A Conversation With a Teenager

Get Outta My Face!Mom: “Stop bothering your sister.”

Josh: “Why?”

Mom: “Because it upsets her.”

Josh: “Good, she needs to be upset. It’s what she does to me!”

Mom: “God says you should be nice to her.”

Josh: “Well, then, you should tell her to try being nice. It’s not like I am hurting her or anything.”

Mom: “But that is not how it works. You should do what God wants no matter how your sister responds.” 

Josh: “So, what do I do when you get mad and yell at me?”

Josh: “You shouldn’t talk to me like that!”

Josh: “Why? I am not being disrespectful or mad, I just asked you a question.”

Mom: “You just shouldn’t. Look I have to take your sister to piano practice. We can talk about this later.”

Mom leaves. She is angry but no more than usual. This conversation with Josh is a common one. By the time she is halfway to the lesson, the confrontation has been forgotten. Josh knows that mom will not get back to him. He is actually relieved that Mom is leaving. He has some things he wants to check out online.

There is no script to follow to “fix” this problem with Josh and his mom. There are no magic words to say. What is missing is Mom’s lack of focus on the heart – her heart and Josh’s heart. Josh’s parents have allowed things to be all about behavior.

If mom puts her focus on Josh’s heart attitude she will see the problem is much deeper than Josh being irritated with his sister. Her son is in full combat mode. He inhabits a youth culture that has little concern for God. Both of Josh’s parents need to invest care and time in their son. They need to follow Paul’s urging to view Josh as more important than themselves. They need to know what drives the concerns of his heart. This means investing time with Josh in order to learn where he is right now. It also means taking the time for both parents to think through when the relationship with him started to deteriorate. 

When mom sees irritation from her teenage son, the first response should not be to immediately correct his behavior. The goal is to cultivate a relationship that allows her to come alongside him and find out what he is upset about. His irritation with his sister is most likely a by-product of personal struggles. The conversation could look something like this:

Mom: “Hey Josh, could I talk with you for a minute?”

Josh: “Uh, okay.”

Mom: “Hey, I see you are having a hard time with your sister. Can you help me understand why things are difficult with Sarah? I just want to know so I can be supportive of you both.”

Josh: “Really, I thought you were going to be mad at me.”

Mom: “Seriously, Josh, I just want to understand. It is totally cool.”

Josh: “Well, this is what has been going on…”

Yes, Josh needs direction and discipline. But first, he needs to know that there is a genuine concern for him as a person. Josh needs to be known and loved by parents who, in turn, are blown away by the love of God in their lives. There is much work to be done, but this must come first. This approach will allow you to become the refuge that Josh needs. Once this is established you can become the resource that he also needs.

Shepherd Press