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January 30, 2016
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Perspective

Is the world different today than when you were a teen? Have the life experiences you’ve faced affected your perspective in life? Has it changed how you approach and respond to things? Has your mindset evolved as you’ve grown older?

“Of course,” you may respond. Conceptually we understand that. So why is it so difficult for us as parents to truly consider this for a moment, and apply that knowledge to our relationship with our teens?

I had a parent group do an activity where each group looked at a picture, pretending to be someone else, trying to see it through another's eyes.

When asked to describe the picture, every group described the picture differently. I had them guess who each group was pretending to be. Laughter filled the room at the variation of each perspective. They understood why others saw the picture in varying ways.

When asked if anyone thought the others’ views were wrong or if anyone got mad at another for seeing things differently they said, “Of course not.”
Then I said, “Imagine that you told your teen to be home at 9 p.m. and they protested, ‘That's stupid. My friends don't have to be home then, and I want to hang out with them.’” Is your teen's perspective wrong?

The room erupted, "Of course it's wrong,” “My house, my rules,” “I wouldn't dare talk like that to my parents,” “They need to be home when I say so. They can't just come home whenever they want,” and so on.

Wow! I didn't say the teen came home late or asked if the teen was wrong in how they responded; I simply asked if their perspective was wrong.

Yet, how often did my own teen say something like that and I immediately reacted as though he had committed an unpardonable action? All he did was make a statement. I went elsewhere in my mind and held him accountable for things he hadn't done. He simply expressed his perspective, or opinion.

I had a hard time accepting that perspective isn't wrong; it's just a viewpoint.

A teen's perspective of curfew is quite normal. As a teen, I usually thought my curfew was “stupid” too.

These parents’ reactions are also typical after having dealt with a teen's inappropriate behavior and attitude for some time. It reveals our fear that our child is headed down the wrong path and as a result, we jump to conclusions. We think the only solution is more control and greater boundaries.

What if we remembered that our perspective changes as we go through life? What if we saw our teen as we see other people with different perspectives? I began to see how Colossians 3:12-13 could be applied to parenting. God says to clothe ourselves with kindness, compassion, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving any grievances.

There was a distinct time during our struggles when I realized I needed to be patient and to let our son learn things in his own timing. When he learned this way and changed his perspective through his own struggle, it made a bigger impression on him. Compare that to when I tried to force lessons on him—things didn't go very well. As I learned to patiently bear with him and offer supportive guidance rather than directives, our relationship improved. I felt a lot less stress.

Imagine yourself responding to your teen's comments with empathy and interest.

When I started considering how my son might view a situation and what his thinking might be before we discussed something, our conversations improved greatly.

I found myself far more patient and wanting to understand why he thought the way he did. I learned more about how he thought, was able to respond differently, and changed how I approached most of our conversations. Sometimes I even realized that his way of thinking made sense and changed how I viewed something.

I challenge you to ask more questions to find out why your teen thinks the way they do and not to correct their thinking. Help them figure out the answers themselves, and give them the chance to grow from their own choices—both good and bad. Love them when they make the wrong choices, and support them while they seek out a different option. Their perspective isn't wrong; it's just different from yours.

Kathy Masculino

When Kathy's teenage son started down a path of self destruction, her faith was put to the test. Kathy reached out to others for new knowledge, insights and parenting skills to turn her family around. As a result, she now facilitates parent support groups to share the same support, knowledge and confidence she received that gave her family hope and new direction. Kathy Masculino has a BA in Psychology and is a certified parenting facilitator.

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