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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nurturing Resistant Teens

I know what you're thinking. Aren't we supposed to raise compliant teens? Don't we want them to be obedient and easy to get along with rather than resistant? Well, yes. And no. Compliant and resistant (rebellious?) teens both need nurturing.

As a plant needs to push through the hard dirt in order to stand strong and healthy in the wind, so our teens need to push against us to be strong and independent in the world. Same goes for other species in creation like a bird pecking its way out of its shell or a butterfly fighting its way out of the cocoon. If you try to help by breaking the shell for them or peeling back the cocoon, the animal dies because it didn't gain the strength needed by working its way out on its own.

Teens are no different. They push us with their know-it-all attitudes, their eye rolling, and sometimes outright rebellion as they try to find strength to stand on their own. As parents, it's not easy being the hard dirt. It hurts when our shells are cracked by their cutting words and missed curfews. But it is a necessary part of their growth. They need our loving support firmly pressing the dirt around their weak little stalks, reinforcing the tender roots that are forming in places we can't even see. Still, I don't know a single parent who didn't feel helpless and uneasy, if not downright disheartened, as their teen emerged from their warm cocoon. Knowing that doesn't make it any more pleasant. Nor does it mean your teen shouldn't be corrected. But even as you discipline them, remember they are doing what is necessary and completely natural. It's part of the unspoken plan, the mystery of God and nature.

 When I was a teen I hated myself at times because of the way I treated my parents. But I couldn't seem to stop it either. In hindsight, I think it's almost like a force of nature, a silent call to independence, the pulling away that must happen for teens to move into adulthood. They may not understand or like their actions any more than you do. That's okay. But as a parent, it calls for tremendous amounts of grace.

Grace. Understanding. Forgiveness. Prayer. Generous doses of laughter. These are all essential ingredients parents need as they journey through the teen years. Never forget your child's struggle and how they count on you to be a constant stabilizing force in their life. Eventually, they'll be mature enough to appreciate all you've done for them. And that warm, loving person you raised will re-emerge, mature and capable.

What is the hardest thing for you about being the parent of a teen? How do you cope?



  1. Linda, what are you doing up this late? Anyway, this is a good article (although I can't imagine you giving your parents any trouble!!).

  2. Haha, Donna. I wasn't up that late. I guess this just hit your inbox at that hour. And of course I was nothing but an angel from birth. Right...LOL. Thanks for reading and keeping me in line! :)