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Having trouble connecting with your teenager? Sometimes we rely on preconceived assumptions about the stages of motherhood.
For instance, we were told that the two’s were terrible. Somewhere along the way, before our oldest turned two, we decided it might not be best to expect the worst. We decided to look at two openmindedly and give it our best shot.
A surprising truth about expectations
Surprisingly, two was ok. We did just fine. Of course there were hard days, but honestly, they were no harder than any other age.
Honestly, I do not remember any of my other kids at age two. It was that normal. They just were two.
We were told potty training was to be dreaded. With a little more confidence, we chose hope in this area as well. Our oldest, whom we should have called “The Experiment”, was hesitant to potty train. She can be rather determined. (Neither hubby nor I have any idea where she gets that from.)
But I noticed I grew anxious and restless about her potty training. I tried to motivate her. The harder I tried, the less she wanted to. When we dug in, potty training became hard.
My mom encouraged me to be patient and let her get truly ready for the process. She reminded me that my girl would likely not attend kindergartner in a diaper. And surprise…she eventually started to use the potty.
You see, I was the one making it so hard. I didn’t even fret with the next three and they all potty trained early.
The “imagination” trap
I am not saying that parenting is a bed of roses and every little thing works out perfectly if you raise your expectations. (In fact Ruthie has an article about when we are caught off guard in our parenting.)
What I am saying is, often we believe and accept lies before we even have an experience. We give up on a battle that we’ve not yet fought.
Because of this enlightenment, we began to wonder who made up the lies and curses we spoke over the ages and stages of our kids. Those negative declarations became challenges to us, challenges to prove them wrong.
Connecting with your teenager; a simple truth
I have amazing news…we like our preteens and our teenagers. I am not just blowing smoke or speaking hopefully. We really like these people. Yes, at age forty-four, I have hard days too. (And I am not yet receiving the curses of menopause either.)
However, connecting with your teenager is not really that hard. Teens have deep thoughts and things to say, if we are willing to listen.. They process a lot. Their gifts and talents are rising to the surface. They desire independence.
Even so, teenagers can still be silly and fun if they feel safe enough.
My husband and I don’t expect them to recede into a shell or vomit anger all the time…and surprisingly they haven’t. If they step to the right or the left we try to choose our timing well and remind them that is not who they really are.
We always try to do this with great love. And to be honest, they have done the same for us. That is a sweet spot with older kids – they can learn to speak the truth in love.
I remember one day our oldest son, Brady, had a talk with me. I had a terrible day. I had been angry and spewed on him. (I needed this article on how to tame my temper.) He calmly approached me and we talked it out. He told me what he didn’t appreciate about it and explained how it had gone south.
Because of this pivotal moment, I think I will forever remember that day. I apologized and we left that conversation feeling better.
Connecting with your teenager; choosing better reactions
Yes, there are days they make bad choices. As powerful parents we get to choose our focus. On hard days we can make the decision to continue to step toward them in connection, even if one of them (of any age) is prickly that day. And we pray they’ll connect with us when we are prickly ourselves.
Recently, my daughter, Mary Taylor, asked me to go to an event she had seen on social media. I have got to admit…I was exhausted. I’d toyed with the idea of hanging out in my pajamas that day. I was going to take it easy. Nothing in me wanted to go, plus, I really did not have money to spend.
And then I stopped to consider…my nineteen-year-old daughter just stepped toward me. She found an event and wanted ME to go. Just ME. I
And so, I agreed. I got up, took off my pj’s and put on a dress. I paid our entrance fee and didn’t even mind. I was so thankful that at age nineteen, she still wanted me around. Even now, tears spring to my eyes just thinking about it.
Since I’ve had experiences such as this, I’m wondering – have you ever had a similar chance of connecting with your teenager?
What parenting is all about
Parenting is all about continually connecting, positively expecting, and intentionally loving. It is not always easy, but it can be one of the most rewarding blessings of our entire lives.
There is so much more to say about connecting with your teenager. As I thought about this article, I was inspired to write one about how to connect. I really began to consider how my husband, Taylor, and I connect with our teenagers.
7 Ways to Connect With Your Teenager gives practical ways you can be intentional with your teenager.
What about you? How do you connect with your teen? Have you found creative ways to respond? Leave an answer in the comments so we can connect!
I’m Betsy Pendegrass – a passionate gatherer of people, who just can’t help but talk about our radically good Father. Mom of 4, we have a table full daily. But rarely is it just our family for dinner. Cooking, writing and teaching are life-giving to me, and I pray that what I serve up is a blessing to others.