My daughter is a tween. You know, that age between 10 and 13. That age where I never really know what emotion I’m going to get from her at any given moment. Lately I find myself hesitating before I dare ask her to clean her room, pick up her clothes, or did she do her homework, not sure of the response I’ll get. Will it be the little girl in her that says, “Sure, but can you help me, please, please, please” with that sweet smile and puppy dog eyes. Or am I going to get the tween version of her; that deep breathed long sigh followed by the menacing, eyes narrowed and half-shut look that’s enough to put the makers of all those lame teeny bopper horror movies I used to watch to shame. How ridiculous they seem after facing the wrath of a 12-year-old girl. A not quite child, almost teen, daughter. If I’m honest with myself, I almost fear her. Not fear in that suspense movie, heart racing, “Oh, no” here come the bad guys kind of way, but more like in that, I’ve been eating really well and exercising a lot so dare I try on that smaller sized dress kind of way.
Let’s be honest, no matter how well you’ve raised them, or how sweet they were at one, five, eight years old, sometimes our kids have the ability to make a really good day, really, really, bad. And sometimes it’s really not their fault. At some point they reach an age when even they don’t know how they’re going to react from one moment to the next. I remember questioning my daughter about a particularly long, tense, emotional, day we’d had, and her replying to me, “I really have no idea why I acted that way. I wasn’t really angry, but I didn’t know how to stop being like that.” That really got my head spinning. One of the verses my husband and I repeatedly go to for guidance in bringing up our children is Ephesians 6: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”. How on earth were we to not provoke her to anger, when she didn’t know what would anger her, herself?
íDo not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord ý
As I decided to take some time to really pray and meditate on this, I began to think back on myself at that tween age time in my life. One of the things I remembered is that during that period of time I really had no idea how to express my emotions (and of course thinking I had no one to express them too. After all, what could my mother possibly know about being a kid.) A lot of times I couldn’t put into words that the fight I had with my BFF in 1st period is the reason why I failed my math test in 5th period. That must be why asking the question, “What’s wrong?”, in our home, always elicits that same dreadful answer: “I don’t know”. I’m sure any parent can relate to that one! That has to be the most frustrating, hair pulling, answer of all time! That’s when I realized that we may not be able to control the emotional outbursts that we were sure to get many more of, (if we could figure out how to do that, we’d be billionaires) but we could at least try to get her talking. The solution, for us, came in a book titled, “What Women Tell Me: Finding Freedom From The Secrets We Keep” by Anita Lustrea, and the nightly candle time between her and her son. We call it our Candlelight Prayers.
Every night, right around bedtime, ( Ah, bedtime. Yet another time that can bring on some serious angst and frustration), we turn off all the lights, sit in a circle around a candle, and we tell each other the best thing about our day, the worst thing about our day, and the things we are most grateful for. No opinions to be offered. No judgements to be made. We then pray for the person to our right, out loud, one at a time. Before blowing out the candle, we somehow always begin to talk…..it ALWAYS happens. At that moment we are ushered into the world of a tween. This is when we learn the most about our daughter’s day-to-day life: her friends, frenemies, pressures and hard-learned lessons in relationships with others. This is when we learn that the outburst of anger over having to set the table had more to do with not being invited to a particular slumber party than the setting of cutlery. It’s when we learn how to really pray for our daughter. It’s when we learn of her hopes, dreams, and fears. This is a sacred time. A time of peace and reflection. Nothing said during this time may be used against her when the candle is blown out. It is safe ground. It is holy. There’s something to be said about a candle and a journal that can soften even the heart of tween, and set the stage for the Holy Spirit to come and minister.
I encourage you to try a candlelight prayer session in your family. If nothing else, something about having to sit quietly and focus on someone else and praying out loud for the needs of others will go a long way in building a heart of empathy and selflessness in your tween. Please remember to write the date and the responses and/or prayer requests of each person in a special journal used only for these occasions. Every couple of months you can look back and see how the Lord has moved on your behalf. It will encourage your child to trust and draw closer with the Lord when they can actually see the works of his hands.
íTrain up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 ý
Jesus Loves You. This I Know.