Love will keep us together
a parent who loves too much to quit regains the love and trust of a wayward son.
THE teenage years or adolescence is the period when parents see the greatest change in their child’s behaviour. They are trying to become individuals in their own right, seeking to move out of their parents’ protective wings, and consider peer opinions more valuable. They want freedom; however, parents want to control them and prevent them from doing anything wrong.
As a parent, you have to learn to tackle them right. Most of us try to dictate terms to control them. But this does not usually help, as they are sure to rebel, and you will end up with a battleground in your own home.
Both parents and teenagers would do much better if parents can keep their perspective. When parents and teens are getting along, family life can be wonderful. Teens really are enjoyable and energising. Their wit and high spirits make them fun to be around. But when parents and teens are at odds, the teenage propensity for sullen silence and rejection can be confusing and frustrating.
Teens and tweens do rebel in one way or another. When a client’s youngest son reached teenagehood, the boy rebelled with a vengeance, doing everything his parents had forbidden him to. The boy seemed determined to destroy his own reputation, but his name was not the only one sullied.
As rumours of the teen’s aberrant behaviour swept through the community, his father saw his own reputation plummet. What kind of family would raise a kid like that? What had they done (or not done) to make him rebel? Why didn’t they do something to make him stop?
Before you jump to the conclusion that this teenage boy may be from a single-parent family or a broken home, in fact, the opposite is true. By any standard, the boy’s family is considered intact, warm and perfectly functioning.
Through it all, this father persevered, and the son’s ultimate turnaround became as legendary in his community as the initial rebellion. How did this parent pull it off? Though not in his exact words, the following was what I gleaned from his parenting journey: > Don’t assign blame: Don’t become too introspective. When teens rebel, the temptation is to blame the parents, teachers or society. But assigning blame doesn’t help. Besides, often there is no one to blame. Good parents can raise children who rebel. It happens all the time. > Be firm: My client remained firm with his teen, forcing him to face the consequences of his own decisions. “Don’t pay for damage that they need to restore. Don’t replenish the funds that they mishandle. Don’t tell lies to keep them from facing the truth,” he said. I could feel the emotion in his words. It had not been easy for him to watch his child suffer. “Sometimes pain is the best teacher. Stop the pain too quickly and you stop the learning.” > Never stop loving: The most impressive thing about this parent was his love for his wayward teen, and the most impressive thing about his love was its tenacity. He never stopped loving.
No matter how badly the boy behaved, his dad never stopped pulling for him, never lost faith in him, always stood ready to meet him halfway. And one day, the boy took him up on it. He turned from his destructive behaviour. He sought his father’s forgiveness.
Some criticised the father for forgiving too quickly and completely. After all the hurt this boy had caused, he didn’t deserve full restoration.
The father’s response to his critics contains words we may be familiar with. He sought advice from the parable in the Bible about the father and his prodigal son. This man’s words – originally directed at the prodigal’s older brother – are sentiments every parent of a rebellious teen hopes one day to voice: “We had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, was lost and has been found.”
These are the words of a parent who loves too much to quit.
That day, in the counselling room, I, the therapist, became his student. I was reminded of a quotable quote: “When love is with conditions, it is no longer love but a mere transaction. True love is without conditions.” n Charis Patrick is a trainer and family life educator who is married with four children.