Teenagers vs. Youth

Parenting Transformation Journey – Page 15
(Click here for page 1)

Sunday was almost over when I remembered that we should be using part of Sunday to assess how we’re doing, and pre-teach for the week to come. Ultimately, I want to do this the way Nicholeen recommends, where the parents take some time to discuss family issues ahead of the family meeting. We do that pretty much already, somewhat informally whenever we can, but I can see the benefits of making it more formal and routine so as to build the strong family government that we want to build.

(Remember, for me, the reason behind this new ‘structurizing’ is so that the children can more easily track cause and effect in their choices and behaviors, because that piece is so important for their learning how to self-govern. In the past, I have just invented consequences on the fly, and issued unfair punishments based more on what’s convenient for ME, instead of what’s really right and wrong.)

So we didn’t really get to have a couple’s meeting – forgot about that one. And we didn’t plan a family meeting either (like we had done last week to kick this off), but at the end of the day when we came together as a family to pray, I remembered. So before the prayer I just said, “Hey guys, I forgot that I wanted to tell you about the difference between teenagers and youth. I was thinking about that this week and wanted to tell you what I learned, so before we pray I’m just going to explain the difference.”

Then I spent only a few minutes or so on it, and complimented them on how often I see them behaving as youth instead of as teenagers. I had taken some notes from Nicholeen’s class, so here’s  a quick overview:

To be a youth instead of a ‘teenager’ the child has:

  • standards they live by
  • a network of adults that lend strength
  • self-government
  • regular opportunities to do hard things
  • a knowledge of where they’re going in life
  • heros (instead of idols)
  • lots of time with mom/dad to help them process their thoughts and concerns

(Here’s an article with more about this topic)

I love that I also had the younger children’s attention – so in effect, I was pre-teaching them on moving into those years in a good way. My eleven year-old asked, “Do you have to be in the teen years to be a youth?” I said, no, you are already a youth if you have those things on the list.

We talked about the difference between heros and idols, and I asked them for examples of each. It was short, to the point, but intentional. That’s what feels so good – no matter how incidental a moment is, if it is intentional, there’s power in that, and I know it’s making a difference.

All in all, I think it was a great week.

Oh! – Then as I was falling asleep, I remembered that one of my sons had a birthday in the morning, and one of our family traditions is to bring the child his/her favorite breakfast in bed. But I realized we didn’t have those items on hand, which means I was going to need to get up early and run to the store at 6:00 am.

If you knew me even 5 years ago, you would know how jealously I protect my sleep time, and I have always been more of a night owl than a morning person. In the past, if I had to get up early, I would spend the rest of the day dragging and looking for an opportunity to have a nap. I would be cranky and irritable, even if I did have a nap, but especially if I didn’t. Wow, just verbalizing this is uncomfortable, because it sounds like I’m describing a teenager. It’s always a revelation to discover a piece of me that hasn’t quite completely grown up – like when I throw an emotional tantrum, or complain when things seem hard.

But gratefully I can look back on that one as past history, because ever since we started getting up together to read and study in the mornings before facing our day (we’ve been trying to do this consistently for a few years now), my body has been trained to wake up on its own between 5:30 and 6 am. Honestly, I’m still shocked about it. So going to the store at 6 am didn’t throw me into  a tailspin for the rest of the day like it would have done before.

So this was breakfast: french toast, bacon, hash brown patties, and apple juice. Then at the end of the day we had one of my son’s favorite dinner meal: Spaghettios, apple sauce, (and I threw in some long green beans for good measure).

Something kind of funny… A friend of mine was selling a super cute doll house for pennies on the dollar (sells new for between $110-180, and she was offering it for just $30) so I decided to drive across town to pick it up.

However, I felt it would be important to pre-teach my son before walking through the door with this… it was only coincidental that I would bring it home on his 14th birthday. He chuckled and was understanding about the timing of it.


Good thing it all worked out okay. I’m not sure it would have, had I not prepped him before bringing it in. And actually it ended up improving his birthday, because it got his little sisters super happy and engaged with something quiet. And don’t worry – he did end up with things that were on his birthday wish list.

If you disagree with anything I’m doing, then before leaving your comments, all I ask is that you please first watch this BBC episode so you can see where this is going. They say that in the middle of a life-saving surgery it can appear as though there has been a murder in the room. It might get a little messy in the middle, but I do believe and trust in the end result. Each of my posts – standing alone – will not provide the big picture… but the episode does. Enjoy!

Leslie Householder

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