Sitting in a room full of women during a Daughters of Sarah course on marriage, I kept thinking about my relationship with my three teens and my soon to be teenager. Nina Roesner was talking about “random acts of kindness” and how we could show our husbands respect through the little things we did for them. I kept thinking about how I could apply the principles she was teaching to my teens.
I remember well her comments. “This is about changing you. You can’t fix them, but you can change your heart which can have an impact on them. Are you willing to joyfully be a servant even when they don’t notice?”
“Servant-hood? You’ve got to be kidding.” What was actually going through my mind was “slave.”
“I can’t apply this principle to my kids, can I? I’m supposed to be teaching them, not serving them.”
At that point in time, the person I wanted to change was not my husband. It was specifically one of my teens. This child and I had very much reached a stalemate not very different than I had seen in marriages heading toward divorce. I was waiting for this teen to leave home. Nothing I could do or say seemed to change the relationship.
But, you can’t divorce your teenager.
However, they can reach an age where they divorce you. And this one did.
Dramatic events in life change people and this one had me doing everything in my power to strengthen my relationships with my other kids. I’d like to say that the things I learned in Daughters of Sarah “clicked” right away, but some of the concepts took this gut wrenching time to challenge my thinking on how I was parenting my teens. It was easy to show “random acts of kindness” to my husband, but I started wondering if I should be applying the principle to my teens. After all, they weren’t little any more. I had teens in full-grown bodies. Kids who were watching how I would handle my relationship with their sibling who had chosen to leave the nest.
I started to change my thinking from “what consequences can I put in place to teach them” to “how can we have a win-win outcome as I teach them!”
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love…
I started with little things. Rather than complaining because their bed wasn’t made a couple of mornings when they were running late for school, I chose to make their bed for them and put a small note on their pillow that said something like, “I know you were extra tired this morning from staying up late to study for your test last night. Hope you got an ‘A’. Love, Mom.”
Or when I knew they wouldn’t have time to do their chores, “I’ll go ahead and asked your brother to take out the trash for you today since I know you will be home late from your soccer game. I hope you’ll help him with his chores tomorrow. Score big today! Love, Mom.”
And things started changing in our house. My kids started to “catch” the message. “Mom isn’t here to order me to do it her way; she is here to cover my back!”
Wow! What a difference in concept than I had been operating under and what a difference in tone our home took on when I put these ideas into action. Rather than frustration and hostility, I was hearing words like “thank you” from my teens and seeing notes back on my pillow.
And I decided to pursue my teenager who chose divorce from us with the same passion. Any opportunity I had to interact, I wanted her to know I had her back. Offering to put gas in the car on occasion or inviting her to lunch, became my mission with a servant’s heart. Sending leftovers home if she stopped by or filling a grocery bag, became my gift of love. My goal was not to stand in judgment at the choices she was making, in what I thought she should or shouldn’t do; but, to “do random acts of kindness” in hopes of winning her over to understand the true meaning of love.
Keep in mind, these acts were random. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. I wanted to make sure that these didn’t become an expectation. However, the “I’ll scratch your back” turned into creating a family “team” approach that I never anticipated. I’m finding it lives on even as my kids have gotten older.
Dare you to think of “random acts of kindness” you can pursue in order to serve your teens in a healthy way.
Learning servant leadership the hard way at times.
“Let go…and let God,”