In the area of discipline I got very disoriented for a while there, when I first had teenagers. I noticed I was shouting. This was weird. I had a conversation with myself about a week after this began and said, "Jen, why are you shouting?" And I asked the Lord for wisdom. It was the same reason I have occasionally made the mistake of shouting at our young children. It's because of some sin on their part that I have not corrected properly.
When your toddler does something wacky like refuses to eat his food in a very complainy way, if this goes on long enough I would correct that child in a way that brought pain to him. In our house that's gonna be a spanking; not angry hitting but loving correction, see last blog. Then I could remain happy and calm. No big deal, I'm not the one pitching a fit about my dinner, why should I suffer? So when it came to my teenagers, they would get out of line in some small way such as speaking to me disrespectfully or arguing and suddenly I didn't know what to do. So God told me to do the exact same thing that I've always done: Bring about some pain to that child and go about your business happily as you were before.
Ladies, we go for the jugular. This new pain comes in the form of losing their electronics. Or whatever is dear to them.
We take the thing away. All I have to do is hold out my hand and ask for the gadget thingie. I put my hand on my teenager's shoulder and say, "You can't talk to your parents that way. You can have your phone back tomorrow."
You just -- boom -- hand him a speeding ticket and go about your day. A teenager's sin nature needs to be addressed the same way as a toddler's, but differently. The same because of the need for a swift, serious consequence that actually hurts (no phone hurts). Different because the child's behavior is on a whole different scale and the nature of the pain is no longer toddler-y.
If my teenager does actually need a phone, then for a couple of days he gets my ancient Nokia, pictured above in all its indestructible glory. When my son whips that clunker out, his friends are like, "That's vintage, dude." I will outstubborn a child who needs to get right with God, all day long.
If our 14 year old daughter gives us an attitude then her electronics go, and what helps both of them the most is to be reminded to go spend some time reading their Bibles. My husband had our daughter write a list of what we expect from her, and stick a post-it note on her bathroom mirror as a reminder every morning. My friend once took her teenage daughter's make-up away. She had to go to school like that. Yes ma'am, this is war.
My sources tell me that my son was driving the car a little Nascar-esque-ly the other day. So, the "spanking" for that was, his mommy drove him to his job today. I'll go pick him up later. He can drive again tomorrow like a big boy. I told my husband I might put on my bathrobe and some curlers when I go pick him up at work, just to make my point.
My husband and I do allow some fun banter with our teenagers, we joke around a lot and tease, but there is a big difference between banter and disrespect. The last spanking our son ever got was from his Dad who did not appreciate that this child called his mother "dog." As in, "nah, dawg." Somehow that sort of address does not convey an attitude of respect. And I had already asked him several times to stop calling me dog. But it's fun to be the mother because I get to call my son "brah." As in, "Close the back door, brah. You're letting in flies."
I want to encourage you to lay down the law with your teenage son or daughter. Be strong. Open rebellion is so important that I will change my entire day or week to deal with that when it arises in one of our children. We're not going to play, when it comes to rebellion. It's not for you, it's for your child. And ultimately it's to honor God.
Prayerfully decide with your husband what your limits are and enforce those limits unapologetically. Always present a unified force in your marriage in front of your children. If your husband contradicts you in front of the children, back down respectfully, and graciously bow out of that battle. What you have just done is won the war by displaying a humble submission to authority. Any punishing or preaching can not speak as loudly as that. Do not go against your husband regarding the children. Trust your husband's judgment, and God will honor you for that. You can talk about it later with your husband if he's open to more discussion, but not right there in the heat of battle.
Unity in marriage has always been important, but it is life or death with teenagers because they are extremely perceptive and will detect any hypocrisy or weakness of your own.
Also, are you spending time with your teenagers, or just policing them? I am consistently blown away by the deep and mature thoughts that my teenagers have. Talk to them and listen to them. It's so important to maintain a tight relationship with them. So you have to forgive them over and over for all that trouble they keep causing you. Be real with them. If you mess up (and you will), they are amazingly gracious if you will just fess up and call out your own mistake. I think when we admit our mistakes, teenagers actually respect us more.
Whatever the limits you and your husband agree on, until your child is a man or woman living on his or her own, you can take away the car, the phone, the friends, the money, the activities, whatever it takes until he or she shapes up. Or hey, there is no age limit on spanking. Discipline needs not to be a big emotional thing, where you holler and cry and make a big ninny out of yourself. It's just a speeding ticket. Then forgive your teenagers, whether or not they ask forgiveness, and go hang out together. Then do it all over again next time.
Speeding ticket. Forgive. Hang out. Repeat.