Monday, January 19, 2009

Looking for Advice

Okay, blogger buddies, I'm having a tough day. I need prayers from all, and some advice especially from those with teenagers.

Let me set things up:

Yesterday at church, our pianist was out because she was at a conference. Both of my kids play the piano..not fluently, but well. We've known for several weeks that she was going to be out yesterday and I tried to encourage both of my kids to get together a couple of pieces to fill in for her while she was out. They opted not to fill in.

We go to a very small church and so I just couldn't/can't understand why they wouldn't want to help meet a need and just do the best they could. DD has played for the church before, but she made one mistake and has beat herself up ever since, even though we (her parents) and all of the church assured her she had done a great job. The pastor even said, and I quote, "That was beautiful".
So last night I couldn't contain myself and I told them that I couldn't come up with one good reason why the piano wasn't played yesterday. Let me tell you, what I said lit a fire under my two kids that I shouldn't have started.

I'm not going to give you a play by play on what was said, but what we (myself and DH) learned is that we're not "normal" parents and we don't let them be "normal" teenagers.

Friends, I feel very beat down today and it's not my intention to send rain clouds your way, I'm truly looking for answers.

Let me begin by saying, We have awesome kids. We really do. They don't give us much trouble at all and the little they do can truly be chalked up to the teenage years. I know they're saved and love their Heavenly Father. But after our conversation last night, I find myself wondering if I'm living in a fantasy world and the facts are that my kids disagree with everything we've said and done.

We require that our kids call when they arrive at their destination and when they leave. Even if they are making several stops, we require the same thing. Why? We want to know they are safe. DD and DS tell us that "normal" parents are fine if the kids just check in on occasion. We don't trust them.

Our kids have a curfew of 10pm. Sunday-Thursday, Friday night depends on what the plans are and Saturday night is usually 10:30 or 11. Again, "normal" parents don't require their kids to be home so early. Again, we don't trust them.

We tell our kids lights out at 11pm Sunday-Thursday, no requirement on Friday or Saturday (just be WIDE awake for church!). "Normal" parents don't set a lights out for their teens. On Saturday we don't let them sleep past 10am. "Normal" parents let their teens sleep as late as they want on Saturday. We don't trust them to be able to get up when they want and get their schoolwork and chores done on their own. (problem with that one is, if I don't say anything..chores don't get done. I've tried the being silent on chores thing...)

"Normal" parents let their kids have freedom to dress and express themselves the way they choose...haircolor, piercings, tattoos, clothes...DD has had pink hair, red hair, black hair (natural color is light brown) and blond streaks mingled in with the natural. She also has 3 piercings in one ear and 2 in the other. DS's hair is dark blond and he's had yellow tips, blond tips. He's allowed to wear it far longer than I'd like, but I felt we'd reached a compromise and he has 1 piercing in his ear. He's worn chains on his pants, studs on his belts and skulls on his shirts. How much more "normal" do I go there??

The thing about playing the piano....neither feel "called" to play piano. Okay. My thinking is even if you aren't "called" can't you just do it now and then to meet a need??? What are the piano lessons for and how do you get the experience??

Again I want to say sorry for unloading like this, but I truly, truly desire the advice of those that have been there done that...and the prayers of all.



momstheword said...

It would help if we knew the ages of your children. I will tell you that mine are 15 and 20.

We tell our children that it isn't a matter of not trusting them. We don't trust their youth, their inexperience, their lack of judgement.

Because of their inexperience and lack of judgment, they could get themselves into a situation that they don't have the exerience to get out of.

It's not them we don't trust but their lack of experience. That is why we set boundaries for them. We set external boundaries when they are younger so that, hopefully, they will develop internal ones as they grow. We say "no" for them so that, eventually, they will learn to say "no" for themselves.

My 20 had a curfew all the way through until highschool graduation. Even though he was 18 and living at home, he was still in highschool and had a curfew.

He is 20 now and in college but living at home. We still expect him to tell us where he is going and when he'll be home.

We do not set a curfew for him, as such, but if we don't like the one that he sets we tell him to adjust it. My husband has asked him to be home at a decent hour on Saturday nights as our son plays on the worship team on Sundays.

Even at 18 we did not allow him to drive into the city for awhile because the traffic is so bad. So we had that rule for awhile.

We do not make him call when he gets someplace or call us when he leaves. We have never done that, but we know some parents who do. We just trust the Lord that he will arrive safely.

The thing is, we never allowed our kids to go to movies with other kids or hang out at the mall with other kids without a parent present. So we didn't really have to worry about the driving because we knew there was a parent available in case it was needed.

If they hung out at someone's home there was always a parent present. We just never allowed them just to "hang" out at the mall or whatever for hours on end.

They have been to the mall with their friends and been able to walk around a bit, but I am with my friends as well and we meet up later. (Of course, my 20 year old can go whenever he wants now, as he is older.)

We told the kids that saying "I can't help acting like this, I am a teenager. I'm supposed to act like this" would not be accepted in our home.

We expected them to be responsible for their behavior, actions and attitudes as much now as we did when they were little.

I think we do teens a disservice when we accept rebellion and call it "normal." Being a teen is tough, but I don't think it's a good idea to let them believe that whatever they want to do is o.k. and to treat them like grownups and excuse their rude behavior.

I know you aren't doing that, but I know some people have, and it's made it difficult for them, as they and their children seem to believe that the kids can no longer control their actions because they can't "help" it.

As for the playing, my son started playing on worship team at age 14, but he played the keyboards with someone else on the piano. It was a good way for him to learn to be comfortable.

Personally, I do understand your frustration but I wouldn't force my child to play.

We all want to teach our children how to serve. Perhaps your church has other opportunities or ways that your children can learn how to give of themselves.

Our kids have helped decorate the church at Christmas time, weeded the beds at the Church, handed out food to homeless people, worked at cleanup parties at the church, etc.

They are currently both serving in AWANA and working with the younger kids. We have encouraged (and when they were younger at times required) them to come help as we want them to learn the gift and joy of service. Of course, we don't make them go and do every time.

These are your children with your responsibility to raise. So you do what you feel God is leading you to do and don't worry about other people.

Our kids were rarely allowed to have sleepovers or attend sleepovers when they were little, or even as teens. We allowed it a couple of times if we knew the parents very well. But, for the most part, we said no.

Their friends probably think we are to strict but I am raising my kids, not their teenage friends.

We have to be on our knees constantly when raising teenagers. It's a battle only to be fought with love and prayer.

BTW, I have a post already written up about this teenage thing and will someday post it when I've tweaked it somemore. Just wanted you to know so you'd know that it was written long before you posted this.

Beth in NC said...

Well dear, I only have a toddler, but I remember saying the same type of things to my parents as a kid. They just want their way and they will use the "guilt" card if it works.

You continue to build healthy boundaries for your children. They are your responsibility.

They may think you are strict, but one day they will be thankful that their parents cared!


Sandy said...

About your family curfews and is sometimes necessary to hang tight and do what is right whether they like it or not. When my kids were teens (they are now 22, 25, and 28), I have had to talk with them and lay it on the table: "God has given us the responsibility to raise you. We are not perfect. We make mistakes, but we have to answer to GOD for how we raise you children. We do not have to answer to you. When you grow up, you can make your own rules, but for now you are under our authority and must follow the rules your dad and I have prayed over and implemented. Remember, God does not ask children to honor their PERFECT parents. He wants you to honor your parents even when you don't like or agree with their decisions. We love you dearly, and what we do is because we love you."

Of course, that little speech was NOT spoken in anger! It was spoken with yearning and loving tenderness. We did NOT try to yield a heavy hand and dictator-type attitude. All was spoken with as much love as we could convey. I also had to cling to God in prayer and the Word as I waited on Him to help my child through whatever the situation was. My son did have some long-term anger over one decision, but he eventually worked through it. Still doesn't agree with us on that decision, but he's okay with us and loves the Lord dearly. We're okay with this because we were doing what we felt was best at that time. One of my daughters was very strong-willed, and boy did we butt heads over things in those teen years! We went through some tough, tough times. Our "rules" kept her out of trouble. Well, that's partially true--GOD used those rules to help keep her out of trouble. Today, she is a beautiful, tender-hearted young woman who is a strong Christian--and we are very good friends now, and not just mother and daughter. All three of my children love the Lord, and I am so, so thankful.

Have you read Stormie O'Martian's book Power of a Praying Parent? I can remember many times going into my daughter's room (when she was sleeping or when she was away) and pleading before the throne of God on her behalf. I used Stormie's suggestion of praying scripture over my children. Wonderful way to pray!

About the piano playing, please don't pressure them to do so. I was one of those kids who could "kinda sorta" play the piano, and I absolutely hated it when my mother pressured me to play for people. I served the Lord in many other ways, but playing the piano was so stressful. It's not worth it. My mother still tends to pressure me, my sister, or my children to play or sing at family reunions, etc. It's out of love and pride, but it just creates tension and frustration.

I'll be praying for you and your family.

Sandy said...

I need to clarify something. Please forgive me if I gave the impression that I have never raised my voice with my kids. I have not always talked to my kids the right way! The talk with my children that I mentioned in the post above was done in love, but many times I have lost my cool, especially with my youngest. I did do better as she got older and God opened my eyes to what I was doing. My youngest and I are both strong-willed people. As a result, we have had more conflicts than I have had with my older two. I have had to pray many, many times, asking God to forgive me and undo the harm I have done. He has graciously done so, and I praise Him for what He has done in the lives of our children. God bless you!

Nanci said...

I am sure that many believe my husband and I have been too strict with our children, but we are accountable to God for the training of our children -- we are not accountable to others. I've mentioned before that your children and our children are very close in age. In addition, we have a younger daughter (age 13).

We, too, are abnormal parents. But God calls us as believers to be set apart and that means that we ARE out of sync with the rest of the world, including many parents.
We don't want "normal" kids according to the world's standard of normal. We don't want to raise "cool" kids or even "popular" kids, we want to train up holy kids.

How many of us grown children have gone back to Godly parents after we have had our own children, and told them that now we understand what they were trying to accomplish in us, even though at the time we felt that they were the most unfair, "untrusting" parents in the whole world. We've had to thank our own parents for staying the course.

The main purpose of my comment is to encourage you to continue being an "abnormal" parent in order that your children may reap the future reward of your present effort.