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When Your Child Tells You He Wants To Be In Control Of His Life

“Mom, I have a very important question for you.”

I climbed in the bed, sitting as close as possible. Bedtime. The time they open up and want to talk about all the things.

“You know how I like freedom and independence right?”

I nodded. He continued, “Well, I wondered. Can I make all my own choices for my life from now on? Can I make my own decisions without you guys choosing for me?”

Because he was completely serious, I knew not to laugh or even chuckle. Anyway, I never want to belittle his ponderings.

“Well, Andrew, making choices and decisions for your life comes with great responsibility. It takes much practice and failure to learn.”

His question actually sparked an important conversation I hope he tucks away.

Andrew began to question why his 15 year old brother stays up so much later than him. Why he can’t choose his own bedtime. I explained that Jacob has established trust with us over the course of 15 years. He’s not perfect. He’s made mistakes. But he’s begun the habit of making wise choices. With wise choices comes greater freedom. With greater freedom comes greater responsibility.

“Andrew, you aren’t prepared to carry the load of responsibility that will come with so much freedom. Not yet. I believe one day you will. But we need some practice in smaller areas first.”

He nodded with a heavy sigh.

The following day, I shared the conversation with the older boys. I explained that Jacob has proven we don’t need to dictate a bedtime. He doesn’t misuse the freedom. I explained that when trust is built, it’s a beautiful thing. Freedom in the hands of someone who guards and protects how they walk that freedom out is lovely.

I believe it’s Dr. Kevin Lehman who never gave his kids curfews. He let them choose what they thought was acceptable and found they always came home earlier than he would have even required.

We all long for some breathing room.

Andrew was quiet for a moment. A moment is about as long as he can remain silent.

“Well, are there some choices I can make on my own at least?”

“Yes, I think we can come up with a few. Let’s spend some time thinking about it and discuss in a few days.”

Now I need to shift gears on you a bit. I can’t leave this post here and allow you to walk away thinking it’s merely parenting advice and a sweet story. God has been doing a very deep work in my heart lately. I can’t say I’ve handled it so well either.

But God in His kindness has allowed enough circumstances to press in on me to force me into a place of dealing with what’s easier to stuff in the the dark closets of my soul.

Shame lives in the dark. And it’s time I allowed His light to bring out areas I’ve never surrendered to Him.

Do you remember at the beginning of the year I shared how I didn’t want a word for the year but God gave me one anyway? It was surrender.

You see, Andrew asked a question that if I’m honest, I hold in my heart as well. And maybe you do too? I can resist God when I fight to maintain control. When I have to have my way. When I want to essentially be in control of my own life.

It’s pride. And the thing about pride is that is has so many faces.

I did something that was harder than I realized it would be. I made an appointment with a christian counselor. It is something I’ve felt God nudging me to do for a very long time. But I’ve become a master at telling myself everything’s good and I’m fine. To make that call, I had to admit that I’m actually not fine. I’m not ok.

But maybe it’s ok to not be ok? I’ve spent my life being dictated by an inner perfectionist, even as a child of God. I’ve felt a need to have everything right. And when it’s not right the controller inside me kicks in to make it all right. And then I leave no room for the Holy Spirit because I’m elbowing Him out of the way.

Man. What a gracious God we serve! So good beyond what we fathom. So patient. So kind.

The very day Andrew posed this question, I found out Steve and I would be teaching a lesson on pride vs humility to the kindergarten thru 5th graders at church. I laughed. This is so like God. The very thing He has been trying to refine from my heart is the very thing I’m going to have to teach on?

God didn’t place me in the role of teaching because I’ve figured out how to walk in humility. Nope. It’s so I can lower myself to student and learn. Surrender. Let Him teach me.

Lastly, He told me to get down. Literally, physically lower my physical body. On my knees, on my belly. Get low.

Humble myself before Him. Surrender fully to Him.

Lord, thank you that you love us too much to leave us in our selfish pride and arrogance. Thank you that you will go to extreme measures to shape and mold us into the vessel You desire. We open our hands to You in surrender. We love you, Lord.

 

On Raising Teens & Some Great Resources

 

 

I’ve never bought into the world’s view of parenting through the teenage years. I cringe when I hear people say, “Just wait til they’re teens.” Or worse, “When they are teens, they won’t want to be with you.” I don’t like generalizations.

I’m careful the words I speak aloud. Words can bring life or death. Words are powerful. Words are like seeds looking for a place to grow and bear fruit. If I speak words of doom over my family in any season of life, I am planting and preparing for exactly that.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21

I also want to protect my kids from believing lies. Kids tend to live up to what people believe of them. If a teen begins to feel that everyone thinks he will or should rebel, maybe he will. If he thinks that all adults think his opinions mean nothing, maybe he will believe it himself and look elsewhere to be heard. If a teen feels that adults think all teens are lazy, maybe he will start living into that belief.

I want my teens and soon-to-be-teens to know that I value them as a person and soon-to-be-adult. I want to speak into their potential, growth, and gifts. I want them to stand taller because they believe the ones around them see the best in them and believe in them. More than anything I want them to begin to learn who they really are in Christ. Not who their friends think they are, but who God says they are.

We are in the very beginning of a new and beautiful stage of life. A season I’m excited to enter and desire to treasure every bit as much as the baby, toddler, and elementary ages. Each stage of life, Steve and I have believed it to be the best. We’ve told each other it doesn’t get better than this. Then it does.

It keeps getting better. Not easier. But better. Fuller, richer, deeper, closer. Hard? Yes. Heart wrenching at times? Yes. More to come? You bet. Is Christ at the center still? Yes. Each new season we enter finds us pressing in closer to Christ. Leaning in and clinging. And I can’t think of a better place to be than right here with my Savior.

I’ve written and spoken over the last several years that life is a journey.  We are heading towards destination Eternity. The moment by moments of life matter. They are creating something. A look-back. When I look back over my parenting years, what will I remember? What will they remember? Have you ever noticed that in the middle of a family vacation or outing, it might not seem spectacular. But when you look back on pictures or spend time thinking over the memories, this is the point when you fully appreciate that time spent together. The memories and experiences seem to sweeten with time and space. I try to remember that when the days feel monotonous or unbearably difficult.

Just like these kids are constantly changing, so am I. Or at least I should be. And because of this need to change with my kids, I’m back to reading a new supply of parenting books. I’ve shared a few of these on Instagram and want to share here for you.

The two I just completed listening to and can’t recommend enough are Parenting and 5 Love Languages of Teenagers. Please put these on the top of your summer reading list. Parenting is for all stages of parenting. Read it and allow your perspective to be radically transformed and wait for the freedom to wash over your daily interactions. I am not typically a non-practical book lover. This book does not give you practical strategies, but you need this message! And 5 Love Languages of Teenagers is excellent. Fast read! I listened in the crevices of my days.

Parenting : 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp

( I listened to the Audible version of Parenting)

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers : The Secret To Loving Teens Effectively by Gary Chapman

(Audible version here)

 

On my “To read next” list:

Have a New Teenager by Friday : From Mouthy and Moody to Respectful and Responsible in 5 Days by Kevin Lehman

(If you want the Audible version here you go)

Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide To Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp

Parenting Teens With Love and Logic: Preparing Adolescents For Responsible Adulthood

Middle School: The Inside Story by Cynthia Tobias and Sue Acuna

I love Kevin Lehman’s books. His humor and practical, no-nonsense approach to parenting have helped me tremendously. I love everything Paul David Tripp writes and I’ve never read a Cynthia Tobias book I didn’t like. I am confident these will all be worth the time and money spent soaking in the wisdom, guidance, and encouragement.

While I’m filling my mind with encouragement and excitement for these years, I’m keenly aware how fast they will flee. My oldest will be 14 in the fall. We are entering the 4th quarter of the years we have with him, Lord willing. 13 1/2 years have zipped by despite every effort to make the most of it all. Despite the fact that we are all in, making memories, shepherding hearts, loving hard and loud, time refuses to slow down.

Our desire is to end well. End the season, the race, the game of the parenting years under our roof well. Even if you didn’t start well, each day is a fresh start. End better than you started. The end of one thing is always the beginning of something else on the horizon.

Thank you, God, for the gift and calling of parenting. Make us wise for the task you’ve called us to. Strengthen us to do the hard work. Soften hearts. Break down walls and pride. Grow love in new spaces of our hearts. Create in us a pure heart. Give us a vision to parent with the gospel at the center.

 

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