You knew the day was coming, but it took you by surprise anyway. This darling little child, so full of laughter, exuberance, and love has become a moody, self-absorbed, almost unreachable TEENAGER. Where once your child wanted only to be with and please you, he now would rather be with his friends and seems to only want to ignore and irritate you. He rolls his eyes when you give advice or correction, won't pick up his many messes, and questions beliefs and values that you have taught him all his life. Just when you are in the depths of dispair and think you've "lost" him forever, he'll make a complete turnaround and become the responsible, amiable child he was formerly... until tomorrow. What should you do? It's a rollercoaster ride, so hang on. Following are some suggestions taken from a student survey of the Talented and Gifted class at James Madison Memorial High School in Madison, Wisconsin.
Set limits on what is and is not acceptable behavior. Your teen will question and test these boundaries often, so be prepared. Don't give in, yet be flexible. For example, if the curfew is 11:00 p.m. and there is a special activity that doesn't end until 12:00, such as a dance at school, extend the curfew for that one night. However, if he consistently comes home fifteen minutes late, maybe it's time to suspend priviledges.
Listen to your teen. Hold your tongue and let him voice his thoughts. He needs to express his own opinions in order to sort through them and make them his own. Give him a chance to disagree with you without telling him that he's "talking back." When he's older you'll find that his values and beliefs are very similar to yours.
Speak calmly and without accusations. Nothing makes a teen want to fight back more than being yelled at. In fact, try a bit of humor. Sometimes seeing the absurdity in a situation eases the tension, minimizes the problem, and opens the way to discussion.
Don't pressure your teen to achieve all the time. Remind him from time to time to slow down and "smell the roses." Be sure to praise him, though, if he does okay. Sometimes it seems to him like nothing he does is good enough.
Expect your teen to make mistakes. No one is perfect and we all learn by making mistakes. If he has a problem, help him solve it, don't always solve it for him or he'll never learn to function as an adult. Be honest with him about your failings and mistakes as well so he realizes that he's not alone.
Study the Bible together as a family on a regular basis. In this competitive and chaotic world your teen needs to understand why we are here and where we are going. Following Yahweh's Word provides structure and harmony to life and gives him a purpose for living. It will also give him refuge and hope when major problems and disappointments arise at times throughout his life.
Even if your teen acts as though he doesn't care, he counts on you for reassurance and love. Never stop communicating with your teen, never stop loving your teen, and never stop reminding him that Yahweh loves him.