Teens – Terrible or Terrific?

We had a “milestone” birthday in our home this past week as my fourth daughter, Rebekah turned thirteen.

It is official!  We now have four teenage girls in our family…at the same time.

 When Rebekah was born her three older sisters were 18 months(Kristen), 3 years(Amy) and 6 years old (Michelle).

I remember many times during their childhood well meaning friends, acquaintances and even strangers would make comments about how dreadful, hard or horrible I would have it when they were all teenagers.  Most of the time I would just smile (ok, so maybe smile/smirk is more accurate) or politely laugh at their “doom & gloom” comments,  however occasionally I would proclaim with confidence my true sentiments – “Oh I can’t wait….I love teenagers!”

And it is true – I have loved teenagers my entire adult life.  I love their enthusiasm, idealism, passion, boundless energy(as well as their ability to sleep for hours on end), hope, faith, spontanaity, reckless abandon, independence and strength to name a few of the qualities of youth that I find very appealing.  But the never ending onslaught of negative comments did leave me wondering if I was headed for disaster down the road when I actually had teenagers living in my home.

Why is it that we live in a society that seems to have such a disdain for the teen years?  Why do so many parents look at these years as something to fear or dread rather than welcoming them with hope and excitement?  Once a child reaches thirteen they only have five or six years left in our homes…why then would we spend those years arguing, fighting or wishing away our short time together?

Or is it even true that parents do not enjoy their teenagers or is it just another one of those “parroting” issues where everyone feels they have to say disdainful things about teenagers because that is what everyone else is saying. (Even just yesterday, a poplular radio host that I listen to regularly responded with “I’m sorry” when the caller mentioned she had a teenager.  Of course it got a laugh – but I cringed inside as comments like this seem to add to the negative sentiments surrounding being a parent of teenagers.)

Most likely it is a combination of “parroting” as well as parents truly struggling with unappraciative, disrespectful, self centered teenagers who show them very little love. (that type of teenager doesn’t sound like much fun to me either)

Now if I merely had one teenager, I would never venture to give any advice, opinions, insights, ideas or even hints as to how to enjoy the teenage years but since I have four who run the gamut of personalities and dispositions (although at this point I don’t have any male teenagers – you’ll have to wait at least 15+ years for my “take” on that – although perhaps my dear friends Teri Helms, Christy Keyton or Ladonna Colton can “guest blog” on teenage boys) and because we are truly enjoying our teenagers, I will throw out my opinions for anyone who might be interested.

First let me say…that if you want to enjoy the teenage years…it starts way before they turn thirteen.  In fact, it begins with getting a good grip on your thirteen month old when they first start challenging your authority by directly doing what you just said “no” to them doing.  If you lose the battle of the wills with a toddler, you are sure to lose the war with a teenager.  Be strong and always, always, always win!

It also takes developing a solid, loving relationship with your child during those early years by spending tons of time with them (both quantity & quality), eating the vast majority of your dinners together as a family – at the dining room table (candlelight & music is a bonus!), enjoying lots of cuddling time together on the couch in the evenings or under the covers in the morning reading books, watching movies or just sharing life stories, worshipping together as a family, talking, talking and talking with them and being diligent to create meaningful memories on a regular basis.

In addition, I believe that besides “winning the battle of the wills” and developing a solid loving relationship that you need to indoctrinate them for many years before they come close to teenagedom as to the “rules” and boundaries in your household.  Here are some examples of ours –

1. We (Mom & Dad) can make your life miserable or wonderful – the choice is yours!  We highly recommend you choose wonderful but if you choose miserable we will follow through.

2. You are not the center of the universe or for that matter, the center of this family either.  It is NOT all about you….don’t forget this (of course it helps to realize this when you live in a family of nine)

3. It is “My way….or the highway”  Yes,that is correct if our teenager does not comply with our rules or chooses to live a life of continued disrespect or direct defiance, they will no longer have the option and privilege of living under our roof.  As hard as this would be to carry out, my children know that we would follow through.

4. No whining allowed!  We have more than most people in the world – a roof over our heads (no matter how much you think that roof should be bigger), food on our plates (even if it is beans & rice several times a week), clothes on our backs (in abundance – thanks to hand me downs!) and a loving, committed “in tact” family. What is there to complain about? Nothing!

5. No, you can’t have…

  • your own cell phone (we have a common “the girls” phone)
  • a myspace or facebook account until college (if you have that much free time – have I got a job for you! However, you can have a blog – feel free to write, write, write!)
  • your own car (nope you can’t even buy your own until after high school and no one else gets to buy one for you either) – you may use one of our cars as needed and with permission
  • a TV in your room (in fact you can’t even watch TV except on a very rare occasion)
  • your own room (and this is not just a logistical rule – it is our paradigm – no one needs their own room – even if we had eight bedrooms – there would be at least two to a room until the last child is here alone.)

6. You also can’t…

  • spend the night, go to parties or on out of town trips with families who we do not know intimately.
  • call, write or text boys (and yes when I have teenage boys they will not call, write or text girls in jr or sr high either – after that they can ask the young ladies father for permission to call, write or text)
  • date or “go out” in junior high or high school (including all definitions of the word – from casual going out for coffee with a member of the opposite sex to “committed” boyfriend/girlfriend relationships)
  • get body piercings, tattoos or any extreme hair coloring or styles
  • wear any immodest, inappropriate or culturally reactionary clothing (and the Mom gets to decide if something is ok) and a bonus – you get to wear dresses (and my sons will wear dress shirts & ties) to church, weddings, funerals, graduations or other significant events
  • go to movies that have not been approved by Mom & Dad (or our own resident movie censor – Michelle) – you can’t always go by ratings – I have seen outstanding movies rated PG13 and lousy crass movies rated PG
  • be lazy and not do your school work or not do it to the best of your ability
  • be disrespectful or rude to teachers, authority figures or any adults (even if they are wrong or rude – you will respect their position)
  • get away with not doing your household chores
  • ok and in case it is not obvious the “basics” are “you cant’s” too –  can’t do drugs, drink, smoke, break curfew, lie, cheat, steal etc….

7. You can….(ok, with all those “cant’s”  there does need to be a few perks – listed here are some things that other teens may not have the privilege of doing)

  • stay up as late as you want – it is simply your responsibility to get up in the morning
  • sleep in late on Saturday mornings as long as you are consistent each week with your chores
  • invite friends over most anytime – for dinner to spend the night, hang out, go on outings with us etc…
  • go on exciting trips and adventures anywhere in the world as long as you cover the costs and you are going/staying with an “approved” party
  • keep your room a mess (up until the point that Mom can’t walk in the room or it starts to smell)
  • wear “light” make up when you start high school & get your ears pierced when you turn 16 (gotta have something to look forward to! lol)
  • drink coffee
  • eat left over pie, cake or cookies for breakfast
  • listen to music as loud as you want (most of the time) providing it is Christian or on Mom’s list of “approved” show/movie tunes
  • skip school to do fun and exciting things like – going to the beach, apple hill or snow days, getting Dr Laura’s signature, attending the inauguration, going to New York for your 16th birthday
  • be as mad as you want at Mom or Dad…go to your room and shout in your pillow that you hate us and turn up your music (see above for restrictions) – just don’t slam a door, hit or throw anything or be disrespectful to our faces (have at it in your room or other space where we are not)

8. Glorify God in everything you say and do…ultimately you will answer to Him

Did I cover them all girls? 

Following these basic philosophies have resulted in six wonderful years of having teenagers in our home.  Michelle, Amy, Kristen & Rebekah, though each unique in their talents, gifts, abilities as well as having diverse personalities – they are all good, godly, respectful, mature, responsible, delightful and lovely young ladies, who happen to be teens!  They are truly a blessing to us and we have and will continue to enjoy the teenage years. (It’s a good thing since I have at least 18 more years of having one or more teenagers at home)

Happy Birthday Rebekah!


Filed under Blessings, Family Traditions, Life at the Lambdins, Motherhood, My "take", Raising Girls

18 responses to “Teens – Terrible or Terrific?

  1. Dee

    I recently found your blog and truly enjoy reading it as we have similarities in our feeling of motherhood and our lives(teenage children). You honestly “pen” almost exactly how I feel or think or do sometimes.

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Rebekah

    Hey Mom,
    You forgot about your #1 motto,

    “You live to serve this ship,so row well and live”.
    (a quote from one of our favorite movies, Ben Hur)

    Well I have to go back to rowing.

  3. Gloria Borden

    The general public is misinformed about teens because of the media who only publicize the bad stuff teens do! In my life time of working with teens, most of them are fine young people who mature into responsible adults.

  4. Have you read the book “Do Hard Things”? You would enjoy it. We have had as many as 6 “young adults” at home at one time…I am the oldest of six and we are very close in age.

  5. Donna

    Happy Birthday Rebekah!!!! I pray my kids will be as happy and full of life as you seem to always be when they reach their teenage years!! Please continue to always be a positive role model for the little ones that are younger then you. They are all watching you grow up and there will be many that will want to be just like you Love Jesus always and these next four years will be the best four years of you life. It was great times in my life, because Jesus was the center of my life I was saved from alot of hard times with peers, relationships, and family keep Jesus number one in everything you do and say and enjoy being a Awsome Teenager that can change the world one life at a time!!
    Have a wonderful day,

  6. Lisa

    We have 3 — ages 23, 21, and 16 & I wholeheartedly agree with you, Beth. I have thoroughly enjoyed all my kids’ teen years. You hit the nail on the head… it starts by laying the foundation when they’re young, setting clear boundaries, making “family time” a priority, and lots of love & prayer.

    If I could share any advice with other parents out there, it would be to stand your ground… When they want to go somewhere or do something that you’re not comfortable with, don’t give in. My 23 yr. old has come back to me several times and thanked me, saying, “You don’t have any idea how much trouble you kept me out of, Mom.”

  7. grace

    whooooooooo hoooooooo

  8. Thank you for all of the great tips! My oldest daughter will be turning 13 on November and I can’t wait!! I truly look forward to their teenage years.

  9. My kids are only 9 and 7, but I am not looking forward to teenage-hood for one reason: I did not like most teenagers when I was one! I think it came from losing an 8 year old sister when I was 12 – I grew up fast because of that and I knew early on that life was short and to be valued. So many teenagers in the fairly affluent school I attended were vain and shallow – even the ones who were in my church youth group. It was disheartening.

    But your post give me hope for the future! We are strict but fair – and always have been. Both my husband and I were raised in strict but fair homes, so we take it as a compliment when our own parents tell us we are strict! And we always win (though sometimes it is a battle).

    So maybe teenager-hood won’t be so bad. I guess we’ll start to find out in a little less than 4 years!

  10. Pam

    I am shedding “grandma” tears reading this blog. Thanks for confirming the rules of my daughter regarding my wonderful granddaughter.

    Grandma’s tend to be more tender and permissive toward teens than parents so Thank God there are parents like you still around to set a standard for this new generation.

  11. Geigy Boek

    Happy birthday Rebekah… the best is yet to be! Thanks Beth, you always remind us to aim high and love the results.
    My kids especially love our “you can skip school for good reasons….” and especially since there is school on Christmas Day here in Japan – they love having the opportunity to tell their friends about Jesus before they take off for Christmas.
    Can’t wait to see you when we come home for the holidays. Rebekah said we can come over and we’ll make you a Japanese dinner 🙂

  12. Kristy (Finch) Innes

    Hi Beth! I cannot believe how your girls have grown! Beautiful. I would love to save your lists of cannots and cans. I am years away from teenagedom with my oldest, but know it will be here before I know it. We are just beginning on the road of pushing the limits and seeing if Mom and Dad REALLY mean no. It is tough!
    Thanks for the advice and encouragement.

  13. Cindy Straup

    Hi Beth,

    Wow! Marc and I just read your Teens- Terrible or Terrific. I have to say, it is really helpful to hear some encouraging words and to see some hard lines drawn in the sand.
    Our three kiddos, 13, 11 and 9 3/4, are all wonderful and fun. We are in that Jr High phase where what other kids “get” to do seems to fog the mirror at times.
    Reading this has reminded us that we are the only parents our children have and that God choose us to raise our three, NOT anyone else. So it is OKAY to draw a line that others don’t understand. Thank You for the encouragement. Cindy

  14. Veronica Fenton

    the only thing I do not enjoy about the teen years is that they literally fly by…..It is amazing to see the growth in our children as teens…also I do not look forward to an empty nest…I am one of those moms that loves the noisy chaos of a houseful of kids….

  15. Amy Lambdin

    So Funny!!! Even here at SAGU; students that are going into education have professors asked elementary, jr high, or high school, and the ones that say high school get a response like this, “Oh man, I am so sorry!” What’s up with that!? Im with you, mom, teenagers are fun!!!! hehehe I will definately be sad next year when I no longer will be one. 😦

  16. Jason Edwards

    the thought just struck me… as much as you love your teenagers, you are SO going to LOVE LOVE LOVE your young adults as they become more numerous through the years (not to mention grandchildren… someday…)

  17. Anita Swearingen

    Great to find these wonderful words of wisdom, Beth! Tori is 20 and now married, Jessica is 18 years old, Olivia will become a teenager this month and Rebekah is 11. I needed to hear that the teen years ARE great years and that I can enjoy it all over again with my younger two. The ‘can’t” and ‘can’ lists were great. I too, am in my year of jubilee and I pray that the Lord will give me strength to stand firm and enjoy the next decade of growth and change in my life. It is true that they are moved and gone in so short a time so love them while they are under your influence!!

  18. Todd

    Outstanding advice!!! We have most of the rules in place and our first teenager will be in 2 yrs. We are excited for our kids to be teens!!

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