“We spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk. And, we spend the next twelve telling them to sit down and shut up.”–Phyllis Diller
This may sound super weird, but I love talking to people about their problems. I really don’t know what it is, but I just love it when people are just their true authentic selves and are vulnerable enough to share something they are struggling with. I like talking about my issues, too! Not in like the weird way where I don’t talk about anything else, but in the way where I truly may need someone else’s insight on how to handle a problem. I just enjoy that “give and take” relationship that we can have with one another and share each other’s burdens.
I not only like to hear about others struggles, but for some reason, I like to try to give advice….even when I’m not being asked for it. It’s really not the best thing, I guess. Sometimes people want to just be heard, and they aren’t ready to figure it out. But, for some reason I go that extra step and try to help them solve their problems. Because, I mean, isn’t that what everyone wants?? Their problems solved for them?? NO!! How do I know this??
Exhibit A: All of my children.
When our children are little, we are so used to making their decisions for them. You know, which shoes to wear, bacon or sausage, milk or orange juice. But, the older they get, they do this really ridiculous thing and start making their choices for themselves. The problem comes in when I still think I should be making their choices for them. I have found that becomes the hardest in the teenage years.
You always hear all these stories of how teenagers are unpredictable and crazy. Part of that is true, but not all of it. I really love raising my teens. I’m super blessed that both of my teenagers talk to me. You know, they really talk to me. Of course, my daughter talks way more than my son, but you get the picture. But, what I found myself doing was when they came to me with a problem, I would always (not sometimes, not every now and then, but ALWAYS) say, “Well, I would blah, blah, blah.” I would totally give them my advice on what to do. It didn’t matter if they asked for my help or not, I would just spit it out. And, most of the time, they would take it, and it worked out fine.
Now, that worked when they were like in 7th or 8th grade, but when they got into high school, I found that it didn’t work so much. I would start getting these rolling eyes, and these heavy sighs. “Mom! Listen to what I’m saying! I’m not asking for help. I just want to tell you what happened!” Ummm…what? Really?? You DON’T want me to tell you how to fix it?? Why wouldn’t you?? I have the answer right here!! It’s perfect!! Just let me tell you!!! I would stare into their eyes, I could see their lips moving, but I wouldn’t really be listening. All I could do was think about how they didn’t want to hear what I had to say. I knew this had to change.
So, finally one night, my daughter asked me to come into her room for one of our “late night talks.” You know, one of those talks when you are sooo tired, and are just about ready to get all snuggled up, and she said, “ Mom, can we talk?” Well, of course, you know I talked. And as she discussed whatever was on her teenage heart, I started thinking that I’m not going to offer up any help. I’m just going to listen and see what she has to say. When she talked, I asked questions, and was genuinely interested. But, when she was done talking, I hugged her and got up to leave. She stopped me, “Wait! So, you are not going to tell me what to do?” I looked back at her, “Nope. Not this time. I think you got this.” And before my very eyes, I saw my daughter gain so much confidence in that little sentence. I knew she was capable. I knew she was responsible and kind. I believed in her, and the most important part was that she knew it.
By always offering my advice, I had really undermined my children’s abilities. They were not making their own decisions; they were living out my decisions that I had made for them. So, in reality, they couldn’t be as rewarded by the successes or they couldn’t learn as much from the failures. I hadn’t allowed them to trust in themselves. I had subconsciously taken that away.
I have to remember that Jesus loves my children. He loves them way more than I ever could. Now, that does not mean that I don’t parent them…of course I do. But, when it comes to those things about their lives that they need guidance…I guide. Instead of being authoritative and giving them the answers, I help them figure out their solutions and talk through it with them. If I’m telling my children to put their faith in Jesus for their lives, I have to be able to do the same.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6