Help! My Daughter is Thirteen: on Parenting Teens

On Parenting Teens

My daughter turned thirteen this year. THIRTEEN! I can’t believe it’s been thirteen years since my little premature princess made her debut on the earth.  When people ask how old my kids are, the wide-eyed expression often emerges when I say the dreaded number: thirteen.

It’s true that the teen years can be some of the most challenging for kids and parents. It’s not unlikely to hear expressions like these in reference to parenting adolescents:

Mothers of teenagers know why animals eat their young. -Unknown

Mother Nature is providential. She gives us twelve years to develop a love for our children before turning them into teenagers. -William Galvin

Adolescence is perhaps nature’s way of preparing parents to welcome the empty nest.  ~Karen Savage and Patricia Adams, The Good Stepmother

Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough.  ~Earl Wilson

It’s going to be daunting, isn’t it?

Maybe not.

As I was sitting in church this morning, the young svelte mini-me sitting to my right reached over and grabbed my hand. I looked over at her and she touched her forehead to mine. I adore this girl. Like, deeply adore her.

When she was little I loved her too. Her cute little pigtails that looked like Boo from Monsters Inc. The way she sang all the time, making up funny-to-me words. Her flopping feet when she tried to tap dance at age four. But it’s different now. I not only love her, but I like her too. She is one of the kindest souls I’ve ever known, she’s funny and oh so talented. I’m proud when I see her babysitting, loving and caring for little children. She loves the Lord and loves to worship Him with song and dance.

Unlike when she was very little, we can actually have deeper, meaningful conversations. Just yesterday, we were working on some choreography and I thought to myself, “This is really fun.” Not like, “I like doing this but I’d rather be out with my girlfriends.” But like, “I would rather do this right now than anything else.”

Sometimes I think, maybe she’s the exception. Maybe the other two will be difficult. My tween almost-11-year-old? Nope. I like her too, including her quintessential creative mind that I don’t always understand. The 8-year-old wacky one? Nope. I celebrate her unconventional quirks and deep sensitivity that sometimes exasperate me.

It’s not supposed to be like this, though. I’m supposed to be at odds with my teen. She’s supposed to be difficult and all “teenagery.” I’m supposed to know why animals eat their young. “Just wait!” you might say. Wait till she’s in High School, wait till she’s 17, you’ll see.

I don’t want to live in waiting for my kids to turn into monsters.

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Are there (rare) times when we don’t like each other that much? Sure. Does she ever have an attitude? The better question: do I ever have an attitude? Don’t answer that, girls! Do we have to deal with hurt feelings and heavy loads, consequences of certain behavior? Of course. But I don’t have to dwell on those tough times. We clash, we repent, we learn and we move on.

I’m just beginning my journey into parenting teens. I admit I don’t know much. It may seem to fall apart in a few years, but there are a few things I know to be true.

  • My children are not mine. They belong to the Lord. “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:7-8, ESV).
  • True wisdom comes from the Lord. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (James 1:5-6, ESV).
  • Even if things do fall apart, God uses everything (even angst-ridden teens) for His glory. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV).

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So instead of expecting drudgery, I’d like to pledge to focus on the Lord and the three blessings he has given so generously for my husband and I to raise – for such a short time. I’m going to look for the good, and we’ll work together to overcome the bad. And finally, in regards to the coming teen years, I will try to fulfill Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

And to other moms of teens, I’ll pray for you if you’ll pray for me. Leave a comment here to let me know.

Disclosure: My lovely daughter read and approved this post before publishing. 

UPDATE:

I want to be clear that I’m not claiming here that everyone should have an adolescent parenting experience that is all unicorns and roses. I know parenting is hard sometimes. I know for some parents, though they do everything “right,” kids make bad choices, they have emotional issues and special needs, and sometimes they are just rebellious! What I’m saying is that I want to view this time of parenting with the eyes of the Lord and not the world. And remember my second and third point up there- ask for wisdom and remember that He even uses the tribulations for His glory.

If you and your teen are having a difficult time, God has a word for that too:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Coritnthians 1:3-4, ESV