When you live in the same house with someone, and especially in parent/child relationships, there is no neutral feeling in your heart about the other person. You are always going to feel positively or negatively about that person – never neutral. You’re just around them too much and they are too much a part of your life to be neutral. For you, do your parents feel good or bad, more like your accountability or your captors, your support or your obstacles, helping you develop or holding you back, an ally or an adversary? Of course I’m talking about feelings right now, not reality. The reality is most of the time parents are the best support a developing teen has available to them. Unfortunately, feelings often say, “These are my enemies and I will defeat them!”
What happens if we start to fight our own team? I think when teens turn their best allies into their adversaries, they are most vulnerable and endangered. When you turn your parents into enemies, you miss out on many of the blessings that they are in your life to give you. If you curse the root, you curse the shoot. When you make your allies your adversaries, you typically also begin to see your enemies as your allies. When things get upside down like that, you are already defeated, because you’re defeating yourself.
During the gulf war there was a battle at night when visibility was not good and one of our tanks actually destroyed another American tank. It’s called “friendly fire” when we get confused and shoot at the wrong side. When that happens, it can easily cascade into an all out disaster as others panic and get confused. If you feel shot at by your own team, it’s important to stop and assess – don’t just react.
How can you change the way you feel about your parents?
- Become aware of your own emotions and remember they are not good at logic. Just because it FEELS like mom and dad are trying to hold you back, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. Try taking a step back from the emotions and look at the situation with just logic and clear thinking. Clear the emotions and relationship fog out of your vision and how does it look from that vantage point? If logic is telling you different than emotions, go with logic. Never make decisions based on emotions when emotions and logic are on different sides. Talking to a healthy adult outside the family can help sort the logic.
- Understand the difference between the natural instinct to launch and the warped desire to rebel. It’s good for the chick to peck out of the egg when it’s time. But if he tries to force his way out before he’s ready, he will die. You do need to consistently attain more independence and responsibility for yourself, but you need to do it little by little and all in good time and typically with the blessing of your parents because they know you best and are best positioned to know when it’s time for nature to take its course. They also know when you have proven you are making mature decisions that indicate you’re ready for more responsibility.
- Quit objectifying your parents. These are not obstacles to overcome or vending machines to get money and food from but ignore the rest of the day. These are people with their own emotions, fears, needs, and dreams. You are responsible for how you treat them. In fact, how you treat them is practice for how you will treat a family of your own someday. Start seeing their needs and meeting them. Call them when you’re going to be late – not because you have to but because you don’t want them to be worried; spend time with them – not because you have to but because you know it’s important to them; make the breakfast one day a week – not to get favor but because you want to return the favor they’ve shown you for 16 years. Why would you treat your friends so well and your parents so poorly.
In the Bible there are a couple of stories in the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 20) where God’s people were facing a huge army, vastly outmatched, and they were scared. But God confused the opposing army and they began to fight each other until there was not one of them left standing! Israel didn’t have to fight at all! Is it possible that families fall into this trap? Has satan learned to divide families against each other so that they destroy themselves? Is that currently happening in your family? Check your heart – are your parents allies or adversaries? How’s that working out for you?