In the midst of the challenge of parenting many teens, inevitably there are moments where my kids see me as enemy number one, the one thwarting their dearest-held wishes. Moments like these frustrate me as much as they frustrate them. I want them to be happy and to grow in wisdom, and to never doubt my love for them. I do my best to make decisions with those goals in mind. (OK, sometimes I want to stay home for an afternoon instead of running kids everywhere.) But the vast majority of my decisions truly are motivated by love, so it can be incredibly frustrating to be seen as the enemy.
There’ve been moments where I’ve outright told them that they’re not going to find a bigger fan on this earth. That I’m ALWAYS on their side. Yeah, sometimes being on their side looks like making them sit next to me and talk through a confusing assignment when they’d rather go to bed. Sometimes it means them having to dig through the pit on their bedroom floor before they can use the phone. Or finishing their math before they can hang out with friends. Which to a teen doesn’t feel like love.
And there lies the problem. It’s not enough for me to be certain of my intentions and feelings for them, and to be making decisions in love. If I’m not loving them in ways that feel like love to THEM, it honestly doesn’t matter how much I love them.
Now, don’t get me wrong; most well-bonded, reasonably mature kids understand that moms make kids do un-fun stuff for their own good, because they love them. But (adoptive momma alert here) kids from hard places often have a terrible time interpreting a mom’s less-than-fun decisions and actions as loving.
In seeking to love my kids well, I can’t be a complete and utter push-over. It’s good and needful for me as a mom to make my kids do chores and memorize times tables and wear seat-belts. But at least part of the time (hopefully even a few times a day?) I also need to be loving each child in ways that make that particular kid feel loved.
For one of mine, it’s gummy bears. For another, it’s a cup of coffee, set down right next to that textbook. For another, it’s being allowed to chat on the phone, a lot longer than I strictly think is needed. Another happily snuggles in next to me on the couch for little chats. Another likes to paint fingernails with me. Yet another grins when I playfully punch him in the ribs as I’m walking past.
Especially during the teen years, it can be very easy for the negative interactions to start to outweigh the positive. I’ve found I need to be very observant and very intentional in fitting in positive interactions too, or it all goes downhill fast.
1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” I think especially when kids are struggling, they really need to see our actions, and so I’m always trying to add ideas to my repertoire. What does love in action look like at your house? I’d love to hear what actions make your children feel especially loved.