If you are the parent of a teenager, that title probably sounds spot on. Teenagers can be such a study in contrasts from day to day, and even hour to hour. We are all familiar with the famous story of Jekyll and Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s the story of a split personality, the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll who drinks a potion and becomes the wild, reckless Mr. Hyde. Most parents of teenagers, at one time or another, wonder what happened to their “sweet little boy or girl,” who is now often someone they barely recognize.
Surveys done with parents of teenagers, indicate that the most common areas of concern are: teenagers’ negative attitude and lack of respect for parent, teenager doesn’t want to participate in family activities, and fails to comply with parents’ rules. Interestingly, surveys done with teenagers indicate their most common difficulties with parents are: too much parental control, parent doesn’t listen or respect my opinion, parent is overprotective and invades my privacy.
Parents often complain that their child is a “moving target.” One day their teen seems ready to accept some adult-like responsibility, and the next day they have regressed to a more childlike state. It’s difficult to know which person they are going to encounter at any given time. Emotionally, their teen extends and withdraws invitations for interaction like a bouncing ball, leaving parents feeling hassled in a constant push–pull relationship.
Instead of becoming angry, anxious, or nursing hurt feelings, parents would do well to remember that their teen wants to separate and discover their own identity, and wonders if they can survive the need to push away and become their own person. It’s an intense inner struggle with powerful conflicting feelings, that often result in teens sending mixed signals to parents.
Instead of reacting by asserting arbitrary control and repressive restrictions, parents will get further by showing their teen respect and continuing to find positive ways to affirm them. If you’re a parent, ask yourself, how would I want to be treated if I were my teen? Be honest with yourself. Are you willing to listen to your teen’s point of view, even if it is very different from your own? Are you too controlling? For example are you drawing battle lines over trivial matters such as clothing, hairstyle or the color of fingernails? Do you allow your child a reasonable degree of privacy?
Teens need both acceptance and correction, but it’s important to spend your energy on areas that are truly important, for example, their health and safety. Learn to discuss your expectations with your teen, and always give them your reasons for having those expectations. Although you, of course, have the final say, be prepared to listen respectfully to your child’s opinion. Always affirm what you can support in what they are saying. This acknowledges to them that you see their growing wisdom and maturity, which is an all-important validation in their ongoing struggle to find their own identity. It puts you both on the same side of the equation, instead of creating an adversarial relationship.
While Scripture affirms parental authority in the home, it warns parents against excessive criticism and punitive control. “Fathers do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Colossians 3:21; Ephesians 6:4)
Adolescence is a difficult time, but it doesn’t have to be a negative time for either parents or their teens. It can be a time of positive growth for both.
Come join us this Sunday at 9:00 AM or 11:00 AM. Our special guest speaker is Winkie Pratney, an international evangelist and writer from Auckland, New Zealand with a lifetime experience of working with teenagers and young adults.