to keep our kids for being hurt, so we shield them and shelter them and protect them. But sometimes we need to let them fall. I remember falling off my bicycle a few times before learning how to ride it. I don’t resent them at all for letting me fall. As a matter of fact, if I hadn’t fallen I wouldn’t have tried as hard to stay upright! Listen to them. Then validate what they’re feeling. Let them know it’s ok to have a bad day and feel sad.
Ask don’t tell. I have to be honest my children as a ton of questions! And sometimes I get a tad impatient when someone asks me a question they can answer for themselves! It’s a good practice to help people discover the answers to their problems more often than solving the problems for them. So ask them questions that lead to discovery. Then give encouragement when they find the answer!
Encourage. This one is easily overlooked by so many of us in parenting. We have no problem praising our children for something out of the ordinary good! We love on them when they get a class award. We hang their straight A grade card on the fridge. But what about when we catch them doing something we expect and yet they do it without being asked or told? What if they go a little above and beyond? Do we offer that encouragement then? Encouragement goes a long way!
Eat together. We have a rule in our house that we have to eat dinner together more nights a week than we do apart. We’re very strict on that rule and try our hardest to adhere to it. Eating together is one of the closest forms of connection we can have with our family. When you’re at the supper table, leave your phones away and don’t let outside distractions come into your time together as a family. One day your table will be eerily empty and you’ll wonder where the time went. Cherish these moments because they are fleeting!
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. Feel free to comment with your best practices. I’d love to hear what you have to offer! Enjoy this emotion-filled journey of parenting! We’re in this together so share your successes with someone! It just might help them on their journey.