Out of the Mouths of Teens

YL_9251_Logo_PrimaryAlt_03As a Young Life leader at my local high school, I have the great privilege of walking with teenagers through the throes of high school adventures, mishaps, friendships, questions, stresses, and decisions. I love the energy, the ideas, the emotions, and the journey of my girls.

During our YL small group Bible study this season, we’ve been doing a teen girls video series by Jen Hatmaker called, “Brave Girl.” The study is excellent and done dynamically, with humor, scripture, and explanation. Jen and team share what God says about young women and their identity, relationships, and calling. Just last week, the topic was “Parents” and what God says about life in families.

Seven girls sat in a circle and shared stories, exasperations, admonitions, and realities about life as a teenager at home. After asking what they loved about their family, I asked how they would describe the role of a parent. Their responses were not given blithely. They shared from places of appreciation as well as frustration. With the girls in the developmental stage of adolescence, with the task of individuation at hand, and because they feel strong feelings and take great risks, I appreciated our conversation and wanted to share the wisdom.

In their own words, they said a perfect parent would:

  • Protect us
  • Rearrange their schedule to show up in my life at my stuff
  • Make time for their kids
  • Give us our independence
  • Let me learn my own lessons
  • Make me feel wanted, not like I’m a burden.
  • Balance the roles of mom and friend and always keep the mom part most important.
  • Let me be open and honest with you, but don’t push me to be when I don’t want to open up.
  • Be brave enough to ask how I’m really doing and be prepared and willing to hear what I say
  • Not live vicariously through me.
  • Mention a problem once and then let it go. Trust me to handle it if I say I’m going to.

Can you sense the tension for boundaries and freedoms, for love and letting go?

Eurologo

I pushed a bit further and asked how they could show their parents their maturity and play their role as an ideal kid.

 

Once again, they said, “As kids, we will”:

  • Admit when I’ve messed up
  • Listen to you
  • Be responsible for what I’ve been given
  • Tell you how I feel
  • Ask you questions instead of telling you what to do.
  • Change and do what I need to when I say I will ¬†handle things
  • Try to use your “I” statements to open up…”I think”, “I feel”, “I want”, “I need”
  • Use a tool for cooling down to make conversations more productive

I had to bite my mom tongue at times to keep from rationalizing the parental point of view. I also affirmed their ideas as valid because I really did often fully appreciate their perspective.

Eli asked me if he could be considered a “pre-teen” the other day. He’s over 9 1/2 but still I said, “Not yet.” I suppose I wanted him to have some more kid years to enjoy almost as much as I admit I need the time to study this list and get ready for what it will take to parent a pre, full, and post teenage kid.

I’m counting on grace…giving it away and grasping for it myself.

 

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