Posts Tagged ‘possibilities’

So you read my last blog post, but you are not convinced? “That’s right, Hal. Tell me more about why it is a good thing that my teen is highlighting my inconsistencies and hypocrisies….that is, IF I even have any!”

In my last post I suggested that this ability to recognize and call out hypocrisy by our teens was actually a gift to us provided by God and delivered personally by some of those we love the most. But just in case you were thinking of trying to exchange this gift let me suggest that the gift is not for you alone.

In adolescence, teens are learning to think in some advanced ways and need to practice. They develop advanced reasoning skills. They learn to think about things hypothetically. They can dream about possiblities. Teenagers begin to think about things in the abstract like love…and faith…and hope. They learn to process things logically and see implications. They can even think about thinking…or think about feeling…a process called “meta-cognition.” They can even project what others might be thinking about them.

If you have been around any young teens and are past the age of 14 yourself, you can immediately see some of the difficulties this raises. There isa phenomenon called “the imaginary audience,” where each teen imagines that everyone he or she encounters is thinking about them and evaluating them critically. In fact, there is always an audience in their head, even when no one is around. And it is hard for them to imagine that everyone is not as transfixed by their own thoughts and feelings as they are themselves!

There is also a sense of personal uniqueness. Surely no one else alive or dead has ever experienced situations…or feelings…or life itself in the same way! (We talked about some of this briefly when reading chapter 5). There is a sense of increased drama and emotion to almost every situation. In fact, if a given moment does not have enough drama, it seems that the teen will seek to create some. And there is a sense of heightened justice…with no room for gray or compromise.

Think about how shallow and simple life would be without these new abilities. What a gift this cognitive and emotional development is to the teen! But what a challenge to those on whom they practice their budding skills!!

It may be the subject of another post why we think it wise in our culture to put groups of twenty-five to thirty-five middle schoolers in a classroom as they bludgeon each other while they experiment with the new things they can now do.

If you are an adult in a young teen’s life, what can you do? Here are my suggestions. Feel free to add your own:

*Thank God for the blessing….for them and for you

*Listen between the lines. Listen for the feelings. And just listen.

*Test everything. Don’t take it personally unless the Holy Spirit tells you to tune into something specific.

*Express unconditional love. Help them temper this new gift through modeling love.

*Own it and ask forgiveness when you have been a hypocrite. Model being okay with messing up, owning your stuff, and asking forgiveness.

*Thank the Lord that He isn’t done with you…adn that He trusts you to influence another!

What would you add to the list?

(This post is inspired by chapter 8 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 5 weeks to become part of the discussion).