The real crux of parenting lies in the way we grasp and understand the nuances of it, especially how it differs from marriage.
The basic tenet of the marital relationship is that it is one of growing interdependence, which is the real core to becoming one, not just in flesh, but in every way. The growth in marriage lies in knowing and realizing that it is important and necessary to give up individualism if the two are to become a couple, a family, and a community. The order in marriage, as laid out by the Apostle Paul in Eph 5, is for this transformation to happen in truth and spirit, so that Eccl 4:11-15 and Matt 18:18 become a reality!
In contrast is the parental relationship, for it is one of growing independence, wherein the child grows and moves from total dependence on the parent(s) to one of increasing freedom. From holding the child tightly in hand, to letting him or her stand on their own two feet, to taking baby steps, to begin running slowly, pick up speed and finally, even move out of control and purview. As the child matures, both physically and psychologically, the real crux of parenting lies in holding two things in balance – insisting on dependence and releasing to exercise independent choices.
The greatest need and skill of parenting is to know and understand when to hold and when to let go, when to demand and when to acquiesce, and when to decide for them and when to allow them to decide.
GREATEST NEED: Teenagers especially need the freedom, space and time to experiment and experience life, as it comes to them, and not as we want them to have it. Teen time is a season to learn to flex muscles, stretch wings and exercise own choices. Teenage is a phase to shrug off childhood, as a tree sheds its old leaves, and don on the garb of an adult.
Teenage is a transition stage that is quite a scary because of much uncertainty and instability one faces in this time. Teenage brings changes in physique, psyche and pneuma that is truly terrifying since it is all new and unknown. It is an age when the person is trying to find their feet, test their mettle and seek their place in a very harsh and unforgiving world. The world around, however, doesn’t sympathize with their struggles or condone their mistakes, but demands much from them, and that too very early, before they are ready. This is the reason teens gravitate towards their own kind as they look for security, stability and affirmation. Teens always need and seek out safe environments and secure companionship where they can vent out their frustrations and longings without fear of being bracketed or branded as rebellious.
Unfortunately, at a time when they need the greatest understanding and most acceptance, they get the greatest rejection and extreme ridicule, especially at home. Parents are the prime defaulters in this since they expect either too much or too little from them. Instead of finding the home a haven of rest or a harbour of peace, they most often find it to be an unwelcoming and unpalatable place to be. They feel like strangers and aliens with their own parents and family, and therefore, opt to be with friends. They become silent, sullen, and withdrawn or aggressive, loud-mouthed, and destructive.
GREATEST GIFT: Parents are flabbergasted at this sudden change of their child from a loving cherub to a vocal adolescent and therefore, are often clueless to handle this seeming stranger in their home. Even Jesus parents did not know how to handle him when at the age of twelve he decided to stay back in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-50)!
The reason parents are unable to comprehend a teen is that we do not understand or accept that the greatest gift God bestowed on human beings is freewill. God gave us this gift and He respects the choices we make by exercising our freewill, even when we hurt Him (just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden in Gen 3). God honors and respects our freewill, but works to transform us in a way that will not trample over or violate His own gift. If God Himself does it, we also need to imitate Him.
We must accept that our children have been created to have the right to exercise their freewill and train them on how to use it rightly. We must always remember that our children have life of their own and learn to accept them whether they are following us or choosing to carve out their own life in their own way. We must respect the exercise of their freewill so that they learn to take responsibility for their choices and become wise.
Most teens in India play the blame game, conveniently foisting guilt on to parents for what they do, just because we haven’t allowed them to face the consequences of their decisions. We often step in and bail them out of thorny situations of their own making, thinking it is an exhibition of love. True love is willing for the child to learn so that he or she may grow to be mature and strong. Passage into adulthood is all about learning how to correctly exercise freewill and bear the cost of what your choices bring.
GREATEST LEARNING: Parenting teens is all about allowing them to experiment with choices and experience the result of them, the good and bad, within the safety of our home, our care, and our protection. It is about teaching them to develop acumen for decision-making and equipping them for a home of their own. It is helping them acquire skills needed to survive and succeed in this world, without getting swollen up with victories nor swallowed up by failures. It is enduing them with resilience and resistance to handle relationships and responsibilities that go with intimacy and familiarity. It is equipping them to deal with protocols and strictures expected of adults, as well as learning how to wade their way through life’s myriad circumstances.
A parent whose goal is to train will ignore infractions and temper tantrums as they are concentrated on fitting the teen for adulthood, not on winning a battle against thrm. A teen parent is a coach, not a rival of their child, seeking to empower to play the game. Parents need to develop a reserve of strength and stamina to bear with the mood swings, temper squalls and failure patterns of their progeny. They must fully concentrate on the making or shaping of the boy/girl into manhood/womanhood. This attitude will enable you not to waste time in wallowing in self-pity or indulging in anger displays since you are focused on the end result. You will be one who looks beyond the present to the future and see where or what your child should be, rather than who or what they are now.
Be careful of your thoughts and words in this season of parenting for they can help or harm your child if you are not in control of these two things. Many a child gets marred and scarred for life because we have been so impatient and infuriated with them that we speak hurting words in a bid to spur them on.
GREATEST SUPPORT: Crucial to this period of parenting is the need to have a community of people around who will help you tide over this season with their own prayers and encouragement. These need to be people with whom you can download your woes, share experiences, rejoice over triumphs and weep over misdemeanors. They will bolster you with wise counsel and when you have a trusted few to vent the hurts your teen unwittingly and unknowingly inflicts on you, it will help you to go on living with positivity and grace.
It is important in this season to not allow other people’s words and opinions impact you in such a way as to put fear rather than faith in you.Your teen needs protection from other people’s criticisms and complaining, and so avoid putting down your teens or exposing their faults in public. Their ego is very fragile at this time and so can easily be hurt if too much negativity is around. Learn to act and not react, especially to other people’s comments, showing compassion, foreknowledge, and hope.
If you are to survive this most trying period of parenting, prayer must be the very breath of your life and not an after thought. Bend your knee in prayer and submit your will to the Lord in humility and healing rather than in vindictiveness and vengeance,so that you receive grace to handle the situations as they rise. Without His help, both for you and your child, you cannot survive this period. So, make prayer and spending time with God a priority and a prerogative rather than a beginning- or end-of the-day event.
If you must love and tolerate your child in this period of life, you need to be filled with love through the power of the Spirit since you won’t ever be able to even bear with your child at this time. Receive from God all sustenance you need to sustain you as you help your child navigate through the murky waters of teenage to safe and solid ground if adulthood.
GREATEST CONSOLATION: Bolster yourself with the thought that this too shall pass and soon you and your child as well as your family will be whole again on solid ground. Stand in the side-lines as guide and coach, allowing your ward play the game, rather than making them puppets controlled by your strings. Let your child know that he or she has the freedom to come or not come to you and therefore, learn to accept them, their friends. Make your home a welcome place for them and their cronies so that they seek you and don’t make them run away by rejecting them with you well-meaning judgements and criticisms.
Above all, trust God and walk in restful peace and quietness of Spirit so that your home is heaven not hell for your child. Take heart in the knowledge that He is sufficient for all and entrust your child to Him for He will keep until the end what you release into His Hand (…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 2 Tim 1:12 NIV).
Remember they are His, not ours and therefore, be careful to exercise stewardship and not ownership over your child, expecting them to fulfill your dreams!
Just as the Pharaoh’s daughter gave Moses to his mother and told her raise him up for her, even so God has given us our child to raise for Him. When we are faithful to this call and this service, He Himself will reward us.
May we be those who receive His commendation, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:23 NIV.