It’s not all about them! During the high school years, and even beyond, teens often focus on themselves to the exclusion of others. This limited perspective irritates the mother striving to meet everyone’s needs and often leads to raised voices and slammed doors. I was not immune to those explosions. When my children were in high school, their attitudes made me feel like everything their father and I did to take care of them and meet their social, academic, and emotional needs was taken for granted. I couldn’t accept that they were truly so selfish. And though I didn’t really expect them to thank me incessantly, I did desire to hear a note of appreciation in their tone and in their behaviour.
As I think back on my own experiences in high school, I recall hearing very familiar statements from my own mother’s mouth. This leads me to believe that perhaps the phase we go through during our early teen years is a significant one. Maybe the focus on ourselves and our needs is part of the transition from dependent child to independent adult; an awakening of a perspective that recognizes the separation of our identitiy from those parents we had always idolized and imitated blindly. Yet as a parent I understand how truly ‘dependent’ our maturing children still are upon us and it makes the behaviour more ironic.
But what, you may ask, is the answer? How can we redirect their focus? My answer is two-fold. Turn their attention to the word of God and encourage service at every opportunity. As the kids got older, I encouraged them to do their devotions on their own. This was their time with God, to talk to Him in prayer and to read His word in the privacy of their own rooms. What I came to realize when they became teenagers was that we still needed to have some form of devotion together. It was a time for us to share our prayer requests with one another and voice some of those concerns that we all had. Some good discussions came out of those times and I believe that they became more aware of how their behaviour affected my feelings – whether intended or not.
The other thing I recommend is service. Whether it is at church, a homeless shelter in town, or a community center, find opportunities for your teenager to serve others. It is the most rewarding and enlightening experience we can provide. Even if the opportunities are few and far between, see that you make them happen. When we served together, my children and I appreciated the blessings that we have received from God all the more.