I have bigs and littles, which is a cute way of saying that I get the special blessing of trying to parent teens and toddlers at the same time. It’s the gift that never stops……giving. And by giving, I mean wearing me out.
Someone always needs something from sunup (littles) to sundown (bigs). The only thing they all have in common is that they are really good at bugging each other. (I’m secretly hoping that antagonizing your siblings is a spiritual gift, because all four of my kiddos have it in spades.)
It’s difficult to decide which stage requires more emotional support — the bigs or the littles. Both are a wreck in their own beautiful way. But if I had to decide, lately it’s been the bigs who have been giving me the most grief.
I’m not trying to complain, because I am fully aware that I have some pretty great children, and I also realize that it’s not their fault that they have raging hormones surging through their ever-changing bodies. But mercy, teenagers can be one.giant.hurricane.
Parenting through adolescence is not for the faint of heart OR the faint of faith. If you aren’t there yet…be thankful and pray for strength in the impending storm. The range of emotions that teens exhibit can be as unpredictable and destructive as a category five typhoon: it’s a sight to behold.
In all seriousness, Dr. James Dobson, (renowned parenting expert, radio show host and author of over 36 books), said once that there are only two goals for parenting teens:
- Love them.
That’s it. Two goals. You know a parenting phase is tough when an expert tells you the goal is simply not to die. The longer I parent my teens, the more I believe this to be accurate, and the harder it becomes to accomplish both.
You might be laughing, but it’s true. There is a special grit that is necessary for navigating the whirlwind of backtalk, disgust and know-it-all attitude that swirls around you, making it difficult to respond in love OR survive. I keep repeating to myself: Grace. Just give grace. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, I scream into a pillow and then eat some chocolate.
I have discovered a phrase that helps tremendously, however, when faced with the adolescent tidal wave of emotion and I want to share it with you. When either of my teens is over-the-top and freaking out about something ridiculous, I have learned to respond like this: I love you, but your feelings are lying to you.
Helping them understand this concept has been a total game changer.
Feelings don’t always tell the truth...especially the unpredictable, easily swayable, hormone-ridden teenage feelings. I wish I would have learned this nugget of wisdom earlier in my own life!
So many times the overblown, emotional reaction from teens is in response to a wayward feeling — a feeling that is based on a lie. Here are a few common ones:
- No one likes me.
- If God cared about me, he would help me.
- Everyone else is doing it.
- I’m not good enough.
- It’s not going to be ok.
We know these feelings are lies because they don’t line up with the Word of God, and his words are always the truth. God says:
- You are loved. (Jeremiah 31:3)
- You can do anything with my strength. (Philippians 4:13)
- You are not like everyone else in the world. (John 17:16-17)
- You are fearfully and wonderfully made, on purpose, just the way you are. (Psalm 139)
- You are going to be fine because I am working for your good. (Romans 8:28)
There is so much power in God’s Word to calm the storm. I’ve witnessed it time and time again and I am always amazed at the power his truth holds to dispel an emotional hurricane. That’s why telling your teen that you love them (goal #1), and helping them recognize the lie is one of the best things you can do to stabilize them…and survive (goal #2).
Intentionally speaking truth to your teen will help. Here’s my four step strategy:
1. Acknowledge the feeling. “I see that you are feel like no one likes you at school.”
2. Identify the lie. “But your feelings are lying to you. You aren’t alone. People do like you.”
3. Replace the lie with truth. “The Word says that you are loved, that God knows you by name and that you are his. He loves you and he likes you. Plus, I like you. As do many other people, such as…”
4. Pray together for truth to overcome the lie. “Dear Lord, Thank you for who you are and how you love us. Thank you that you see us. Thank you for putting so many people in our lives that care about us. Help us to believe the truth about ourselves, instead of believing the lies. Amen.”
This is an overly-simplified example, but the principles hold true. Anytime you can identify and replace lies with truth, feelings will follow suit. And when feelings line up with the Word of God, it makes for a much more peaceful teen…and home. (In case you are wondering, this strategy works on more than just teenagers. I know from experience that it works with elementary school kids and adults as well.)
I love you, but your feelings are lying to you.
It’s my secret teenage weapon… because truth is mightier than the adolescent storm.
Aminta Geisler is married to her best friend, Ben, and is a stay-at-home-mom of two teens and two toddlers. A self-proclaimed Jesus freak, she loves making old furniture new, studying God’s word, and all things pizza. You can read more about her journey of reckless abandon for Jesus @amintageisler.com or on instagram @amintageisler.