MECS Blog

Train up a child...

Train up a child...

Thursday, 19 June 2014  | Sue - MS Coordinator
I should begin by stating that the following story is a work of fiction. The events detailed in no way represent anyone living or dead and certainly bear no resemblance to my own children who are both perfectly behaved and have immaculately tidy bedrooms (cough, cough).

A mother gazes lovingly into the angelic face of her sleeping baby. As his lips pucker and cheeks scrunch up to his eyes she ponders the journey so far. Her little one has grown and changed so much in only a couple of months. She imagines the future that lies ahead and begins to dream of the toddler, boy, teen and young man he will become…


Fast forward...

Frantically pushing the shopping trolley up and down the supermarket aisles, the mother begs and pleads for her two year old to stop screaming while she locates all the ingredients needed for tonight’s dinner. “I know I am missing something” she mumbles to herself, “but I can’t think what it is”…

Fast forward...

The artwork shows an intricate weaving of bright colours that are a field of flowers. The boy stands up extra tall as the magnets click into place, clamping the masterpiece to the refrigerator gallery. The mother gently places her arm around his waist, pulls him close and whispers, “It’s beautiful”…

Fast forward...

The ‘floordrobe’ now extends beyond the door and into the hallway. The collection of miscellaneous shoes intermingled with both clean and dirty clothes peaks somewhere within the depths of the room. As nobody has emerged from the den and the terrain changes as often as the sand reshapes the Sahara, nobody is quite sure exactly where the peak is. Even the most far-reaching historical records make no mention of the floor’s existence but the legends declare it is a tangle of odd socks…

Being prepared for every phase of parenting can be quite a daunting task. Each stage has its own joys and challenges and each child their own unique personality. A ‘one size fits all’ approach can be somewhat limiting; techniques that work brilliantly for one child do not necessarily succeed with another. Some teens appear to glide through adolescence without experiencing any significant difficulties whereas others may endure more ups and downs than a roller coaster.

There are numerous ways to engage with adolescents that recognise the unique time of life they are in. As new neuron pathways form, the adolescent brain frequently ‘misfires’ causing behaviour that, while appearing to be irrational, is  considered normal for an adolescent  - increased conflict with parents, mood volatility, increased negative moods, increased risk taking behaviour, recklessness and sensation seeking.

The physical changes an adolescent has to deal with are as numerous as those of a toddler, except adolescents have the added burden of being socially aware. The various aspects of development do not always happen at the same time so the physical, cognitive and psychological development of a teen may not be equally matched. A student may look like an adult physically but still may be exhibiting behaviours of a child. The desire to fit in with their peers when there is such diversity within each of these areas of development may cause feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. Teens want to be unique, while not being different, and may try on different personalities as they seek to discover their own identity and cope with the differences they perceive between themself and their peers.

The challenges experienced during this stage of life are significant and even the best of adolescents will make mistakes and fail. They don’t have the years of life experience available to adults to draw on when dealing with these challenges. Allowing them to experience the consequences of failure can turn these challenges into valuable learning opportunities.
Recognising the extra difficulties adolescents face doesn’t excuse inappropriate behaviour, but makes it understandable. Finding the balance between maintaining age- appropriate boundaries and encouraging independence can be extremely difficult. Giving adolescents the freedom to explore their gifts and interests within appropriate boundaries can encourage growth. It is essential for adults to discuss these boundaries with teens and to discipline consistently in order to reinforce them.

Adolescents need people who will take the time to listen to them and seek to understand how they feel. They will frequently need a significant adult other than a parent to help them navigate the adolescent minefield; often uncles, aunts, youth leaders and teachers fill this role.

Understanding that many of an adolescent’s mood swings are a result of hormonal fluctuations and beyond their control enables adults to better time their responses to behavioural issues. Choosing to deal with disciplinary issues when the adolescent is in a calm mood rather than dealing with things in the heat of the moment will generally lead to better outcomes.
During this stage of life the opinion of peers frequently holds more weight than the opinion of parents. It is essential to encourage adolescents to find friends who bring out the best in them and will support them in making wise choices.

Most importantly though is for us to pray for our children, pray for their friends and pray for wisdom in knowing how and when to correct their behaviour. These precious individuals are created in the image of God and are to be loved regardless of their behaviour. The rewards of all the hard work, time and energy invested during the early years will pay off and we can cling to the promise…

 “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

Fast forward...

The young man gazes lovingly into the angelic face of his sleeping baby. As her lips pucker and cheeks scrunch up to her eyes he ponders the journey so far. His little one has grown and changed so much in only a couple of months. He imagines the future that lies ahead and thinks to himself “I’m so glad Mum showed me how it was done.”
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