I tend to be an observer of relationship interactions and the event gave me plenty to ponder. I saw it happening and wanted to call a halt in the middle of it, but it certainly wasn’t my place. I turned away–embarrassed for this young man and embarrassed for his father.
It was intermission and Dad was obviously upset. Oblivious to where they were and unaware of who could overhear them as others milled around getting snacks and drinks, Dad decided to have a heated conversation with his teen–in public. It seemed his son’s every word had been scrutinized.
“What you said wasn’t true. You lied.” His father bellowed as they walked away from interacting with a teacher.
“Dad, I just answered the question.”
“But it was a lie.”
“Dad, I was caught off guard. I wasn’t sure how to respond. I didn’t lie intentionally. I answered the question.”
“You lied. You left your teacher to believe one thing but it’s not the full story.”
And the conversation continued–in public–with emotions spinning out of control.
The son walked off with what seemed like hurt and anger welling up inside. Dad stared in disbelief.
Let’s face it. We’ve all witnessed behaviors from our kids that we want to eradicate. You know, those times when they roll their eyes, tell a lie, or ignore an adult because they are engrossed in their phones. We want them to behave differently and we think they won’t get it unless we call their attention to it immediately.
But is that the right approach?
One of the things that I’ve been encouraging parents to do for years is pause.
Unless there is blood or death is imminent, nothing has to be handled immediately.
And sometimes the wise thing to do is wait.
First of all, having an audience to a heated interaction between father and son has to be humiliating for at least one person. Whether it is an out-of-control teen yelling at Dad or an out-of-control Dad correcting his son in a place where others can see and hear, one of you will most likely wish the floor would open up and let you fall through. It’s not a fun place to be. Pressing the pause button allows both of you to walk away with a sense of dignity.
Most parents don’t think about giving the Holy Spirit time to work in their teen’s life. If we’ve taught them well and our kid has a conscience of typically doing the right thing, we need to let God work. Let’s assume that the dad is right and his son intentionally lied to the teacher. Given time to ponder the interaction, maybe the teen will reach the same conclusion that Dad did and seek forgiveness.
If Dad had waited to talk to his son after they were in the privacy of their home or even in the car on the way home, the conversation could have started something like this: “Son, something bothered me tonight as I overheard your conversation with your teacher. It felt like you lied to her. What happened? That’s not like you.”
That simple “What happened?” let’s your teen take time to really think about his actions and put them into words. It helps him think on a deeper level. The “that’s not like you” says, I believe you are a good person. I believe you know better. I don’t understand, but I want to be “for” you.
And regardless of the reasons as to why your son responded to his teacher as he did, we need to coach him through formulating a plan for the next step.
Does he need to apologize to the teacher?
Does he need to explain the whole scenario?
What needs to happen to clear his name of any wrongdoing?
The bottom line we as parents need to be focused on in these situations is our teen’s heart. Did this young man have a heart of deceit or was he just caught off guard and didn’t know quite how to answer the question? Were his motives pure?
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.
Depending on whether you are a parent who thinks in the black or white, right or wrong, or if you can expand your thinking to the entire circumstance, choosing the right time will make a huge difference as you interact in difficult situations with your kid.
Regardless, I encourage you to pause and ask questions when no one else is around. If you come from a place of curiosity rather than judgment, you are more likely to get to a clear understanding of why your teen did what they did and your relationship will be strengthened.
“Let go…and Let God”,