My Thoughts on Raising a Respectful Teenager – Part 2
By Barbara Russell
Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. Prov. 14:1
When I was raising my children, I pictured myself “building a house.” In my last article, I focused on my children when they were infants to 4-years old, which I picture as laying the foundation. Next is the 5-9-year-old, which I picture as building the framework.
If I would raise respectful teenagers, my children needed to learn that God is the final answer! Proverbs is full of wisdom! Several months throughout these years, the children and I would read the book of Proverbs for our morning devotions. I was able to teach them so many valuable lessons, just by us reading this great book of the Bible! I didn’t have to be some great Bible scholar to teach my children God’s Word; I simply exposed them to it. I knew their security would come from knowing we do what we do, because God said so! “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Ps. 119:11
My children needed to learn respect for authority. God made life simple for a child. Children are to obey and honor their parents. Obviously I wasn’t perfect, but I knew I had to expect and train my children to obey and honor me, as their mother, if they were going to be obedient to God. My children knew I had their best interest in mind, and their job was to simply obey and honor me.
We didn’t participate in what I call, “Preacher Hash.” (That’s when dad and mom scrutinize and criticize everything the pastor says or does.) We wanted our children to respect the pastor, Sunday School teacher, and anyone else in a spiritual leadership position. How were we to raise respectful teenagers, if their parents did not show respect for the authorities God placed in our lives? Does this mean we ALWAYS AGREED with everything leadership said or did? No, but we privately went to them, and discussed our differences, rather than dividing our children’s hearts in such matters.
There is always a chain of command. It is very liberating, and brings security, for children to observe their parents submitting to authority. They then learn to simply obey their authorities. Rom 13:1 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”
The 10-12-year-old stage, I picture as putting on the roof. Children at this age can spot a hypocrite a mile away! They are at a crossroads, sifting through everything they have been taught, and deciding what they believe or think about it. They are at a tender, crucial age; they are changing physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
As the mom, I knew I had a few choices: I could quit, leaving them to finish raising themselves; I could be a domineering mother and produce an introvert, or a ”Yes, ma’am” child who secretly can’t wait for the day they turn 18, so they can “be free;” or, I could continue trying to raise respectful teenagers. I chose the latter.
I always talked to my children, but now I talked with them on a more personal, adult level. I initiated conversations such as, “Is there anything we do in our family that embarrasses you? Are there rules in our home that you don’t understand? Are there things that people do to you that are hurtful or unfair? Is there anything the pastor preaches that you aren’t sure you agree with? Do you have any fears or physical concerns you want to talk about?” (I started directing my boys to their dad for personal questions and behavioral discipline.)
I tried never to humiliate my children, or make them feel stupid. If the truth were known, they already struggled with feelings of inferiority. I praised them often, and encouraged their ideas and opinions. I initiated opportunities for my boys to be leaders and to make wise decisions. I often told my daughter how beautiful she was, reminding her that beauty comes from within.
I discovered that the 10-12-year-old mind is always thinking! The question is this: “Am I, as their mother, going to take the time to listen to them, understand them, and direct them to a biblical way of thinking?” There was a time when I was “laying the foundation,” that I expected obedience with no questions, but if the foundation was properly laid, then, at this age, they need answers, direction, and instruction. I had to stay “tuned in” to my children, to sense when they were struggling, and be there for them. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6
All Hail the King!
By Malissa Custer
For the last seven or so months, we have been using that word a lot… KING… “King Rhett,” “King Kong,” “Your Highness,” “Your Royal Stinkiness.” The list goes on and on of funny names for Rhett, mostly because we needed some comedic relief from all the ways he has demanded our family change. The age gap between Rhett and the other two kids is six and seven years. We had a pretty good flow going, and Rhett really upset their apple cart. Now, of course, he is their favorite toy, and they love him to death, but there have been more than a few times that he ruins their plans. When their lives were inconvenienced by him I would proudly declare, “All Hail, the King,” and they would laugh and laugh – instead of getting annoyed. He has been very good for them, and for our family.
With our recent addition, I have been flooded with memories that seem like a million years ago. Most recently, it has been just how quickly they turn into little sinners. It seems that you have a newborn for three or so months, then you have a sweet baby who is growing and changing and laughing and smiling – until about 6 months – then you have something totally different! Their personality has arrived in full, which includes their will. I think it is fun, but some parents wish for that sweet baby to come back. Hold on to your hat! It seems from about six months to three years, you will be in a fierce battle. Honestly, looking back I can say it is the most important battle of their little lives. It lays the foundation of life. They must learn, “You are not in charge, you do not get what you want all the time, you will obey or there are consequences, and most of all, you are loved.”
Some of the first signs of their will, are arching their backs, crying when taking something away, rolling or kicking during diaper changes, pitching a fit when you put them down, and ignoring you when they choose. They are too young for Biblical correction, so what do you do? Well, you have choices. I choose to practice submission. Saying “no” with the proper tone of voice to communicate disapproval. When he arches his back, I pull him tight against me until he relaxes his muscles. When he refuses to look at me when his name is called (he clearly knows his name), I gently turn his face to me until he looks me in the eye and responds. When others speak to him, I help him to interact with them. Set him down on the floor and leave the room, just for a minute, then come back like nothing bad happened. Have a game, where you take his toy from him then give it back, then take it again. Hold them in their position when changing their diaper; when they relax, change it. Give them four toys, tell them not to touch one of them, and play that game with them. They get used to these things, and everything is much less of a dramatic big deal. It sets the tone that you are in charge.
You also have the choice of doing nothing. It seems the most patient of parents can indeed ignore these things, and it has no long-term consequences. I would say one of my worst qualities is impatience. If they are being naughty, I do not enjoy them, and I communicate that to them with my annoyance. This does not teach them anything and the confusion makes them feel insecure. As long as when you start correcting your child, you are consistent, you can start early in the first year of their life.
I certainly do not want this subject to make parents of toddlers feel as though the ongoing battle is just games. It is not. Unfortunately, all toddlers try to exert their will over everyone and everything, and it is our job as parents to inform them that option is not an option! We are in charge, and that is the only way it works. If you are having behavior problems that you can’t seem to win or figure out with your toddler, please get some advice. Find someone with grown children who are not rebellious, and ask them questions. I’m sure they will be more than willing to help you. They know how serious these things are. If you are feeling burned out and overwhelmed, please reach out. Ignoring those feelings will be destructive in your home. There are plenty of people willing to give you a break or encourage you, including me. You want to be able to look back at this time with joy of a job well done, instead of the sorrow of regret.
Editor’s Note- Parents exercising good discipline requires that they have themselves under control, first; then, sacrifice, commitment, consistency and a vision.