Parenting Teens- Lord, Give Me Strength and Shut My Mouth

Sometimes, parenting brings out the worst in me- not just my worst character faults but all of that old, cruddy legalistic “God is out to get me” theology I have been so determined to leave behind.

For instance, some days I am just sure God gave me teenagers to “burn the chaff” out of me.

Don't they look sweet?
Don’t they look sweet?

Something horrible happens in my head with the roll of the eyes, the groans, the “I KNOWs”.

Of course you do, you know everything. You have been on planet earth for a whole decade plus.

Did I mention sarcasm? They bring out sarcasm in me too.

Heaven help teenagers. It is hard to be them. Life hasn’t taught them all of those hard lessons quite yet and that makes life difficult for everyone.

But…this isn’t my first rodeo. I have five kids and everyone knows the oldest ones get a raw deal. We get better as we go along. We learn a few things. We develop a bit of a tougher skin. Most of all, we find out the only way to parent well is to stay close to the heart of God and parent with all of the love and patience He has, um…shown us.

Not that we are perfect. No one said that. Of course not. But sometimes, sometimes, we get it right.

Yesterday, God graciously helped me get it right. I don’t write about it to brag because there have been plenty of times I have blown it. I write about it because some of you are just entering those years and it might help you know something that works.

Here is the background. Our kids don’t have great manners and that is something we would like to see change. So, after many less than pleasant meals with them we have developed automatic phrases like “Be sure to get a napkin.” We have five children and honestly, we might say this out of habit even if the kid was wearing a dress made out of napkins. It is what it is.

But for a teenager who is striving for independence, this kind of over parenting is really annoying. That is why one of  the teens got an attitude when she was reminded about her napkin yesterday.

“Where is your napkin?”

“I have one.”

“Where? I don’t see it.”

“It is here!” (hidden under the plate)
“Why did you do that? Why did you hide it under your plate?”
“Because I KNEW you were going to ask!”
“What is going on here? Why don’t you tell me what is bothering you?”
“Um…yes there is, and if you will talk about it, maybe…just maybe you can even get what you want. If you keep quiet, we will never get anywhere.”

At this point, she stared at me for a long moment. Then, she took a deep breath and said,

“Do you want to know what is wrong with me? I hate it when you tell me to do things I am already going to do.  I hate it!”

“Hmmm…” I said, “I think I get it. You want to be responsible and it annoys you when we over-parent you.”


“Okay, How about this- We will try to remember how old you are and try to stop over-parenting. We will do our best to wait to see if you take care of something on your own before giving instruction. How is that?”

She smiled and nodded her head.

“Now, I need a little something from you,” I said. “I need you to try to be more mature and talk about things when they bother you instead of doing little rebellious things like rolling your eyes, and saying “I know” to everything. Adults don’t like that. Besides, it is hard to treat you like a grown up when you are handling conflict by hiding napkins underneath your plate.”

She cringed, sheepishly smiled, and nodded again.

And that, with a teenager, is pretty close to a victory. I will take it. At least no one rolled their eyes.

My book Arms Open Wide, by Thomas Nelson/ HarperCollins Christian, is available at retailers world wide including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Lifeway, and To read an excerpt, click here!

Today is the release day for Arms Open Wide!

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