About that time we were introduced to two books by two brothers: Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Tedd Tripp) and The Age of Opportunity (Paul Tripp). We were challenged to do two new things that changed our approach. First, Tedd challenged us to focus on the heart not the behavior. Secondly, Paul helped us see that every problem in a teen’s life is an opportunity for God to reveal himself to them.
Our own educational training in child development backed up what we were reading and learning. What we eventually realized was this: PUBERTY IS HUGE! Puberty is almost like a second womb when God does a new formation of the child and ushers him/her into adulthood. Instead of becoming mature children, our young teens become immature adults. It is as drastic as the caterpillar that emerges from the cocoon as a butterfly. Their bodies are given adult capabilities, their thinking becomes more abstract, their emotions are set on fire, their awareness of others is intensified, and they perceive of themselves as adults.
When these things happened to Anna and Patrick, we were still treating them like children. Although we recognized the physical changes, we did not realize that we needed to be developing their adult thinking, we did not ratify their emotions, we did not willingly receive their allegiance to their friends, and we did not see them as young adults. That’s why I say we were clueless. (If I am overstating the case, it is only to emphasize the point. Anna and Patrick came through their teen years because other trustworthy adults stepped in and helped them interpret life. We are grateful to the Lord and to those who gave their time to them.)
So what did we change?
“Give rules and require obedience” became “Listen more and interpret life.”
I know that this is probably an oversimplification, but the germ of truth is there. Teens who have passed through puberty need a different approach from us. Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” This is how we deal with adults, even immature adults. We listen and draw them out.
With our next four children, we have attempted to do better. We have not succeeded all the time, but we have had a clearer sense of our role as parents. We believe that it has made a difference.
Such has been our experience. We hope that it helps you.