"Hey Baby, how was school today?"
"It was fine."
"What did you do?"
"Who did you sit with at lunch?"
"What did you talk about?"
"Uuuh, I don't remember."
Sound Familiar? After having several conversations like this with my oldest daughter, I knew something had to change. I was not going to spend the rest of middle school and all of high school with conversations like this!! Through counsel from those that have gone before me, reading books and seeking God, I felt like I was supposed to lean into my daughter. I had to create a safe environment for her to share her heart with me. That's when I became a student of my own daughter. I also underwent some heart changes within myself. Through this process, I realized that my daughter did not feel comfortable opening up to me. The reason? I was parenting out of fear. You see, I would react to things she would tell me (when she did open up) as if she had done bad things she had not even thought of doing. :( I reacted to her statements about boys, parties and even her friends with long lectures. Those reactions/fears stemmed from my own experiences growing up and not from my daughter's ability to make the right decisions today. Basically, I was setting my daughter up for failure as I parented out of fear.
After digging deep in my heart and asking God for answers, I knew I had to make some changes within me. As I searched my heart, I realized that I was more concerned about how others perceived my "good girl" than actually training my daughter's heart. I was more concerned about the outward behavior than the inward heart condition. Ouch! Well, once I resolved my own fears, I began to step back, just enough, to possibly let my daughter fail. As I stepped out of the way, I began to see my daughter step up. Oh! what a moment! I was there just enough to help and comfort instead of trying to control her every decision (major recipe for failure). The outcome of that has been a beautiful picture of a daughter walking these difficult teenage years with confidence, freedom, and security. You see, as I stepped out of the way, she was able to step up to the plate. Is she perfect? Far from it. Does she fail, yes, just like her Mommy does. She, however, is making choices that demonstrate to me that she has a good head on her shoulders. Her convictions go deep, she has a mind of her own and she is not persuaded to follow the crowd.
So how did I lean in? I leaned in by letting go. I let go of me trying to lead her by my authority and began to lead her by my influence. So, instead of jumping to give my opinion and dictating how something should be done or handled, I stepped out of the way. I began to pursue conversations about silly things with her. I began to listen without providing a solution. Instead, I simply asked questions that led her to making the right choices. The results, to date, are a relationship with my teenager that one only dreams about, and a young lady learning to make decision based on her internal government. I am enjoying watching her blossom into this incredible young lady. My prayer is that my relationship with her continues to blossom as she grows in wisdom, stature (actually I think she is done growing in this area), and favor with God and man. May your journey with your teens be one of joy and complete peace as you entrust their hearts to the One that created them.
To help you in this journey, there are some books I highly recommend. They are Age of Opportunity, Loving Our Kids On Purpose, Girl Talk, and Grooming the Next Generation for Success. You can find these books in the "Our Favorites" section as well as the Resources section.