For those of you who are just joining us - This is the 3rd and final installment in Dealing with Mary's Teen (and for my more frequent visitors, don't pretend you weren't wondering how long I could drag this out...)
Mary is the mother who I'm sure wishes she had never "Asked Annie" the question about her teen daughter's new found subtle rebellion. You can go back in the blog a few posts and read the whole dispiriting dilemma - or you can test your inference skills and try to read between the lines.
Mary's first assignment was to search her own heart (and according to a recent update, where I checked in with her to see if she was still speaking to me, she is having the time of her life confessing, repenting, and modelling humility before her daughter.)
Part two was to do the following; (from my blog on 5/4)
Make an appointment to talk to them, take a pad and pen, put some duct tape on your mouth and Ask Away.
(Let the child know you are willing to wait however long they need to answer. Some kids think their silence will make you go away.)
1.In what ways have I/we let you down? Or you might phrase it, What promises have we broken to you or in what ways has anything I've said or done let you down?
2.In what ways have I hurt you or offended you?
3.What would you change about me if you could?
4.What would you change about our home or the way we do things in our home?
Calmly write down their answers. Ask them if there’s anything else they would like to share. They will be encouraged to share as they see you aren’t going to get upset, angry, or yell at them. As they see you calmly and patiently giving them “the floor” they will be encouraged to share more and more. You may be uprooting seeds of bitterness or resentment that might have begun to grow.
When they are done sharing with you, thank them (try to mean it...),and explain that you’ll need some time to pray over the things they’ve shared in order to seek wisdom from the Lord.
That’s it! Don’t say anything about any of what they've shared with you. If you say anything right afterwards, before you’ve had time in prayer....Your rash response may ruin any good communication you've tried to establish.
Take the duct tape off once you are safely away from your child.
Alrighty....Today (pretending that I'm not writing this at midnight...) I will tell you what to do with the answers. You may have noticed that not everything your child/teen shared with you was completely accurate. Perhaps they used words like "Never". (You NEVER let me go to the mall. When you know that is totally untrue because just last week, your whole family went to Olan Mills, which is very near the mall.) Or they may say, "You ALWAYS embarrass me in front of my friends when you talk about their FaceBooks and emails to me. NO ONE else's mom reads their personal correspondence. For Pete's sake, you'd think a child would appreciate all the time it takes to read over their shoulders and go through their deleted mail!
During the questioning, if they shared something you feel is wrong…… Don’t explain, Don’t make excuses, Don’t get offended…Do not take it personally. They are just trying to share what is in their mixed-up, unrealistic, ungrateful, overly sensitive hearts. Your goal was to get them to reveal what's in their precious, inherited-from-their father heart and this is the best way to help them replace those wrong thoughts, OR (and I realize this is a long shot....) make amends for anything true they share that you've done that has hurt them. They are foolish and immature, so not everything they share will be said wisely or maturely.
Try to focus on whatever you CAN make right or change for them - - - after much prayer and crying out for discernment. As you deal with the things you can do something about,… many of their foolish or rash answers will just fall away. Your child will be blessed that you’re willing to respect them and truly listen to them. You might need to remind them they need to be respectful in what they share and in the words they use. No rudeness allowed. From either participant :)
Mary will benefit greatly from talking this over with her husband and getting his rational, less emotional take on the matter. I've found it better if just one person asks the teen the questions so they don't feel ganged up on, but both parents need to be involved in figuring out how to deal with what their child shared and what response is needed.
Unless your child is a future Mother Theresa, they will probably share some foolish, selfish information. One of our sons wanted to change his name to "Blade", there's nothing wrong with that, I guess - We just preferred to stick with the original "Alex". But there were other things we could change that bothered him. He doesn't like throwing things away. His mother is a decluttering freak. I've hurt his feelings by getting rid of stuff that was important to him (needless, junky, trivial things...) Our compromise was to buy him a couple of containers to keep things in. (Not clear containers where I would be tempted to lose my salvation when I saw the contents.)
One of our 11 children resisted our move away from the country, and got all Eeyore about it. We let him talk it out, and we were able to do a few things we knew could make the transition easier - which showed him that we cared, which (hopefully) will keep any bitterness from developing.
Don't be surprised if your teen brings up rules they would like "relaxed" (relaxed as in The Rule Is No More.) We've had four children safely pass through the teen years, and we currently have four more trudging through ...with 3 more right behind them. It would be easy and require less effort to just make the rules once and for all, for current and future progeny. It sure takes more praying and searching and energy to think through the why's of each rule and situation. (And I'm not talking about clear sin here...but there are more grey areas than I like.) Where we can ease up or compromise, we should. And where we can't, at least the child knows we have taken their feelings and thoughts into consideration. Sometimes they actually want us to say No, but they'd like to be heard first.
And don't forget, as your pre-teens and teens see you becoming what you are asking them to become…they will be much more motivated towards righteousness in their own lives and have much more respect for you and for your Lord.
As parents our job is to train our children. This doesn't end when they are teens. In fact, it intensifies as the time gets short and the consequences of their sin get more significant and life altering. If they are struggling, it is our job to pray for them, love them, forgive them, and to figure out some practical ways we can come alongside them and help them and hold them accountable.
Hopefully, the few steps I've shared over the last week - and the time you spend asking your teen these questions, will help them find their way through the maze of teenhood. Prayerfully, they will see this time as an opportunity to draw near to Christ and to trust, honor, and communicate with their parents.
You can not be selfish or lazy. Count it important to pray and ask for wisdom to reach and keep your children's hearts.
Learn from my mistakes, people. Don't have a hissy fit over blue nail polish, like I did - or wearing sandals to church. Make sure you know the difference between a preference...and a principle ... and a sin. They each require different responses.
But if you don't know the difference....., don't Ask Annie!
Don't ask Annie about your children, your teens, or your dogs. I don't care if they're pooping all over your house - or if they never come when you call. I'm ready for some Blogging Lite.
(Actually, I do care...But I'm going to take my dd's advice and do the Ask Annie segment just one day a week. Sherry, I know you're waiting to hear what to do about your son that won't put his shoes on. Can he stay barefooted until a week from Monday? :)
There is no greater joy than to know that our children are walking with the Lord, so if your teen has not yet seen their need for Christ's redemptive work on their behalf, these years are the perfect time to lead them to Him. It is He who will complete the work that has been started....Not you. Thank God He will still be "parenting" your child long after they leave your nest.
Debbie (who is planning a series of short, easy-to-read, easy-to-write posts...starting tomorrow.)