Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager?
The self-consciousness. The physical self-awareness. Trying to fit in. Doing whatever it took to gain peer acceptance. Attempting to act cool but looking like a fool. (I remember spilling soda on myself at McDonald’s in front of three girls, and I genuinely wanted to die right then and there!)
Being a teen is scary, awkward, and volatile. Unsurprisingly, they will produce tumult and stress in the home that younger children won’t. It’s a tough season of life for all involved, but moms and dads–and the Christian community as a whole, for that matter–need to reject the dread and cynicism that accompany this stage of life.
This weekend in Raleigh at my annual parenting livestream, I’m going to spend a full session on how we can more effectively love, parent, and influence our teens. Even if you don’t have a teen now or coming in the future, I would encourage you to tune in. You know parents with teenagers who need help, and God has also placed teens in your life who need wisdom and love!
So what does the Bible say about teenagers? Well … nothing! However, the Bible gives us excellent descriptions of the tendencies of youth. Here are just three things for you to consider as you raise and interact with the teens that God has placed in your life:
Teens don’t hunger for wisdom and correction.
Most teens think they are wiser than they actually are, and they believe their parents (and all adults, for that matter) have little practical insight to offer. It’s frustrating, yes, but I have watched far too many adults make correction bitter as they beat their teen with demeaning words.
Our call is to make wisdom attractive. You don’t do this with nasty, inflammatory confrontations. No wisdom is imparted in these moments. If you hit teens with a barrage of verbal bullets, they will either run for the bunker or come out firing themselves.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Teens make unwise choices in their companions.
There is a great deal of material in Proverbs about friendship and the influence that others have on you and your behavior. Yet teenagers tend to be prickly and protective when it comes to discussions of their friends.
We need to approach these conversations with sensitivity and patient love. Never resort to name-calling and character assassination. Your goal should be to ask probing questions that help the teen to examine their thoughts, desires, motives, choices, and behaviors concerning friendship.
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20
Teens lack a long-term investment perspective.
Teenagers tend to live for whatever they want in the moment, and they tend to put off their responsibilities until the very last minute. We must lovingly challenge their belief that this physical moment is all that matters.
Our teenagers need us to be on site, teaching them to look at the long view of life, not with harsh condemnation and frustration, but with empathy and forbearance. They need our help to see that every choice, every action is an investment and that it is impossible to live life without planting seeds that will be the plants of life they will someday harvest.
“Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.” (Proverbs 1:29-31)
I want to conclude this devotional with the same question that I started with: do you remember what it was like to be a teenager?
Effective parents are those who can remember what it was like to live in the scary world of those adolescent years and display the mercy that they once needed themselves as a teen.
I’m deeply persuaded that this is a period of unprecedented opportunity. I would go as far as to say that the teen years are the golden age of parenting, when you can help prepare adolescents for a productive, God-honoring life as an adult.
Find out more at: https://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/how-to-love-a-teenager
Believe it or not, the answer is not announcing, “A free day off school!” (Although I’m sure that would work too!) The answer is far more subtle—and much more profound. There is so much going on in your child’s head and heart that they find hard to explain, and which is SO easy for us to miss. And yet once you take these simple steps it speaks volumes to them. (This is especially the case if they are teens or tweens.)
Based on the research with more than 3,000 kids for For Parents Only: Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid, here are four phrases and actions that will make their day.
How to Make Their Day #1: “Okay, go ahead and try.”
Guess what is the primary motivator and influencer of our teens and tweens? It isn’t peer pressure, the values shared by the latest reality series, or even those so helpful pieces of parental advice. According to our surveys, their greatest motivator is the influence of freedom. Their whole lives they have only been able to do what we let them do (more or less!), and now that they are getting into their tween and teen years, they suddenly have the ability to decide things and do things for themselves. It is intoxicating and powerful.
The problem is, freedom is also something that we tend to resist giving them, just when they most need to learn how to handle it well! We need to be wise, of course, but, there are times that we have to take a deep breath and say “Okay, go for it.” I still remember when my 13-year-old son accompanied Jeff and me to a dinner with friends, only to discover that the son of the other couple hadn’t been able to make it. Our son ate his food, a bit bored, and then surprised us.
“Mom, you guys will be talking a while. Can I walk home?”
“Walk home? It’s three or four miles!”
“Yeah. It’s all sidewalks though.”
I started to protest, then Jeff stepped in. “If he has his phone so we can track him, I’m okay with that. It’ll be good for him to try.”
I had to realize: it would be good for him to try! The delighted look on his face when we said “go for it,” told me just how much it meant to him. And it was also good for me to practice giving him the independence he craved. (Although it sure wasn’t good for my ability to concentrate on our dinner conversation that night!) Whether it is letting a young teenager try something new or letting your 17-year-old prove their responsibility as they stay home on their own for a night, letting them try will make their day.
How to Make Their Day #2: “Tell me more about that.”
Believe it or not, the vast majority of teens and tweens on our nationally-representative survey said they wanted to be able to share things with Mom and Dad. The issue is: they want to share them on their own terms, without feeling like they are getting yet more advice from our deep stores of parental wisdom.
Without realizing it, when a child (of any age) shares something emotional—they were bullied at school, the teacher was unfair, they messed up in front of the coach—we parents have a pattern. We are so emotionally invested and want to help our child, that we jump into how to help them. (“Well, when you see the coach tomorrow, why don’t you ask if you can work through a few reps with them?”)
That’s not what our kid is looking for. As we will probably hear quite forcefully when they say, “You never listen to me!” We are puzzled. (“Of course I’m listening! I’ve been listening for 10 minutes!”) But what we don’t realize is that our child is wanting us to listen to their feelings. They need to work out all these tense, jangling, upset, emotions and what they most need is to hear us say, “Wow, tell me more about that. What happened then?” They need to hear us say, “That must have been really hard. I’m so sorry that happened.” That is what they need to feel heard. It is hard for us to essentially just shut up and draw out the feelings, but it will leave them feeling SO much better!
How to Make Their Day #3: “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
I’m not sure why, but although we expect our kids to apologize to us when they have been difficult or disrespectful, we don’t always do the same. Every parent has hurt their child’s feelings. Every parent has gotten exasperated in a way that has made a child feel stupid. Every parent has been unduly harsh, has embarrassed their child, or has simply made a mistake in what they assumed about a child’s wrongdoing.
In the middle of the emotional pain that we have caused, it changes everything when we realize it and apologize. It takes humility to tell your child that you were wrong. To ask for forgiveness. But in doing so you are not only touching their heart, you are modeling something incredibly important.
And you have taken a terrible moment and turned it into a powerful one that will bring you and your child together in a very, very important way.
How to Make Their Day #4: “You’re amazing”
Yes, they will blush, stammer and try to brush it off. But tell your kid what you love and appreciate about them. Be specific. Tell your daughter how beautiful she is, inside and out. Tell your son how proud you are of him for stepping up to always take out the trash without being asked. Tell your kids what you liked about how they handled the difficult trip to visit the extended family, or how much you love their patience with their siblings.
Give your kids a hug along with the words (it counts, if it’s a brief side-arm hug, for a non-touchy teen!), a smile, and let it just sit there. Then do the same thing again tomorrow. And the next day. Those words of affirmation are like fuel for your child’s heart.
The best way to make your kids’ day—every day—is to make sure your child knows how much you love and appreciate them.
-Written by Shaunti Feldhahn
Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Visit www.shaunti.com for more. This article was first published at Patheos.
On Leading the Next Generation, Insights from Tim Elmore
In a recent article, Tim Elmore share some insights on relating to Gen Z:
In May 2007, an Iraqi artist named Wafaa Bilal decided to move into a gallery space in Chicago. He planned to do a 30-day experiment on “empathy” in light of what had happened to his brother In Iraq. His brother had been killed by an airstrike from a drone that was shot by a soldier far away. Wafaa was shocked by how the shooter could emotionally disconnect from the targets he shot at, even when they’re human. Wafaa’s experiment would allow him to observe empathy levels in people when they are allowed to hurt someone from a distance. His gallery space could be seen online by anyone around the world. In the room was a desk, a lamp, a bed and a paintball gun rigged to a camera that users could take aim and shoot anything in that room, anytime, day or night.
Ordinary people from multiple nations shot him with that paintball gun more than 70,000 times. He was stunned and saddened by how anonymous people hurt him. In just 30 days, Wafaa discovered what a disconnected, isolated and fractured world we live in. Why would people who don’t even know him choose to shoot at him?
The War For Kindness
Stanford researcher Jamil Zaki wrote the book this year called, The War for Kindness, Building Empathy in a Fractured World. In the book, Zaki attempts to discover if technology and modern life make us less caring. Are we more desensitized and jaded when it comes to suffering?
Jamil talks about an experiment that was done at a shopping mall (public space) where a table and bucket are set up for donations to be made to needy children. They wanted to discover what moved people toward empathetic generosity? At times, they stationed a child in a wheelchair next to the table; at other times, no one at all. Sometimes they would post photos of hungry or disabled children next to the table and at other times they’d post faces of happy, smiling children.
What they discovered was insightful.
The researchers discovered that not only did people donate less when a disabled child or a photo of a disabled child was nearby, people actually walked further away from the display, avoiding contact with the opportunity to give. When they spoke to those people—especially young people—about this reaction, researchers found out why. Teens would say things like: “I am sad enough in my life right now; I don’t want to be even sadder.” Or, they’d say: “I’m fighting depression,” or “I am already overwhelmed with everything in my life, so I don’t need anything else to worry about.”
Generation Z is overwhelmed and over-exposed. They are growing up in a world that is more isolated, more polarized and more de-humanized, by screens and content with which they’ve been exposed. Sadly, while we see more needs around us than ever, we’ve become more jaded by it at times. We feel “sad” and want to avoid sadness. Exposure without application can do that to anyone. The glass will always seem half-empty unless we choose to fill the glass.
Jamil Zaki believes we need to create an “Empathy Gymnasium.”
Building an Empathy Gymnasium for Generation Z - five fundamentals we can insert into kids’ lives to kindle empathy in them:
1. Place them with people who are different.
One way to begin to develop empathy is to expose students to those who are different than them, so they begin to see that “different” doesn’t mean “bad.”
2. Expose them to needs and suffering up close.
These exposures must be up-close and personal. Close enough for them to see, feel, smell and hear the needs of others.
3. Introduce them to problems that are unique.
Sometimes we withdraw in our comfort zones because we are unsure about the unknown. I found when students see unique problems that capture their imaginations, it cuts through the noise and clutter of their minds.
4. Enable them to reflect on how it’s relevant.
Kids feel empathy when they reflect on the relevance of another’s suffering. Research works best when it’s “me-search,” involving needs they can identify with.
5. Help them take one step in response.
Empathy is cultivated when students observe suffering and it leads to action. In fact, the way we enable students to prevent becoming jaded or cynical is to find one action step whenever they see someone in pain.
Read the full article here: https://growingleaders.com/blog/five-ways-to-develop-empathy-generation-z/?mc_cid=910c7291a4&mc_eid=07a7b6e77d