As a child moves from his elementary years into early adolescence, it's essential that the style of communicating with your child change with them. They are moving from "concrete" thinking to "abstract" thought. What was "non-hormonal" now becomes laced with hormones. Total dependence moves closer to independence. While they have always wanted to listen, now they want to express.
It's important for parents to transition with their child, to change their style of communication rather than not talking at all. Sadly, if this transition is not accomplished, then the next time that communication, or lack thereof, shows itself, is when your child begins to struggle or have difficulties, and desperately needs someone to talk to.
There is a scripture that has always stuck with me as one of those that accurately reflects the condition of most teens, and the "should-be role" of most parents. It's when Jesus says, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden (the condition of the teens part), and I will give you rest for your soul" (the parent's part). The hope is that we, as parents, become that place of rest for our kids….a place where they might be restored.
Too many times parents become a place of added burden or hardship, or an extra "measure" of correction when correcting has already been done. Moms have the tendency to do the "Energizer Bunny communication" that just keeps on going and going and going, and dads have that tendency to not "go to bat" and just ignore those situations when communication is needed the most. Moms, your over-correcting is not giving your child rest. And Dad, your not "speaking up" is not restoring anyone. The balance will be that place of rest, so work hard to find that medium of the "Mom and Dad mix".
The time to build lines of communication is before there are problems, struggles and difficulties. The time to maintain these lines is always. Never stop just because there is a conflict. Here's an idea. Come to the dinner table, and instead of "laying down the law", lay down some new rules. Not ones that dictate, but those that invite. Those rules might include that you (as the parent) want to have one-on-one time with your child and that you will find a special time each week to spend together. You might state that a new rule for your house is to go on a Mother-Daughter, or Father-Son special vacation each year, and do so as long as you're alive, another might be a Family Joke Nite that gets everyone laughing….just laughing, no spiritual lesson attached….just a pure time of worship called laughing.
A changing child asks for change in the way they interact with their parents. Try some of the following tips, and see if they help in your communication:
Over the last 30 years, I have met with thousands of families for countless hours in desperate and difficult situations. One thing that I do know, there is hope. More times than not, the difficult phases that a teen goes through are temporary, and "this too shall pass". The struggle for most parents is remaining engaged during those difficult times. Don't give up, for God promises to turn your ashes into beauty, your sorrow into joy, and your mourning into dancing. The God that has put His thumbprint on the life of your child still holds him (and you) in His palm.
Q – My teen is unruly and disrespectful. What is the most effective way to discipline without loosing control of the situation?
A – They are unruly and disrespectful for a reason, and their inappropriate behavior is usually a reflection of other things happening in their life. Ask questions to probe if there is something else going on. Their immaturity demands tighter boundaries, and their rebellion demands consequences. But first make sure of what it is causing the unruliness and disrespect (ask questions). Disrespect should not be allowed or tolerated and severe consequences should be levied against a child who chooses not to respect.
Q – Sometimes I get so angry at the choices my teen is making. How can I keep anger from controlling the way I discipline my teen?
A – The focus seems to be on "your" anger….not your child's. Anger is an emotional response to not getting what you want. It might do well to reflect on what your child is doing that is not giving you what you want, and ask why it is so important that they do that. This doesn't mean the reasoning is right or wrong, but it does help in getting to the root of the anger. Don't discipline out of your anger. Discipline for wanting something "for your child", out of a longing to have them not go in the direction they are going for their benefit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas. For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website. It's filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent. Go to www.heartlightministries.org. Or read other helpful articles by Mark, at www.markgregston.com. You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173. Hear the Parenting Today's Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.
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