My husband recently handed me a new book to read called Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof. Reggie had given it to my husband himself recently at a summer camp for teens where they had worked together.
Another parenting book. I was interested. But I read the back cover and the chapter titles and tossed it back at him, telling him very piously, “I could have written that book.” It said everything I already believe to be true about raising kids. I had even recently posted a blog about it all.
So the book sat untouched on my husband’s desk for a few weeks. I even got a little perturbed by it sitting there all published.
It seemed to taunt me, as I would walk by. Finally I had had enough of its attitude and decided to read it for myself. I challenged, “Okay Reggie, tell me something new. Tell me something I don’t already know and believe about parenting. I dare you.”
For the most part I sat there reading and saying, “Yeh, yeh, I know. I believe that already.”
But then about mid-book there it was. It stopped me in my tracks. I had to read it several times to make sure I had taken it all in correctly.
I have three teenagers in my house. Well, two and one who’s so close she’s already counting herself as one. If you are the parent of younger children and you think you’ve got it hard, forgive me, but just you wait. I realize that diapers and potty training are taxing, little league and ballet class can take over your life, but nothing compares to the raging hormone years. You may think your toddler has an independent streak, but she doesn’t have car keys to back it up.
It’s the teen years where kids fight hardest for their independence, and we parents fight the hardest not to give it to them. It leads to a lot of fighting. I remember my own teen years and the struggles with my own parents. I challenged and they stood their ground. I pushed. They pulled. It seemed I was always zigging when they expected me to zag.
It’s enough to make any sane parent want to throw their hands up and walk away. We’re tired of constantly fighting with our kids. We fight with them. We fight with our spouses over them.
The teen years are tough.
About six months ago I stopped fighting with my teens. I’m not really sure it was a conscious decision. Our family had gone through an unbelievably hard time, and I just wanted them to get to the other side of it intact. I began to see the end goal I had in mind for them rather than the immediate daily situations/rebellions/obedience issues as my focus. We still argued. We still had disagreements over things, but something had changed, and the authors of this blasted book had put words to it. This is what I read…
“Every family fights, but there is a world of difference between when you fight with someone and when you fight for someone. When you fight with someone you want to win. When you fight for someone you want the other person to win … When you fight with someone walls are built up. When you fight for people, walls come down.”
My mouth fell open, and I backed up and read the paragraph again. And again. Seven months ago I stopped fighting with my teens, and started fighting for them, and I didn’t even know it until I read it in that book. I so wanted what we had been through as a family not to cause my kids to waiver in their faith. I wanted to see evidence of their lingering relationship with Jesus, and I wanted them to enter adulthood with that relationship intact. That desire kept me up at night.
In every fight there is a winner and there is a loser. Before, I had been concerned with winning the fights with my kids. I wanted to win, and by default then, for my kids to lose. But what good parent wants their kids to lose?
I still set boundaries and rules, I still expect my kids to meet those expectations, and I’ll even explain the rationale for the rules and boundaries if I want to. (I don’t always want to.) Yet I’ve learned that my kids will accept the rules and boundaries better and obey quicker if they know they can trust me. If they know that above all else I am fighting for them, more than I am fighting with them.
Why does this matter? I think Reggie said it best when he talked about how long after they’ve left our care, we want our kids to trust the One who is really in charge and who fought the ultimate battle for them. Just like the people of Israel, they can rebel, disobey, and be ungrateful, but it doesn’t change God’s desire to continue in relationship with them. They can follow Him, obey Him, and they can trust Him.