I was flicking through my facebook feed the other day and found a heart cry from a mum struggling with her teen son. Is this normal she asked? Everyone assured her it was. My heart wanted to join the conversation, but I hesitated. I’ve been thinking about it though and the words that keep coming back to me is – don’t settle for normal.
There was a sense of security, of encouragement, because everyone who responded said that the teen’s negative behaviour was normal. And yet, surely there is a sense of hopelessness as well. What joy is there to say that angry behaviour, being rude to siblings and disregarding family is normal. I don’t find any comfort in that at all.
Instead I’d like to say that yes, that is normal behaviour, kids go through that, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When we see something as normal, it lulls us into a sense of security – it happens to everyone – but surely that doesn’t have to be the way that it is.
There are a lot of things that society tells us is normal as we raise our kids
- Tantrums in toddlers
- Siblings who don’t like each other
- Sons who don’t listen to mothers
- Kids who resist chores
- Teenagers who are rude and just want to be by themselves
All of these are normal behaviours for sure – but because we are sinful, selfish to the core, not because of any pre-set, predetermined behaviour patterns that each season of childhood has to experience. It is normal because parents have settled for it. In doing so we say there is nothing we can do, nothing that we need to do other than get through it.
I disagree. Each one of these things do not need to dictate the quality of family life. They may shape it or shade it for a season, but they don’t have to be final or lasting. Parents don’t have to be hands off when these heart issues arise – instead we need to continue to be intentional, relational, and heart focused.
Are there things going on in your family that you’ve just accepted as normal – things that hurt your heart and yet everyone tells you everyone’s going through it? Can I encourage you to reconsider? Face these issues intentionally – don’t just react and tell your kids that this behaviour is no longer acceptable – you need to be think it through first.
We need to think through
- The status and health of our own relationship with our kids – especially when our kids get older, we will help them change their hearts, not by what we tell them, but how we can influence them. By having a relationship with them (as a person we love, not as our child we need to change), our love for them sets the stage to influence them towards good choices.
- What their heart issue is – what is missing in their ability to handle the relationship or circumstance that you are thinking about. Is it self control? Is it responsibility? Is it an ability to show love, patience or tolerance? We need to know what is not right and why that is not right.
- Decide which is the most important issue to deal with now. What behaviour affects your child the most? Affects the family the most? Affects you the most?
- Just pick one. You can get to others another time, but you can only work on one issue at a time, especially if it is an ingrained and far-reaching behaviour.
- Consider how you are going to address this? Do you need to have a conversation (relevant for older kids), do you have to teach the appropriate response, do you need to set boundaries so they can respond appropriately, do you need to give a consequence so they learn the importance?
We need to think things through and find strategies before we barge in and tell them – no more!
There is more than one way to reach our kids hearts but the most important thing is that they know that we love them, even when they are brats! God loved us while we were sinners. Their right behaviour, their right choices doesn’t shape our love. Our love is there. And we need to respond to their behaviour out of that love – that doesn’t mean accepting their behaviour, it means helping them live well.