On Raising Teenagers

Whew! That about covers it. If you are in the season of life where you are neck-deep in adolescent thinkology, you understand what I mean.

Let me preface this post with the statement that I have the greatest kids in the world. As typical teenagers go, my current three are well above average and thankfully not prone to the terrifying lifestyles and choices so many kids and parents find themselves battling. (I won't mention the first one. We had plenty of those issues too.) And since our eldest at home is actually 20, he's not technically a teenager, but for all practical purposes, he still is.

Raising teenagers has been equated with nailing Jell-o to a tree. Teenagers themselves find this puzzling and until they are parents themselves, they still won't get it. What is it about an otherwise terrific kid that is so exhausting to deal with on a daily basis?

As I was having to give a yes/no answer to another of my wonderful daughter's convoluted plans, I thought about that. After over 23 years of parenting, I often wonder if my battery is petering out. Do you ever just think you can't make one more decision that will send that precious youth into a pout? Why are teenagers more mentally and emotionally taxing than little ones? After all, they are (for the most part) house-trained. They can dress themselves, however questionable the result may be. They can speak in complete sentences--if they choose to. And they have fairly developed reasoning skills. So what it is?

I think it is their unwavering commitment to idealism. They see life the way they want it to be and can't understand why the adults are "so negative." They make--or attempt to make--decisions based on fantasy and dreams and an idealized version of reality; whereas, you the parent, are forced to constantly shoot holes in their balloon. Being the bringer of bad news is exhausting to anyone, and that's the role parents of teenagers must take to keep the little sweethearts on the straight and narrow and out of danger.

Reasoning with idealization is frustrating and often pointless. It's the point at which enemy lines are drawn and you must be the bad guy again, the mean old grumpus who takes the fun out of everything. Who doesn't "beleeeeeve in them." When they were little, a nap or lollipop usually did the trick. Not so after a certain age, when they insist on arguing with you.

Sooo, as I face a few more years parenting teens, I wonder where I'm going to get the mental energy to battle idealism while not tromping on the budding spirit. To say "no" when it's for their protection, yet be willing to watch them fall in order to learn. To refuse to be drawn into mindless arguments, yet allow them to express their ideas without criticism.

I know the only source of strength and wisdom, and even with Him it's still hard. How do people do this without God?

No comments: