Raising Adolescents—The Role of Understanding
Suppose you were visiting a foreign land and you did not speak the native tongue. No doubt, communication would be difficult—but not impossible. For example, a phrase book could help you to learn the basic expressions of the language. Or perhaps someone could translate for you so that you would be able to understand others—and be understood by them.
PARENTS raising teenagers may sometimes feel that they are in a similar situation. Much like a foreign language, the behavior of adolescents may be difficult—but not impossible—to comprehend. The key is for parents to try to interpret just what is happening during this sometimes exciting, but often confusing, stage of growth.
Behind the Behavior
A youth’s desire for independence is not always a sign of rebellion. Remember, the Bible acknowledges that in time, “a man will leave his father and his mother.” (Genesis 2:24) To prepare for greater responsibilities in adulthood, youths need at least some experience in making decisions.
Consider what could be behind the behavior observed by parents who were quoted in the previous article.
Lia, in Britain, lamented: “My son suddenly seemed more opinionated and more inclined to question our authority.”
Like little children, teenagers repeatedly ask, “Why?” Now, however, a brief, simple reply may not end the discussion. What has changed? The apostle Paul wrote: “When I was a babe, I used to . . . reason as a babe.” (1 Corinthians 13:11) As youths develop their ability to reason, they need more extensive explanations so that their “perceptive powers” can be trained.—Hebrews 5:14.
John, in Ghana, said: “Our daughters became more self-conscious, especially about their appearance.”
Whether it occurs early, late, or right on time, the growth spurt of puberty makes many youths overly aware of how they look. Girls may greet their new curves with excitement or with apprehension—or with a mixture of both. Add the discovery of acne—and makeup—and it is easy to see why teens may seem to spend more time in front of the mirror than in front of a school textbook.
Daniel, in the Philippines, explained: “Our children tended to be secretive and wanted to have more privacy. Often, they preferred to be with their friends rather than with us.”
Secrecy can be dangerous. (Ephesians 5:12) Privacy, however, is different. Even Jesus saw the value of seeking out “a lonely place for isolation.” (Matthew 14:13) As they grow, youths too need some personal space—and they need for adults to respect that space. A degree of privacy helps youths to think things through—a vital skill that will serve them well in adulthood.
Similarly, learning to establish friendships is a part of growing up. True, “bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) At the same time, however, it is as the Bible says: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” (Proverbs 17:17) Learning how to form and maintain healthy friendships is a vital skill that will last into adulthood.
When confronted with any of the above situations, parents would do well to acquire understanding so that they do not misinterpret the behavior of their teens. Of course, understanding needs to be coupled with wisdom, the ability to respond to a situation in a way that will produce the best result. How can parents of adolescents do that?
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As youths develop their power of reason, they need more extensive explanations for family rules