Saturday, July 06, 2019

Ask Dwija vol. 1: Peaceful life with teens

A few days ago I responded to a DM from a reader about my experience so far parenting teens (and I only have two of them yet, so I am still very much a noob!) and decided to screenshot my reply and share it in my Instagram stories. Well, the Holy Spirit must have been on a mission that day because, despite my lack of experience and qualifications, a lot of people were really encouraged. Yay! Shari from Catholic Paper Goods even volunteered to whip up a PDF with a link so anyone requesting a readable copy could refer to it whenever they wanted to. Eep! So generous! I nervously accepted her offer and you can now find that pdf here. She even thought of setting it up in a q&a format in case this is the sort of thing anyone wants to see more of. There were several people who specifically mentioned the blog as well, so here I am after an entire year hiatus pasting the text and praying it is of some good use. I didn't forsee any of this when I replied to the dm, so I don't have a vision or preference or any expectations! Just tryna do my best by all my fraaaahns (that's all of you). Okay, I think that's it! Thanks for the kindness and please keep praying for me.

******************

Q: In regards to relationship with your teens, I have the hardest time 1) not micromanaging, 2) ignoring anything that smacks of disrespect or rudeness, which with teens—and argumentative-natured teens at that—is PLENTY, and 3) keeping most exchanges in a friendly place (by which I mean closer to friends conversing than parent-child type). We are both similar in personalities and neither are laid-back, both generally convinced we’re right, and not about to be out-logicked out of that claim! So I am curious, have you had anything similar, do you just tell yourself to be more tolerant and ignore the rude while not sinking to rudeness yourself and hoping that with time such things will change? I think I can probably make myself do that, it’s just there’s a sneaking worry that if I don’t correct it now, he will deploy into adulthood as an at-times jerk, and that will be bad for him and for others. 



A: So the very first thing to ask is why are we parenting? It’s not to have fulfillment or ensure someone takes care of us when we’re old or so that we can maintain balance in society. All of those things may be benefits in the end, but the reason we are parenting is as a service to God.

If we are doing it for Him, not for them (the children or anyone else) or ourselves, we cannot be discouraged if the results aren’t what we consider good and we cannot be prideful if the results are better than we imagined. We must do our best for Him.

 With that in mind, we start to realize that the work, the discipline, the effort, is on us. We can’t change other people. We can’t control other people. We can only change and control ourselves and pray and work so that our efforts to do so are pleasing to God.

 Okay, but what does that have to do with your question? Haha! Don’t worry, I’ve got to travel the winding path.

So here we are, parenting as our path to holiness, doing it all for God and not for “the results.” How does keeping all this in mind help us?

Well, first of all it takes off a lot of pressure. Our children’s free will makes it impossible to KNOW if what we’re doing is going to “work” (and by “work” I mean lead them to Godly lives on Earth and eventually eternal life in heaven). If we are intent on knowing but we can never know, we will be in a constant state of anxiety and fear. Accepting that the results are not our responsibility because they are not under our control is FREEING. We are free to focus on being the best people WE can be in the moment. Am I being patient? Am I being loving? Am I being kind? Am I showing them God’s path? Am I teaching them discipleship (discipline) and mastery over their passions (self control)?

Whether or not they accept or adore or agree with these things in the long-term isn’t our concern. We are simply called to do them, and keep doing them, and to never give up on them, and to not be deterred by responses that we don’t prefer. We must ADDRESS responses that are incorrect as part of our service to God, but we need not react emotionally because it isn’t about us.

And now we’ve gotten to your questions. 1) Micromanaging: this temptation arises (and I suffer from this as well so I know!) from the belief that a) my way is best and b) it’s important for everything to be done the best way or there will be disaster. Of course neither of those things is true. Often other people’s seemingly dumb ways of doing things work out just fine or better than mine and even if their way ends up being actually stupid in the end, God can always come to the rescue. This is where the relationship focus really begins. Because I have to tell myself that having peace in my house and getting along with my kids is more important, more holy, a better gift to God than having the bathroom cleaned in a specific way. Now, if I’m being reasonable in my requests and someone intentionally disobeys out of spite or malice or true laziness, it is my responsibility to address their lack of virtue but not to get upset about the bathroom. This distinction is tricky but important!

Teaching them discipline and a good work ethic is important for THEIR benefit. It is important for me to do because God wants me to do it. But it is not important because everyone should do things the way I like them done or ELSE. Keeping this in mind makes working on important virtues and habits much less confrontational and has ended up having much better long-term results in terms of our general home environment. When I want to nitpick, I have to ask myself first why I’m about to mention something. Is it for my benefit or for theirs? If it’s only for mine, if their oversight was unintentional and not the result of sin, then I swallow my preferences and say “thank you so much for all your help!” even if on the inside I’m screaming because I can see smudges on the mirror or whatever.

 2) Rudeness: So we are on the road of cultivating virtue in ourselves and, as an offering to God, trying to cultivate it in our children as well. With that in mind, rude behavior is not something to ignore because it belies a lack of virtue on their part. So we must address it, not because it’s irritating to us but because it’s insulting to God. For this reason I try not to say things like “don’t do this because I don’t like it” but rather “when you do this, it is disrespectful and we are called by God to treat all people with respect. My job is to help you develop the habit of cheerfulness and obedience so that’s what we’re going to work on” or something of that sort.

That brings us to 3) pleasant conversation: This one is so important! In fact, doing this will often minimize or eliminate the other two concerns altogether.

In our “working” mode when the children are little, I think it’s common to get out of practice having normal conversations, especially if we are the types of people to mostly have higher level, philosophical conversations. Our kids can’t do that for so many, many years!

We have to change our own behavior and expectations. Start greeting your kids with a smile and small talk (even if that’s not who you feel you really are. The better version of ourselves is necessarily different from who we are right now so that requires choosing behaviors that don’t come naturally) like “How did you sleep?” or “are you guys having fun playing that game? What’s it called?” or “Oh, I’ve always liked that shirt on you. You look lovely today.” Ask yourself if you’re approaching your kids with at least as much charity and emotional openness as you would your closest friend. If you’re anything like me, this will seem awkward and forced at first! But challenge yourself to persevere as an offering to the Lord and I believe you will find the peace you seek.

 ©2019 Dwija Borobia

20 comments :

  1. Love this Dwija. I believe instilling virtue in our kids/grandkids is so important but trying to get there through nitpicking or rudeness in return is not the way. Everything to God. Always.

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  2. Great post Dwija! I love how you start your answer with encouraging mother's to make sure that their attitudes, thoughts, and actions are modeling Godly behavior. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Thanks, Dwija! So much wisdom here. You’re right- it IS freeing to accept that results are not in our control and that we are parenting as a service to the Lord. Well said!

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