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TeenologyThe Art of Raising Great Teenagers
By Jim Burns
Bethany House PublishersCopyright © 2010 Jim Burns
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWho Is That Stranger in Your House?
Three things amaze me,
no, four things I'll never understand—
how an eagle flies so high in the sky,
how a snake glides over a rock,
how a ship navigates the ocean,
why adolescents act the way they do.
-Proverbs 30:18-19 (The Message)
It has been said that raising kids is part joy and part guerrilla warfare. And during the teen years? Everything is intensified. I have spent my entire adult life focused on helping teens and their parents navigate adolescence, yet I don't have many easy answers. There is hope and practical help for you in this book, but there is no such thing as a quick fix or a magic potion when it comes to raising a teenager....
A dog trainer once told us that training your dog is 66 percent human training and 33 percent actual dog training. I think the same rings true for raising teenagers.
Here is what I am going to say in this book to you:
"Stay calm. Adolescence is a temporary transition. Work your plan. Hold on to your seat belt. Get as emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy as you possibly can, and before you know it, that sweet kid who morphed into a teen and sometimes hates you will become a responsible adult."
There is hope. Even teens that do bad things can turn out okay. To one extent or another, all teens are moving from dependence on the parents toward independence. One of the deepest cries of adolescence is FREEDOM, and it's the parents' job to help their teen become a responsible adult. We can only do that when we move our parenting role from controlling to consulting and from micromanaging to mentoring. Some authors call this giving your teenager roots and wings. This roots and wings idea is not always easy for your teen because they seem to be more interested in the wings part. On the other hand, we parents still want to hold on to the roots. And often for a good reason, because when you give your teenager their wings, they stumble and fall or fly in the wrong direction. It's complicated.
The Heart of a Parent
You may be reading this book because you are trying to figure out how to reach that stranger in your house. Wasn't it just yesterday that they would snuggle up to you and it seemed like they lived to please you? Now there are days (maybe weeks and months) when it appears they can't stand you or what you stand for in life. During a particularly rough time with one of my daughters, I bought her a blank card that had an ocean and palm tree on the front. Inside I wrote a quote by Maureen Hawkins that perfectly described Cathy's and my feelings: "Before you were conceived I wanted you. Before you were born I loved you. Before you were a minute old, I would have died for you. This is the miracle of life."
Somehow the moment you have a child, part of your heart is ripped out of you and placed in the heart of that child and you are never the same. A late-night phone call when one of our kids wasn't home always caused anxiety. A cough, a fever, a sports injury would bring panic and worry. A poor decision about morals and values would cause terror in my soul. For years I thought I was alone with these feelings or just had too weak of a faith, but as I started expressing these emotions to friends, they agreed that the love we have for our child is like no other love. I have sat with parents who have lost their child in an accident or from cancer. The hurt and brokenness often runs deeper than even the loss of a spouse or a parent.
Many couples say the most difficult time in their marriage was during the teen years of their children. There were disagreements on how to set boundaries, little time was spent focused on the marriage, and if the kids were rebelling there was an incredible amount of guilt and tension on the part of the parents. One evening after a seminar and hearing an unusually difficult amount of painful stories from parents of teens, I remember coming home to my wife and saying, "The teen years are causing parents, especially moms, to be emotional basket cases." There is more stress in this generation of American families than in any previous generation, and it is playing havoc on the emotional health of parents. Raising kids was not meant to be this difficult.
The Private Life of the Teenager
Parents aren't the only ones who are struggling. Teens are also going through tremendous changes. I was interviewing film producer Michael Landon Jr. on our HomeWord radio broadcast, and he flatly stated, "This is the first generation of young people who have experienced the complete death of innocence." Just this past month I looked out at a large crowd of teenagers I was speaking to and said, "I wouldn't want to be your age."
This generation likely has to deal with viewing Internet pornography by age eleven and cell phone "sexting" in middle school. In fact, our parents probably were upset with our use of the home telephone line, but your children's cell phone will be the greatest provider of pornography for their generation. Add the pressure to conform to the cultural norm of the day and society's sheer lack of a biblical worldview, and it is no wonder kids are struggling. Today's teens face more violence, promiscuity, drug abuse, and depression than any previous generation. And issues like sexual abuse, eating disorders, self-injury, and sexually transmitted diseases are at a mind-boggling, epidemic scale. Sure, these problems were around when we were growing up, but not to the extent they are now and not at the age of our kids. We were twelve, fourteen, and seventeen, but we were never their age. They experience so much so young.
Most families are trying to manage the teen years without a strategy in place. Many couples are not on the same page and single parents have never had it so hard. I am not by nature a negative person, but the private life of the American teenager has never been so complicated.
The good news is, these challenges are causing parents and experts in the field to rethink how to help teens survive and thrive in a world turned upside down. Some kids will be affected harder than others. Some, who in elementary school looked like they would breeze through their teen years without a hitch, will be in a battle and others will waltz through adolescence unscathed. But with a plan and purpose, you can help your teen navigate this season in his or her life. The first step is making sure we have a realistic view of healthy teenagers and their parents.
Excerpted from Teenology by Jim Burns Copyright © 2010 by Jim Burns . Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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