Learning Patience and Empathy in Parenting a Teen…Is that Even Possible?

 

 

Monday was one of those really CRAPPY days!

 

Yes,  I said ‘CRAPPY‘… it happens to be one of my favorite words, and it was the most appropriate descriptive word I could come up with. 

Okay, so…. maybe it wasn’t the whole day, but the evening… It totally fell apart.    I got into a spat with one of my sons, and I looking back I think that argument is what really precipitated the whole problem.  There is nothing like contention to suck the spirit out of your home.  Ever since my husband died, I am just so much more acutely aware of that. If the spirit goes out, my emotional state goes with it. Anyway, I won’t go into who the spat with was with or what it was about because my children are very sensitive to be singled out on my blog. Needless to say it was all based on the misunderstanding that started with a comment that I made.  I tried to smooth things over and apologize, but I got a typical teenage response.  You know…communication would be so much easier if my children were 40 like me! But unfortunately, I am working with pre-adult souls. 

I’ve learned that communication with children/teens requires a LOT of extra patience. 

(It’s probably, why they come that way… so we can learn LOTS of PATIENCE!) 
 

Even though I’d like them to respond in a more adult manner, I can’t really expect that they will. Demanding it doesn’t work either. In my working opinion, the best way to smooth an apology over is to kill them with kindness. 

Yep, that mean sucking up my own feelings and eating some humble pie. 

Now, I’m not saying that parents should tolerate bad behavior. I set limits and there are consequences . But I don’t have to match bad behavior with my own bad behavior. I can choose how I am going to ACT in the situation and not REACT to it. We often forget that…

It’s more important to be nice than it is to be right

I have learned the importance of preserving the spirit at all costs.  The spirit softens everyone’s hearts.  It even makes suborn teens more susceptible to suggestions.  Plus, the spirit puts those suggestions into my mind, and I have found that God’s ideas of how to parent my children generally work better than the ones that I come up with on my own.  

Preserving the spirit, preserves the relationship.

 

MISTAKE 1: I should have swallowed my pride initially and empathetically apologized.

Instead I offered a trite apology, and then accused him of being too sensitive. when I should have expressed love, I looked for reason to prove that the misunderstanding was all his doing. If I had taken more ownership of the problem, I might have avoided the rest of the evening. My personal pride was really the problem that night.

It is okay for parents to admit that they are wrong.

(This is very hard to do, but so critical to model for your children.)

So we had Family Home Evening (our family spiritual lesson night), in this particular child was grumpy and refused to participate. After FHE I was impatient with my other two children. They were messing around and interrupted a phone call and then spilt rice all over the floor. I got upset, I chewed them out, and I sent everyone to bed. Then I was alone…

Totally alone because my anger and irritation had banished the spirit.

MISTAKE 2: I REACTED instead of thinking and choosing to ACT.

Then the despair begin to set in. I looked up some news articles on the plane crash. I watched myself in an interview. Big mistake!  Then I crawled in the tub, in the dark and began to cry in my loneliness. I had no one to talk to, so I begin to pray.

“Dear Father in Heaven, why do I have to feel so lonely?”

The answer was clear. 

“You wanted to be more empathetic. Think about how many people spend all of their lives alone. You had a great marriage and a husband who loves you. You have children who love you.  You have to experience this feeling so you can understand others.” 

The answer humbled me and gave me some perspective.  I began to wrap my head around the thought of needing to learn how it feels to be lonely.  That thought gave my experience a purpose and some how made it easier to bear.  With my heart softened, I realized that I had not handled the evening very well at all.  I knew that I needed to fix things in the morning with my kiddos.

If I feel the need to justify myself,

 I’m probably in the wrong.

At breakfast and scripture the next morning I apologized.  My two rice spiller were easier appeased, but other child was still mad about the comment. I made his favorite lunch for him… Still no break in the sour mood. They left for school and I decided to write this post.  As I began to write, I knew I needed to be as honest and open with him as I am in my posts.  I texted him this message…

MOM: I really am sorry.  And I want to be friends again 🙂 TEEN: Okay MOM: I made the peanut butter sandwiches as a peace offering this morning. I should’ve been more sensitive when you told me how your feelings were hurt. Instead of justifying my actions. I was wrong to say that even joking. I do trust you…  Either way, I should’ve been more sensitive. I’m glad you told me how you were feeling. I will try better in the future to respond in a better way.

Then I did something else nice for him.   The end result… That evening I had a super happy, helpful cooperative child! 

                                   Hallelujah!

Spirit back in the home!
 
The best way I teach my children good behavior is by modeling it. Not demanding it. 
 
 
I could have stuck to my prideful position and eventually things would have simmered down, but my son would have harbored resentment and that would have driven daggers in our relationship.  
 
The only way to have really good relationships with your kids is to act towards them the way that Christ would.  That means we have to love them unconditionally.  We have to think of their needs and feelings.  We have to put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand the world from their perspective and then use empathy and understanding and patience when we deal with them.
 
Isn’t that what God does for us?
 
Over and over again we make mistakes, and over and over again he reaches out to us with love.  Never harshness or condemnation.  We have consequences to our actions, but His hand is always extended in love and understanding.
 
I have really been trying to work on this in our family lately.  I know that someday I will have to do this with step children when I remarry.  I know that it will be harder, but I also know that if I can’t do it with my own children, then I will never be successful with someone else’s.  
 
So this is a good preparation time for me …
 

To learn to deal with and be happy being lonely,….

 
And to improve my ‘Christ-like’ parenting skills
.
 
HINT: All of that stuff with teens, works with men too 🙂  
After all, they are still just boys at heart .
 
Questions to Ponder:
  1. How can choosing to respond with patience improve your relationship?  How does that improve the peace you feel?

Check out this post in the Patience Badge

 

I was 38 years old and the mother of 3 teenaged sons and a 10 year-old daughter when I became a widow. My fairy tale world was shattered. I lost my best friend and the love of my life. In that moment I knew I could choose, choose to sink into the darkness of despair, or I could choose to turn to the Lord for understanding and direction. I chose the light and it has made all of the difference. I share my story, what I have learned this life is all about and how I have refound purpose and direction in the hopes of helping others who are struggling. I am determined that when I meet my husband again that we will say, this was worth it. We will look at the learning and the good this tragedy accomplished, and we will say, this was not for naught.

Not For Naught: A Young Widow’s Journey

spouse and father-in-law died in a plane crash 11/2012.