Tag Archive for understanding

The Sacred Moment In Every Conversation

Our families, our marriage, and our children are flooded with information today. TV’s, computers, smart phones, Ipads, social media, 24-hour news…they all throw information our direction faster than…you fill in the blank. With so much information spoken “at us,” it’s hard to get a word in edgewise.  In fact, we jump into conversation with our spouse and family midsentence with a “yeah, but….” Or, we talk over one another, each one talking louder than the last in an attempt to be heard. Once we have the floor, we don’t stop speaking…no breath, no pause, just tell all as quickly as possible and keep it going in an unending filibuster. Throughout the process, each person becomes defensive. The initial topic often gets lost in our ever more emphatic arguments. Each person grows more possessive of “my time” to speak. And…we lose the sacred moment every conversation needs to bring connection between those involved. The sacred moment in every conversation is the pause, that moment of silence between two speakers. The sacred moment means one person has finished speaking for the moment and the other person has received the opportunity to speak. There is no “yeah, but,” no interruption, no filibuster in the sacred moment…just a sacred moment of silence between speakers. Still, the sacred moment provides so much more than mere silence between speakers.

  1. The sacred moment confers appreciation to the listener for patiently waiting their turn to speak.
  2. The sacred moment means the speaker respects the listener enough to pass them the baton of speech, the opportunity to talk.
  3. The sacred moment also respects the speaker by providing an occasion for the listener to think about what was said, to really consider the speaker’s point of view.
  4. The sacred moment allows both parties to confirm mutual understanding about what was already spoken.
  5. The sacred moment grants the time needed to consider areas of agreement before jumping into a defensive posture.
  6. The sacred moment allows all parties to remain calm, to breathe life into themselves and the conversation, to maintain composure and an attitude of affection.

Appreciation, respect, mutual understanding, agreement, composure, and affection all in a single sacred moment. Amazingly, that moment remains very short, a simple pause between two people engaged in mutual understanding as the baton of speech is handed from one person to another. But that sacred moment can save a conversation and a relationship! Don’t you think it’s time we start practicing the sacred moment, the most important moment in any conversation, today?

A Back Door to Your Child’s Heart

Have you ever watched your children do something and thought, “What in the world are they thinking?” I have—like the time my daughter wrote herself a note to get out of gym class…in first grade…with a crayon…and signed her own name. For the sake of full disclosure, my parents likely thought the same thing of me. Like the time I drilled a hole in the bottom of their washtub and cut the bristles off a broom to make a washtub bass (it did work, by the way). If you have ever had an experience like these and thought, “What in the world…” then you can benefit from this back door to your child’s heart.

Illustrationen, Icons

The back door to your child’s heart begins with your emotional response to his actions and words. When you feel frustrated, annoyed, angry, or proud of your child, you have just located the back door. Now don’t throw the door open and start to vent, gush, or lecture. Enter with caution and love. On the other side of your emotion (the back door) lies your child’s heart; so step back a moment, take a breath, and consider the door. Look beyond your emotion to what that emotion may be telling you. Let me give you a few examples of what your emotion may be telling you about your child.

  • If you feel annoyed with your child’s irritating behavior, he may be craving your loving attention. Give him a little time and attention.
  • If you feel frustrated with your child because he does not appear to listen, he may need to be heard himself. Take time to listen carefully and assure he feels understood by you. After he knows you understand him, he may listen more carefully to you.
  • If you feel defensive or if you feel a deep desire to justify your decision, your child may need you to appreciate his point of view. Try reflecting on his explanation of the current situation. Discuss it before offering your own.
  • If you feel provoked by your child, as though he is questioning your authority, he may need you to let him practice some independent decision making and experience the consequences of his own mistakes.
  • If you feel helpless in the face of your child’s behavior, he may need to feel empowered. Take time to discuss what he believes will result from his actions and review his responsibility for his choices.

 

In other words, your emotion may actually tell you what your child is experiencing in his heart and mind. Your emotion can teach you what your child needs. It is the back door to his heart. As you begin to show empathy for the deeper emotions that lie beneath his actions and help him explore what seems to be happening in his heart, he may open up. You may find yourself discussing the “why’s,” intentions, and motivations of his behavior as well as his deeper desires. When all is said and done, you will have a better understanding of “what in the world was he thinking.” More importantly, your child will feel heard, valued, and appreciated by you. He will have a greater understanding of his own inner world, which will help him practice self-control and make wiser decisions in the future. Your intimacy with your child will increase. And, he is more likely to listen to you. All these benefits begin when you pause a moment at the back door to his heart and consider what is on the other side (his heart) before rushing in. Rather than burst through with lectures, explanations, and yelling, open the door with gentle curiosity and begin to explore what is on the other side. From your emotional experience to his, you will share an intimate moment…and everyone will grow.

A Baker’s Dozen to Show Grace in Troubled Relationships

John Gottman believes “91% of the time the ground is ripe for miscommunications” in a marriage. I don’t know about the percentage, but I know conflict and misunderstandings arise in every family. It is inevitable. But, have you notice that family conflict can go from familysunheartbad to worse in no time? Grace gets thrown out the window and everyone involved begins to respond with anger, blame, accusations, and defensiveness. These responses lead to more anger, blame, accusations, and defensiveness. They may even result in withdrawal from the relationship and the death of a family. How can you avoid this terrible end? Respond with grace. Grace is an unmerited kindness, a favor given to someone even if they do not deserve it. When at least one person responds with grace, the outcome of the interaction will change. The people involved in the argument have a greater chance of connecting rather than pushing one another away. The argument has a greater chance of reaching a resolution. Let me share a baker’s dozen for responding with grace in the midst of troubled family relationships.

  • Rather than blaming the other person, look at your own contribution to the current situation (the log in your own eye).
  • Rather than making accusations, accept responsibility for your own actions and your own limited understanding.
  • Rather than responding with defensiveness, respond with curiosity about the feelings and emotions of the other person.
  • Rather than shutting down, communicate with the other person.
  • Rather than arguing and fighting, share a friendly conversation about something that interests the other person. If some topics lead to arguments, table them for another time.
  • Rather than assuming negative intent about the other person and their actions, look for the times they showed love. Assume positive intent—even in seemingly negative behavior.
  • Rather than trying to control the situation or the other person, pursue an understanding of the other person.
  • Rather than focus on the negative you perceive in the other, focus on what you admire and adore in them.
  • Rather than trying to make the other person change or “grow,” focus on your personal growth. You are only responsible for your personal growth.
  • Rather than criticizing and making accusations about the other person’s past or character, practice kindness…and give a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).
  • Rather than making assumptions about the other person’s motives or intents, believe the best and simply ask what the other person wants.
  • Rather than speaking in sarcasm, speak in patience and love.
  • Rather than taking responsibility for the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and decision, take responsibility for yourself. You cannot make the other person happy—that is their personal responsibility. You cannot make decisions for the other person or determine how they will live—that is their personal responsibility. Let the other person take their responsibility and you take your responsibility.

 

Responding with grace in the midst of troubled family relationships will change, filling you with greater character and personal strength. It will change your relationship as well, filling it with greater joy and intimacy.

6 Tips for Practical Acceptance

We all long for acceptance. We want to be an integral part of a group, especially our family. Feeling accepted creates a sense of safety and security. Knowing others accept us gives us a sense of personal value. It helps us realize that “I am loved no matter what.” If we do not feel accepted, we do not feel valued. Instead, we feel abandoned and rejected. We become driven to find acceptance; we may fight for acceptance…or just give up and believe ourselves unacceptable. Many teens who struggle with drugs, a lack of motivation, self-injurious behaviors, or unhealthy relationships are longing for acceptance but looking
for it in “all the wrong places.” When I ask them to explain what compels them to engage in these negative behaviors, they often describe the acceptance they find among others who engage in similar behaviors or a sense that “nobody cares so why should I.”

 

Parents kissing their cute little babyLet me state the obvious: Acceptance begins in the family! Children need acceptance from their parents and one another. Wives need acceptance from their husbands. Husbands need acceptance from their wives. And, when you get right down to it, parents desire to have the acceptance of their children, especially as their children move toward adulthood. Acceptance begins in the home. How can we practice acceptance in the family?

  • Be tolerant of differences among your family. A family blossoms into full beauty when they not only tolerate individual differences but cherish those differences. Take time to learn about your children’s interests. Find a way to enjoy your spouse’s hobby. Learn to appreciate your parents’ talents. Encourage the unique characteristics of each family member and even help provide opportunities for them in those areas.
  • Rather than nag your spouse or children to change, consider the possibility of humbly changing yourself.  Accept that your spouse or children might have a different opinion than you, an opinion that is still valid. Quit nagging, change your perspective, and, when necessary, change your actions. Of course there are some things that you cannot accept. I’m not talking about those things. But, take an honest look and make sure the issue really is worth the nagging. If not (and it probably is not), practice acceptance. Replacing nagging with acceptance is an act of grace and an expression of love.
  • Be aware of developmental abilities. I know this sounds basic, but many people forget to practice acceptance in this area. We yell at our four-year-old for being “immature.” We complain about our six-year-old son constantly fidgeting. We demand our eight-year-old remember to “play her position” on the soccer field. But, in each instance, the child is just not developmentally ready to meet that demand; and, complaining about it only sends a message that they “are not good enough.” Rather than demand more “mature” behavior, accept family member’s at the developmental level they have achieved. Let kids be kids.
  • Be aware and accepting of personality differences.  Maybe your meek husband does not push to get ahead or your gregarious wife loves to talk. Accept those unique personality traits. Remember how that unique personality initially attracted you to your spouse.
  • Quit comparing. Comparing communicates “you’re not quite good enough.” Instead of comparing, recognize and talk about the strengths your spouse and children possess. Talk about the aspects you admire and appreciate in your spouse and children.
  • Express your love, admiration, and encouragement as energetically as you express disappointment in unwise decisions, anger at disobedience, or fear of failure.

 

When you practice these six practical ways to communicate acceptance in your family, you make your family feel valued, significant, and confident. More importantly, you express a deep love for your family. So why wait? Start practicing today!

Turn Your Argument Into the Best Part of the Day…Make It Bearable Anyway

When you find yourself in an argument or disagreement (notice how I say “find myself” in an argument; I never start one…well, maybe once in a while…alright, alright, so even when I start an argument) with another family member, how can you make it bearable? Who is responsible to make it “go well”—the ones who starts it or the ones who finds themselves in the midst of it? Dr. Gottman suggests that both people in the argument (the speaker and the listener) hold responsibility for the outcome; both are responsible to make the argument end well. Here are the 9 ways to help an argument end well, 4 tips for the speaker and 5 tips for the listener.

 First, the Speaker’s responsibility includes:


·     State your feelings in as neutral a manner as possible. Remain objective and state your feelings in a “soft manner” rather than an intense emotional manner. Intense emotion may overwhelm your spouse and make it difficult for them to hear what you are saying.


·     Avoid making “you statements.” “You statements” tend to blame, accuse, and attack your spouse. “You statements” will more often result in defensiveness from your spouse, escalating the argument. Avoid them as much as possible.  


·     Instead, use “I” statements to state how you feel in this specific situation. Really, the only person you can honestly report on is yourself. So, stick with “I statements” about yourself, not “you statements” about your spouse. Also, stick to one specific situation at a time.  No need to throw in the kitchen sink. Stay specific and deal with one situation at a time.


·     Convert your complaint about the other person into a positive need (or what your spouse can do to help). This offers your spouse a plan of action, a way to help remedy the situation. It reveals something about you to your spouse, increasing intimacy with your spouse.

         When the Speaker follows these four tips, it will change the whole feel of the argument.  Instead of saying, “Here’s what’s wrong with you” and “This is what you need to stop” you  will be saying, “Here’s what I feel” and “Here is a positive thing I need from you.”

 Second, the Listener’s responsibility includes:

      ·     Remember your spouse’s “enduring vulnerabilities”—their triggers, buttons, troubling memories, etc. Remembering your spouse’s “enduring vulnerabilities” will help shape your response to them. You can honor your spouse by avoiding the sarcastic or implied statements that push buttons and flip triggers. You can show love by responding with comments that calm their “enduring vulnerabilities.” 


·     Turn toward your partner by postponing your own agenda. You will still get to talk about your concerns, but postpone talking for the moment so you can listen. Have the grace to be quick to listen and slow to speak. This will endear you to your spouse and reduce the conflict.


·     Make understanding your spouse the goal. Instead of working to make sure your spouse understands your point of view, be gracious and work to understand their point of view. Let them have the first and last word!


·     Listen non-defensively by postponing your response and getting in touch with your partner’s pain or emotion. Listen to understand how this situation has made them feel. Underneath all the anger, do they feel unloved, devalued, unworthy, abandoned, inadequate?


·     Empathize—respond to their underlying feeling with compassion and empathy. Assure them of your love and respect. Reaffirm your commitment and respond to their feelings with reassurance. You will find it helps everyone remain calm when you can summarize your partner’s view and validate it with a sentence like…“I understand why you feel… because …”

 As an added bonus, here are 3 tips for both the Listener and Speaker:

1.    If you identify a negative quality in your partner, look for that same quality in yourself.

2.    If you identify a positive quality in yourself, look for that same quality in your partner.

3.    Look for the similar desires and intents throughout the argument.

Follow these tips and you will find your arguments become the best part of the day…alright, so I exaggerate…a lot. But, honestly, follow these tips and you will find the arguments resolve more quickly and more productively. They become opportunities for growing intimacy…and making up will be a whole lot more fun!

Bridge the Communication Gap with Your Teen (& Just About Anyone Else)

Sometimes teens are hard to talk to. Let’s be real…sometimes spouses, children, and even parents are hard to talk to. If I’m honest, I have to admit that sometimes I am hard to talk to. I have discovered a tool to improve communications—a tool to help bridge the communication gap, slow the communication roller coaster, and create better communications with our teens (and any other family member really). We accomplish this amazing feat through validation. That’s right…validation. Recognizing and accepting our teen’s experience as valid, even if we disagree with it, can build better communication. When we accept our teen’s feelings as reasonable, given their understanding and perspective of the situation, we will build more intimate communication with them. Validation builds a bridge to better communication on the pillars of:


·     Acceptance. We all desire acceptance. When we validate our teen’s emotional experiences, we communicate acceptance of them, even in the midst of emotional pain or physical changes. This acceptance informs them that they belong…we accept them, differences and all.    


·     Value. Validation not only expresses acceptance, it communicates how much we value our teen, their perspective, their thoughts, and their feelings.


·     Respect. Accepting and valuing our teen’s perspective expresses respect. We all desire respect. We all respond better to those who treat us with respect.


·     Honesty. Acceptance, value, and respect open the door for honest communication. Honest communication, premised on acceptance and respect, allows for more open discussion of differences and an earnest seeking for a healthy, respectful solution. 


·     Calming one another. When we know a person recognizes, understands, and accepts our emotions and struggles, we feel calmer. The same is true for our teens. The feeling of being understood will help calm them and help them learn to manage their emotions. It also opens the door for more communication and problem-solving.


·     Identity.
 Acknowledging and accepting our teens’ emotions allows them the freedom to explore their identity based on the values of acceptance, respect, and honesty. Validation means your teen will not have to argue to prove their point, put up defenses to save face, or disagree to assert their independence. Instead, they can use that same energy to explore their values and identity.

  By validating your teen you build a secure bridge to better communication on the secure pillars noted above. That’s all well and good…but how do I validate my teen?


·     First, listen. Let your teen complete their story. Let them finish so you have all the information. Listen so you can understand their perspective.


·     Second, let them know you get it…you understand what happened from their perspective (even if you disagree). Strive to understand so well that their actions make sense based on their level of maturity, the knowledge they have acquired, and the perspective they have.


·     Third, let them know you understand how they feel. Combine the second and third step into a statement of your understanding of what happened and how it made them feel…from their perspective. Keep listening until you can make that statement and they respond with something like “Finally, you understand.”


·     Fourth, based on their perspective and what they told you, let them know that their emotions make sense. This means really working to see things through their eyes.


·     Fifth, empathize with their emotions.


·     Finally, problem-solve with them if they want help with a solution.

Validation will build a strong bridge of communication built on honesty, respect, and acceptance. It will bridge the communication gap with your teen…and just about anyone else in the family as well.

5 Ways to Check the Teen Attitude at the Door

If you have a pre-teen or teen, you have probably encountered “the attitude.” I can imagine all those who have a teen nodding their head in agreement as you recall the condescending stare, rolling eyes, exasperating sigh, impatient shifting of weight, and sarcastic tone of voice. If you are like me, just thinking about it raises your blood pressure. As hard as it is to believe, this new “attitude” does mean that your child is reaching a new level of maturity and independence…and that’s a positive thing. The “teen attitude” is often an attempt to assert some independence from the parental control they experienced and needed as a child. However, their brains are still not fully developed. The emotional networks of their brain are more developed than the planning networks of their brain. As a result, their words come out laced with sarcasm and anger while revealing little forethought into whether this helps or hinders them reaching their goal. Sarcasm, by the way, also shows growing mental ability. They have matured to the level of knowing that tone impacts the subtle meaning of what is said, expressing a “double meaning.” They have not learned how to plan ahead in using that new understanding, but…. (Sarcasm, a new mental skill…woohoo, let’s celebrate.)

In their growing desire to become “their own person,” our teens want to know how everything will affect them. They have also learned how to look at the world through someone else’s eyes. Combine perspective taking (a fairly new ability for pre-teens), wanting to know how everything affects me, a well-developed emotional brain, and an underdeveloped planning brain…and you get a teen overly concerned with every little blemish or misplaced hair.  This translates into “attitude,” complaining about appearance, getting overly upset about seemingly small issues, thinking the world revolves around their schedule…you know the drill.

Even though a teen attitude is a normal part of their development, we still want to help them grow beyond that attitude. We still want to help them learn to use their planning brain, to shift concern from themselves to others, and to speak respectfully. Understanding some of the origins of their “attitude” merely helps us not take it personal, remain calm (rather than throttle them as they roll their eyes), and discipline with love. With that in mind, here are 5 ways to help your teen mature, in spite of their attitude.


1.   Talk to your teen when they show their “attitude.” Don’t get an attitude back. Take a deep breath and respond with love. Ask them what is going on in their life. Sometimes an attitude flows out of frustration over problems at school, hurt feelings in peer relationships, or fear about some future event. Sometimes all we need to do to lose the attitude is listen…listen well.


2.   When possible, ignore the attitude…especially when your teen still follows through with your requests and rules. Realize that some attitude is normal and even beneficial in helping your teen establish healthy independence. Knowing this, don’t respond to them when they approach you with an attitude. As you ignore the attitude, your teen will learn that they do not get what they want when they ask with “attitude.” ignore the evil eye, the rolling eye, the exasperated sigh…realize that these too shall pass.  


3.   If your teen’s attitude turns to name-calling, defiance, or disrespect, discipline. Attitude is fleeting, disrespect needs adjusting. Be prepared to discipline. Know the natural consequences and calmly discipline in response to disrespect and defiance. Stand strong to say, “No, I don’t want to lend my car to someone who treats me so disrespectfully.” Or, “No, I won’t give you money for the movie because you didn’t do the chores you said you would do.”


4.   Point out sarcasm when it occurs and explain how sarcasm affects the person hearing it…like you. Encourage them to say what they feel and want directly, politely, and without sarcasm. Even if they don’t get what they want, the discussion will still prove more satisfying for both parties involved. Oh…and watch your own sarcasm. It is hard to end sarcasm in your teen if they hear it from you all the time!


5.   Avoid being all things to your teen. You do not have to serve as cook, chauffer, bank, tutor, clothes washer, secretary, water bottle washer, alarm clock, and schedule manager for your teen. Sure, you will help in all these areas, but teach your teen to do these tasks independently as well. Doing so will strengthen that planning brain. Put them in charge of some meaningful household chores to teach them that they have a role in keeping “our home” running smoothly.


5 tips to help deal with the teen attitude. If you’d like more information on the teen brain, check out
A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain. And, keep reading our blog for more ideas.

She Said What?!

My family accuses me of being “literal.”  I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I do ask a lot of questions. I really want to understand what they mean. Sometimes this has “literally” calmed my fears and saved the day (well, I think so anyway). For instance, when our children were little, my wife would say, “I’m going to put the kids down.” I used to work in a pet cemetery and “putting something down” was not a good thing. Surely she wouldn’t do that. Maybe she only planned to verbally slander them, putting them down with her words. Surely she wouldn’t do that either! But, she wasn’t holding our daughters, so how else could she “put them down”? (Maybe that’s the literal part that my family accuses me of.) Anyway, I had to ask. I had to check the accuracy of my understanding of her statement. Thankfully, she clarified. She only planned to get our daughters ready for their nap. (What a relief–why didn’t she just say so?)

Or, consider the time my daughter was nonchalantly talking about her day in sixth grade when she “pops the question:” “Can I date Jim” (names have been changed to protect the poor innocent guy). What? Date? Are you kidding me?  She’s only in sixth grade, she can’t get married yet! But wait…maybe I jump the gun. I decided to check the accuracy of my understanding of the term “date.” “What exactly do you mean by ‘date’ him?” My daughter replies with a confused look on her face, “I don’t know. I’d see him at school and we would talk.” This time I feel the need to explore a little further. “Would you hold hands?” “I don’t know. No, probably not.” “Would you kiss?” “Yuck…no! Dad, that’s gross.” I like that answer! “Sure, you can date Jim…as soon as I meet him.”

Communication is a process. It begins when one person wants to tell us something to express some need or desire. That person puts their need into words. Those words are code for what they really want to say. The listener has to decode the true meaning of the speaker’s code words…and that may prove tricky. After all, my wife coded “I’m going to get the girls ready for a nap” as “I’m putting the girls down.” I had to clarify my understanding of that code before making a rash response. My daughter coded “I want a friend of the male gender” as “Can I date him?” Whoa Dad, clarify your understanding before you get the shot gun! That is what active listening is all about—making sure you really understand the want, need, or desire behind the coded message. Doing so has some very positive results:

      ·   It promotes a warm relationship between parent and child…and ultimately with all family members.


·   It helps children learn problem-solving skills by teaching them to clarify their coded messages.


·   It models good listening for your children. A great by-product is that they will follow your lead and listen better to you in the future as well.


·   It teaches children that they can talk to you about anything, even negative feelings and problems, and elicit help in finding positive solutions.


·   It communicates how much you accept the speaker and what they have to say.

 Next time someone in your family tells you something that just sounds wrong, pull out your active listening decoder ring. Ask a few questions. Check the accuracy of your understanding. Make sure you understand what they truly mean behind those code words. Then you can give the best answer you have!

Beauty, Beast, & Your Family

“There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”
 
Chesterton makes a great point here. Our actions will either bring out the beast or the beauty in family members. We bring out the beast in family members when we:
  1. Constantly interrupt them when they speak
  2. Put our effort into making them understand us
  3. Put family members “in their place” when they get “too confident”
  4. Impatiently criticize them and minimize their effort
  5. Act as though their opinion is less important than our opinion
  6. Make constant demands on them but give very little
  7. Constantly complain that they “didn’t do it the right way the first time” or “didn’t do it good enough”
  8. Make rude comments, gestures, or facial expressions (eye rolls) 
  9. Waste their time by being late or making them do what we could do ourselves
  10. Break our promises
To bring out the beauty in family members make an effort to:
  1. Listen intently and respectfully, without interruption
  2. Put more effort into understanding family members
  3. Encourage them with your words and actions
  4. Accept their opinion and even allow it to influence your behavior
  5. Do something nice for them
  6. Speak to them with kindness
  7. Volunteer to do their chore for a week
  8. Let them have the “shotgun seat” in the car
  9. Keep your promises
  10. Politely hold the door open for them
  11. Say “Thank-you” and “You’re welcome.”
  12. When the other person acts like a beast, do 1-11 anyway!

Learning to Love in the Wilderness of Adolescence

My daughters are currently navigating their teenage years (yes, I have the privilege of fathering two teenage daughters). My wife and I are very proud of them. They have made excellent decisions in life so far; and, they are both wonderful, loving people. Still, my wife and I are now trying to guide them through the wilderness that stretches between the confinement of childhood and the promise land of adulthood. They lack life experience and the related foresight to fully understand the potential consequences of their choices. And, they can be emotionally driven, impulsive, and just plain…well, you get the idea. It’s not that they are bad. They just want to “spread their wings” and test them out, assert their autonomy, and move toward that promised land of independent adulthood…even though they don’t fully understand the struggles involved in keeping that “promised land” flowing with milk and honey.  
 
I have to tell you, sometimes I find it very frustrating. My wife and I, their parents, have more experience and more wisdom to share. If they would only listen to that wisdom, life would be so much easier! They could avoid so much pain. But, then again, maybe this journey through adolescence is more about my struggle than their struggle. Perhaps this trek through the wilderness is a time for God to teach me about relying more on Him and adding depth to a lifestyle of true love. Consider just these few examples:
      ·         I share “great words of wisdom based on years of experience” and get a “less than enthusiastic response,” to say the least. I help other families deal with adolescent angst. I know the developmental issues, the striving for autonomy and the search for identity. Certainly I should know what my own daughters need to grow up healthy and strong. From the back of my head, a still small voice reminds me that “love is not puffed up.” Love is humble. Those who love do not think too highly of themselves or their wisdom. Love accepts influence from others, listens to understand, and trusts in the ability and wisdom of others to learn and grow. So, I wander through the wilderness of adolescence, humbly trusting that God will protect, that our earlier teachings will guide, and that our loving presence will stimulate continued growth.

·         Most adolescents, my daughters included, don’t seem to understand the great opportunity to learn from a parent’s mistakes and avoid the pain related to those mistakes. Instead, they want to make independent choices, suffer the same consequences, and experience the same pain. I can feel the anger boiling up inside me when they won’t accept a word of advice or turn my mistake into their learning… and then that still small voice whispers in my ear, “Love is not easily provoked.” In the wilderness of adolescence I’m learning that love practices self-control. Love remains in full possession of feelings, gives a blessing for an insult and practices kindness in the face of rudeness.

·         I grow impatient waiting for my daughters to learn from the first and mostly insignificant consequences of some decision, to pull out of the downward spiral before they crash and burn. I even encourage them to pull out by pointing out the dangers. But, they keep trying to fix it. They want to make it right in their own way, with their own effort, by their own power. I find myself impatiently pacing the floor and worrying when I hear that “still small voice” speaks up again, saying, “Love is patient.” Love suffers long and is kind. How do I practice patience in dealing with an adolescent who grumbles about rules and limitation put in place for their own good? It is so difficult to practice patience as our adolescent walks a tightrope between potential disaster and fun? But “love is patient”…and “love hopes all things.” So, I practice patiently waiting in trust and confidence, believing that the seeds of wisdom that my wife and I planted will soon begin to sprout and trusting that their common sense will mature and take shape through the pruning that the simple consequences provide.

·         That voice continues to speak in my ear, “Love believes all things.” It believes the best about our children. Love believes that they act with the best of intentions, not with the intent of hurting us or pushing us away indefinitely. “Love endures all things.” It remains present, through the good times and the bad. Love abides and tarries with kindness, even amidst frustration. Love perseveres even under trials.
 
Yes, I am learning many things as we wander through the wilderness of adolescence, the greatest of which is love. I make mistakes; we all do. But love covers a multitude of mistakes…and sins. So, I invite those of you with adolescents to join me in learning how to love more deeply as we trek through the wilderness of adolescents. Bathed in prayer and listening to that “still small voice,” we can move toward that promise land of adulthood together. If you have any ideas to share, please do. Share your wisdom in the comment section below.