I am the parent of a difficult child. If you are too, you know the exhaustion, the tears, the feelings of helplessness and the cycles of prayer/throwing hands up/let’s-try-again talks. You know the extra burden of feeling like you are often not emotionally (or physically) available to your other children because of the intensity of this one.
I have some good news. First, you aren’t the only parent who struggles. Who loses his temper, swears to never do it again, and breaks the oath before the day is out. Secondly, you have the strength to get up and keep fighting. You must. I must. And we have a promise that in our weakness, He becomes stronger. May I suggest pleading with the Father, even as Jesus Himself did, until He answers.
A friend loaned me a fantastic book, Age of Opportunity, that has encouraged me so much and I want to share some practical insight from it:
“What we need to understand here is that this is not just a “flesh and blood” struggle, with parents trying to open their teens’ eyes to what they are really like. This is spiritual warfare. There is an enemy who is a liar, a deceiver, and a trickster. Teenagers are particularly susceptible to his lies about the self. They will believe that the problem is not with them, that they have been singled out for unfair criticism and correction. We will need to stand strong and patient, not being drawn into those debilitating verbal battles that do not open the teenager’s eyes, but only make him more defensive and distant. With love and a humble dependency on Christ, we need to take every opportunity to expose critical issues of the heart, helping our teenagers look at themselves in the perfect mirror of Scripture.
Issues of wisdom and foolishness, legalism and true godliness, friendship, sexuality, eternity, and a personal awareness of the heart all are on the table during the teen years, providing wide open doors of opportunity. God uses discussions like these to help your teenagers come to know him, and love him, and to internalize his truth in a way that gives practical direction to their lives.
These are also the things that make this a scary time of parenting. These are issues that can cause parental panic and dread and become the occasion of parental anger. These are the issues around which parents say things they live to regret. These issues can be used of God to form a deeper bond between parent and teen, or be the thing the Enemy uses to drive a deeper wedge in the relationship.
If you respond out of anxiety, irritation, and fear, you will try to control your child all the more. Instead of seeing this as a time of preparation, you will take on a survival mentality. You will tend to see life as a minefield, and you will hope for little more than getting your teenager across it with all his limbs intact.
In your desperation, you give in to raging emotions and you do foolish, unproductive things that you will later view with embarrassment and regret….In your self-pity over the toughness of your job as a parent and the peace your child has taken away, you will resort to beating him with words and seeking to motivate him with threats. You will try to control and manipulate him into obedience, and you will initiate unproductive power struggles. All the while your relationship will disintegrate while your teenager’s rebellion increases. At last you will admit you are powerless and, as a final act of anger, you will quit parenting altogether, telling yourself that you did everything you could do.
But if instead you move toward your teenager with a confident faith in the Redeemer, whose Word is true and whose sovereign persence empowers your weak and feeble parental efforts, God will use you to communicate love, understanding, grace, hope, and life. You will ask calm but probing questions that cause your teenager to examine things that he would never examine alone. You will engage your teenager in thought-provoking debate without it ever becoming hurtfully personal and condemning. You will correct in a spirit of acceptance, forgiveness, and hope. You will smile when your child comes into the house, and she will not tense up when you enter her room. You will find her pursuing you to talk about things that many teens hide or ignore. And as your relationship deepens, you will watch her progressively taking on the character of Christ.”
Carry on and fight for your children. Kneel with them and beg God’s mercy for you both. Show them your love just as God articulates his by saying, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” That’s what they need to know. That we will stand and fight and never give up.
Get the book, Age of Opportunity (Tripp).