Has Your Kid Launched an F-Bomb?

F-You,” came the shocking words flung in anger from her 12 year old son.  It was the first time his mom had heard words like that come out of his mouth.

“I was dumbfounded.  He knows we don’t talk like that in our house,” his Mom uttered as we sat enjoying our bagels.

The longer we continued the conversation I was in awe of this mom’s resilience and quick-on-her-feet response.

“Wow, I hope that made you feel better,” she had responded to him with a slight grin.  “Where did that come from?  (She had then paused for an exceptionally long silence).   You know you can’t talk to me that way don’t you?”

Her response wasn’t angry.  Her response wasn’t condemning.  Her response was even-toned, with a hint of sadness, especially the–‘you know you can’t talk to me that way don’t you’.

Seth’s response was priceless.  “I’m not in trouble?”  He almost seemed shocked that he got away with something.

If your tween or teen came into your home and hurled those words, how would you have responded?

If you are like most of us, you would have come unglued.  I know that some of you are already in shock that I would even mention this in a post.

But the truth of the matter is that words like this do come out of our kids’ mouths–at least once that is.  Even in Christian families.

Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice give us a clue in how to respond based on research as to what is going on with our kids as they step over the threshold into the tween and teen years in their book For Parents Only.   This is the time kids are searching for their identity.  They are trying on new behaviors and trying to decide which ones to keep and which ones to reject.  But here is the clincher:  (page 49 of Shaunti’s book)

“Kids decide which identity points to keep based on their RESPECT for primary influencers.”

I want to shout and applaud this mom for how she responded to her son.

She garnered lots of respect in her son’s life that day.

And as parents, don’t we want to be a primary influencer?

Think through what would have happened if she had responded out of fear or anger.  Her voice would have gone up a notch or two.  Her face would have shown an angry scowl.  Words from her lips might have been something like, “You don’t talk to me that way young man.”  He would have been sent to his room or punishment might have been dished out.  His door would have possibly slammed as mom chased him up the stairs upset.

He launched the grenade and she would have retaliated with an intent of WAR.

Instead, Mom spoke truth  into her son without uttering the words,  “I understand that sometimes you will get upset.  I understand you are trying new behaviors.  I love you anyway and here’s who we are as a family.”

Think about that.  Rather than the bomb exploding —  igniting destruction to the relationship — this mom accepted his behavior as a blip on the radar that her son was growing up, and offered acceptance and validations of his feelings with a boundary of future expectations.

Luke 10:30, 33-34

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead… But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be a Samaritan to my children.  Our kids leave our homes in the morning to go to school and face all kinds of situations that strip and beat them–peer pressure, not measuring up, tests, expectations, sexual images, verbal abuse, and the list goes on.  Each day they face a culture war.  They hear  language on the bus, at recess, on TV, and sometimes in the classroom. It surrounds them everywhere they go.  It shouldn’t surprise us when they bring those things into our Christian homes as they attempt to find their identity.
How will we respond?
Dare you to have influence with your tweens and teens with an attitude of RESPECT and understanding.  Why not use these times to speak truth with a dose of humor, rather than to retaliate in fear?
“Let go…and let God”,
2 replies
  1. Isabelle
    Isabelle says:

    Ok, I get this. It is interesting and I agree with not becoming angry, raising one’s voice, acting out of emotion, etc. I appreciate mentioning the importance of validating the young person’s feelings and demonstrating patience and peace. However, what if that youth continued to use those words – and in front of younger siblings, cousins and foster brothers and sisters? Do you think that mom or dad should not give a consequence (like taking away a certain privilege) spoken in love?

    • debbiehitchcock
      debbiehitchcock says:

      Isabelle, you are so right! If you have a teen who continues to use those words in front of younger children, it is important that you find a way to “get him/her on your team”. Part of that is making sure that your disrespectful teen knows that you love him/her and that you want them to be an integral part of the family dynamic in a positive way. Perhaps you pull the teen aside (when both of you are in an emotionally healthy place) and talk about it in a non-threatening way, letting him know that he is a role-model to the other children and he needs to help protect them. Let him know that you want to help him be a positive influence in the family as he interacts with the younger ones. Let him know up front that you are going to help him be successful in this area and one of the ways you are going to do that is to “raise his awareness”. Perhaps you talk about how these words naturally become a part of who he is and that is not what you desire. Then talk about what you can do to remind him when he slips up and also how he is to respond. If you can, come up with a mutually agreed upon plan.

      Consequences can be a good motivator to change the way we behave. However, if we don’t fully understand the underlying reason for the behavior, then consequences done as punishment (even if spoken in love) can actually escalate what we don’t want. When kids take on the persona that is opposite of the way the family operates, something more is going on deep inside. Hopefully by inviting him/her into your adult world of “protecting the younger ones” as well as “helping him understand why he is doing this”, he will feel like he is part of your team.

      The key here is if you do decide to use consequences, and you may have to, then make sure that the teen knows up front what is going to happen. That way, he has a choice to make. Either use the language and suffer the consequences or break the habit. The difficult thing here will be to make sure you are consistent in how you handle it.

      Thanks for joining me on the journey and God bless.


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