There are certain things we don’t say as dads. We don’t say “vegetables are overrated” or “sometimes speeding is OK.” We might want to, and we certainly may think those things, but we typically don’t say them. Likewise, from time to time, you may think “I don’t like my teenager.”
I know that sounds like bad parenting. A dad can’t say that, can he? Well, you most definitely shouldn’t say it to your teenager, but let’s face it—many dads have had the experience of discovering that their teens are developing strong opinions that parents dislike and perhaps are behaving in ways that are frustrating, and maybe even are treating you really badly. In these moments, you may find yourself thinking “I don’t like my teenager.” And that’s OK. But you still need to love him or her. Here are 5 ways to do that.
1. Give your teen some space.
Sometimes your teen needs a break from you and sometimes you need a break from your teen. When our teens begin pushing back or reacting in ways that tick us off, it’s easy to want to try to control them. But what might be most helpful in the moment is for both of you to get some space from each other. This gives you both a chance to calm down before you respond in ways that are unloving.
2. Look in the mirror.
Jesus famously said that before you point out the speck in someone’s eye, you need to remove the plank from your own. In other words, before you judge someone, take a long look in the mirror. This is true for your relationship with your teen. After all, maybe your teen’s response to you is as much about how you are treating him or her as it is about anything else. But loving your teen begins with self-examination.
3. Pray for your teen.
When you find yourself thinking “I don’t like my teenager,” use that as a prompt to begin praying. Pray that your teen would know how much you love him or her. Pray that your teen would have a deep sense of God’s love. And pray that he or she would learn wisdom, compassion, grace, and mercy. It’s difficult to continue to dislike someone for whom you pray blessing.
4. Serve your teen.
I know—you’re thinking, “I serve my teen all day every day already!” When I say “serve your teen,” I don’t mean make your teenager dinner or wash his or her clothes. I mean you should think about what you could do that would communicate love. Is there something you could do that would particularly communicate your love for your teen in a moment when he or she is getting on your nerves?
5. Write your teen a letter.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning famously begins her Sonnet 43 with, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Why not follow her example and begin literally counting the ways that you love your teenager? Make a list of the good things, the things that make you proud. Take some time to reflect on them yourself, and then give it to your teen. If it’s really awkward, literally mail it to your teen so he or she can open it when ready.
Remember, love isn’t a feeling; it’s an action. You might not be able to choose whether you like your teen in this moment, but you most definitely can choose to love him or her.
Sound off: What do you do when you are having a difficult time with your teen?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are the things I do that most clearly show that I love you?”