Saturday, January 28, 2012

Learning about teenagers

Probably the most significant thing I have learned about teenagers in the past year is that just because they are the same size as you does not mean that you can expect adult behavior from them.

It's very tempting. They are suddenly looking you in the eye (or over the top of your head), and much of the time they are very responsible, especially when it comes to things that matter a lot to them, like school or work or relationships with friends.

So you go along, thinking to yourself, "Wow, so and so is so responsible and grown up now." If you are like me, you might even mentally pat yourself on the back for being such a great parent who has raised such a mature child.

And then out of the blue their behavior changes. It may be chores. It may be cleaning up after themselves. It may be total lack of all good judgement in some area that seems so incredibly obvious to a (self-righteous) adult.

You are left shaking your head and can't help but say to the teenager with exasperation, "What on earth were you thinking?!"

After this patterns happens a few times, you wonder what you are doing wrong.

All of a sudden one day, I realized (I'm sure with much nudging from the Holy Ghost) that I was expecting too much.

The truth is, I have been physically just about the same size as my Heavenly Parents for a long time. And I have been bearing and raising children for about 20 years. Yet, I know there has not been an expectation that I be spiritually mature or capable of the same level of parenting as my Heavenly Father shows to me. Mostly what I have felt over the years is lots of love and gentle guidance and encouragement, even as I seem to make the same mistakes over and over.

So it makes most sense to follow D&C 121. Long suffering. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Love unfeigned.

Did I mention long suffering?

For instance, I am finding that, when the teenager does not clean up after himself properly, it helps to think back to when I was young. I don't think I cleaned up after myself properly even through college! (So sorry college roommates. ) So when that teenager comes back around, rather than jump down his throat, I can gently and with more compassion explain what my concern is and do a little teaching.

Or when the teenager makes a poor decision, I can try to remember that he or she is just learning, and I can try to show kindness and gentleness as the consequences of that decision (so often naturally occurring) come to pass.

I am not very good at this now. It takes a LOT of patience, unselfishness, swallowing of my pride, looking at things differently, and self control. Basically teenagers are a fabulous lesson in learning to follow the Savior. Thank goodness we have a long line of teenagers to practice on!


Afton said...

Thank you for the heads up as I go feet first into the teen years. I'm still waiting for the responsibility over school work to kick in and will remember to be patient. It also helps to remember that the brain is not fully developed until the age of 20. (probably later in boys). So there is a reason they often can't say what they were thinking.

whit said...

I think you're doing a fantastic job! Your kids are solo lucky to have you has a parent. Loved, loved visiting with you. Can't wait to have you out. :)

Natalie said...

I'm so glad you're going through raising teenagers before I am so that I can receive all the benefits of your experience and wisdom!