Teens, Pre-teens and Learning Gentleness

Gentleness.  I have not been able to get this out of my mind lately.  Maybe it’s because I need a special kind of gentle to parent my guys lately.  You see, they seem to all be colliding and tripping into adolescence (save the little one, God bless him) at the same time.  It definitely takes a whole different kind of parenting than we had become accustomed to. Granted, they’re still on the young side of adolescence, but so far so good – they’re all alive, breathing and seem to be enjoying life (except when they aren’t – darn hormones) These half-grown ones are hitting big emotions and bigger problems – well, let’s just say big emotions make all problems big. All.  I can understand this, I really can – but God save the little one.  He actually has his own set of big emotions all his own that have nothing to do with adolescence, but we’ll be practiced enough by then (hopefully) to scoot him along adolescence quite nicely (those of you ahead in parenting years, please don’t laugh at my naivity and definitely don’t tell me.  Just let me have my happy place to go when things get chaotic – I need it.)

We have real family pictues being edited, but for now this will have to do.
We have real family pictues being edited, but for now this will have to do.

Parenting in adolescence is a bit like taking a puppy for a walk.  You pull, you push, you shove and can’t get the little thing moving and then all of a sudden it takes off and it’s choking and straining at the leash.  You get ahead of the crazy thing and then it sits again.

There have been late nights running from room to room listening to drama, life decisions, giving pep talks and those sort of things.  I love this stage where you get to know what’s inside of them and watch them develop who they are as individuals.  It’s so fun to hear them talk about their own ideas (unless they’re trying to shock us or trying out a new idea and then it’s a little frightening) and hear what they are thinking and how they are processing life. There is a lot going on in their minds and for that reason I am finding I need gentleness.

Answers I used to have don’t work anymore, they have their own ideas about how the day should go, what we should have for dinner, what errands need to be run and about how much I actually know.  Which is apparently much less than I thought by the way, but I am SO thankful to have them help me get through life successfully.  I would be in some serious trouble without them. Probably dead actually. They are hilarious, fun to be around, sporadic (I am not) and growing to be much different than we are.  They have their own minds and it doesn’t work anymore to just do things how we do them and have them go along with it without opinions.  We want it like this because they need some wiggle room and some say in decisions that used to be all ours.  Of course, all of this is within reason, but I am talking about things like where we go for dinner or what we have, what we do on a rare free day, what movie to watch (past 8:30 which used to be their bedtime), and those kinds of decisions.  I am finding that the decision making arena is a little crowded for me sometimes now.  I have to admit.  I. don’t. want. to. share.  A bit of two year old has been resurrected in me that wants to throw a fit and cry, “But I don’t WANT to.  I want it MY way.”  Sometimes the comment,  “Because I decided that’s how it’s going to be” can actually be translated, “Because I don’t WANT to do it your way, I want to do it MY way,” and sadly that is not a very good parenting strategy. It is actually just selfishness wrapped up in a neat little package.

I have been forced to ask the question, “Am I saying ‘no’ or ‘yes’ because it is truly the best decision or only decision or is it because I am being selfish?  I have to admit, very often it’s just selfishness.  There has to be give and take in some things on both sides and I am learning to give where I haven’t been accustomed to giving.  John has always done such a good job of giving, and giving, and giving, but I tend to be a bit of an unbendable sort and unfortunately that doesn’t work with motherhood – especially in teen years when gentleness is the way to their heart.  Gentleness and selfishness don’t go together very well.

The definition of gentleness is ‘the quality of being kind and CAREFUL,’ but as a verb, gentle has a very interesting definition.  It means ‘to make calm, to pacify, to stroke, to soothe, to ennoble and to DIGNIFY.  I LOVE that!!  I want to be careful with my children.  I want to speak life to them and not words that will crush.  I want to treat them with dignity.  I want to pull them into adulthood by giving them the dignity of taking on some of the responsibilities of decision making.  I don’t want to stand there waving my ‘parent card’ when it’s really just selfishness.  I want to learn how to treat them more carefully and listen to what they’re saying.  I want to calm their fears and hurts and teach them to handle life’s waves and storms with dignity.  I want to ennoble them.  Ennoble means to enhance.  I want to enhance who God has made them to be by allowing them to grow and develop uniquely and without unnecessary restraint.  They also need necessary restraint, but that is a whole other subject.  I want to be gentle with them.

Isn’t that what God does with us afterall?  He is kind and careful with us.  He soothes us and gives us dignity where we had none.  Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.  I will counsel you with My loving eye on you.”  That is amazing!  I want to model that for my kids.  I want to be gentle with them like God is with me.  They need to be instructed and guided, but I want to do it with a loving eye on my children.  I want my instruction to be from a place of love, not selfishness.  When something is done from a heart of love, gentleness will be there.  So many times we parent from fear (which leads to control), selfishness and other unhealthy places and wonder why we are not gentle.  Parenting from something other love will not produce gentleness.

The amazing thing about God is that when He shows us a place of brokenness or sin, He always knows what to do about it!  I know that sounds dumb to say, but I think that I used to not really believe truly that He was that intimately involved with every aspect of my life on a moment to moment basis.  I knew He was, but I have found that sometimes – especially in parenting – I have no clue what to do.  I mean, no clue.  None.  Like the day I got so angry with the kids during school and I said pretty loudly, “I am going to the front room to PRAY!”  I turned on my heel and immediately saw the yellow schoolbus go by.  Instead I said (very loudly again), “Schoolbus, come take my children away!”  I homeschool, so this wasn’t going to happen.  One of the kids said, “That wasn’t praying.”  I thought, “You bet it was, kid. That was a more serious prayer than you’ll ever know.”  Thankfully most days aren’t like this and that particular incident they responded with laughing until they cried.  I think it must have had something to do with my maturity level in that moment. (thankfully they didn’t need counseling)  As you can see, I really don’t know what I’m doing sometimes and I seriously blow it.  God is so good though.  He knows how to instruct us and lead us. There have even been a few times where He is literally giving me things to say in the middle of conversations with the kids.  He has stopped me in mid-sentence, told me to deal with something totally different than the way I was going to.  He interrupts my life and I am so thankful because I NEED interrupting.  I need to be reminded that I WANT gentleness, not selfishness.  I WANT gentleness, not anger.  I WANT dignity in our home, not shame.

Lord, help us to see Your heart for us and show us what stands in the way of seeing our kids and loving our kids as you do.  Help us to be gentle with them as You are with us and where we can’t see Your gentleness towards us, open our eyes and our hearts so that we can see it.  Remove any lie that tells us that You are different than who You say you are and help our homes to be a place of refuge and rest.

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