Are You in a Battle of Wills With Your Teen?

Cheryl was absolutely at the end of her rope with her 12 year old daughter. Where had her little girl gone? It was almost as if overnight this sweet little innocent girl had taken an obstinate “my way or the highway” stance, determined to turn the family upside down if she didn’t get her way. At first Cheryl thought it was just a phase with raging hormones and tried to make light of the situation. But recently she was really starting to worry. This “phase” was taking so long; she felt a war brewing.

Every day seemed to bring a new set of “wants” or a “you can’t make me” attitude. Taylor was either wanting Cheryl to pick up friends and take them to the mall, or pool, or the local amusement park to hang out. If not that, then a sleepover or movie was on her list. If she didn’t have someone to entertain her and was stuck at home, she would torment her younger brother or refuse to do anything Cheryl asked. Taylor’s room had become such a pig sty that Cheryl was ready to go in and box everything up to get her attention!

“Nothing seems to work.” Cheryl told Ron as they were getting ready for bed. “I told her today that she couldn’t go to Brie’s until she vacuumed the family room and emptied the dishwasher. She pulled the vacuum out, plugged it in and then went and called Brie. Before I knew it, Brie was up in Taylor’s room with everything still not done. I had no other choice but to ground her again. At the rate we’re going, she’ll be grounded until she graduates from high school.”

“I’ll have a talk with her tomorrow,” offered up Ron. “I’m not going to let her walk all over you. She lives in our house and she’s going to follow our rules. You don’t have to say yes to her every whim. And she is not going to be setting the agenda this summer for everyone else’s day. She needs to either get with the program or this is going to be a lonely, uneventful summer.”

As the week passed, the heat turned up. Not only outside, but in their home. With every move that Cheryl and Ron made to get Taylor in line with the house rules and help her realize that she was part of the team, the more Taylor dug in her heels.

The war was on…each side determined to win.

Cheryl would plan something fun for the two kids each day, while Taylor would wreak havoc determined not to allow the plans to succeed. Misery seemed to engulf each day with Cheryl longing to drop into bed each evening from sheer exhaustion and battle fatigue. “I have to win this war.” she thought to herself. “If I don’t, then Taylor will. If she wins…then ultimately everyone loses.”

As Cheryl pondered tomorrow’s strategy, praying that God would right the ship, she remembered an exercise she had done in Daughters of Sarah. Sure the class was for women working on their marriage, but she wondered if it might help in this situation. In the marriage class, she had to “remember” things she and Ron used to do early on in their marriage. By remembering…those feelings of love and joy would resurface. If she were honest with herself, right now given the situation, it was hard to feel the love and joy with Taylor. All she really wanted to do was get this kid under control. Okay, Lord, how can I use this exercise the feel love and joy with Taylor? How can I recreate those feelings for both of us?

As she pondered on what she could do, a scripture came to mind.

Philippians 4:23

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

“Dear Lord,” Cheryl whispered, “help me to find the good in Taylor. Help me to remember the things that used to make us laugh. Help me to not put up the wall of defense in our relationship, but to build a bridge from the things we used to enjoy. Help me to start conversation about fun times and see if she is open to having more of these connections. Help me to do things with her that can create a positive memory through things she likes to do. Help me create an environment where she doesn’t see me as an enemy, but as someone who wants to help her reach her dreams. Help me to focus on the things she does right and praise her rather than focusing on the negative and grounding her. My desire is to see us connect in a win-win mentality rather than war.”

As parents, it is easy to fall in the trap of full-fledged battle as our kids start wanting to make their own choices. Too often, we play the “grounded” card heaping punishment upon punishment rather than communicating with our children that we both are on the same team and have the same goal – their eventual independence.

Dare you to find ways to play back the memories, helping them remember the fun you used to have together and building a bridge to continue those experiences with new things your tweens and teens enjoy.

“Let go…and let God”,

Do you long to have a better relationship with your kids?  Are you constantly in conflict wishing you knew how to navigate it in a way to bring you closer together?  We can help you have a Greater Impact in all your relationships.  

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