1. New Independence
Luke 2: 41-52: Jesus was 12. He had started to be more independent. He needed to assert himself. He was turning into a young man. This is typical of what happens at this stage. Our children are suddenly growing up. They do not hang around us all the time any more. For a mother this can be a scary time. We want to keep them close and protect them. We can resent this newfound independence. This is a healthy phase of their development though, and something they have to go through in order to become young adults who can function on their own. It is fine and it is good. We should not get our feelings hurt or take things personally when our children pull away, question us, or ask “why.”
The Bible says in Ephesians 6:4 to not exasperate our children. This is the stage of life where mothers can nag a little too much. I know I have done that a lot and my children have pointed it out. Mary may not have reacted in the most peaceful and calm way. She sounds like a typical mother in this passage. Of course, we can’t hear her tone of voice as she challenged Jesus, but we can speculate…
2. You are Still in Charge
As much as our children want to break free at this age, we are still in charge. It is a tricky balance to strike. We cannot be overly controlling, yet we need to remain in charge. What we say goes. They may be growing, but they are still children. Mary could have asserted her authority in a calmer way. I find that the calmer I am, the more I am listened to.
There needs to be consequences for actions. Removing privileges works better now in terms of discipline. Try to pick something that will cost them. And then stick to your guns, no matter how much they complain!
3. A Time for Training
This is a very important training phase. This is the time to train our children to make good healthy choices. They need enough freedom to make those choices, but they also need the skills to be responsible. We need to train our children in advance to pre-empt bad choices. Too often, we wait until our children have made poor choices, and then we correct. This leads to a negative dynamic, which creates a lot of tension and resentment. Why not prepare them in advance instead and be honest and open about what they may face?
This includes talking openly about sexual issues. I am always amazed at how many parents wait until their children are in full puberty to consider even broaching the subject. By then it is too late! As we train, let us make sure we explain the “why” behind our expectations. I was raised by parents who were very strict and meant well, but they never explained “why”. It led to a lot of rebellion.
4. Keep Them Close to God
Pray with them. Pray for them, specifically, every day. Try not to give in to fear. Do not overprotect. Even though I can relate to Mary, I need to remember to trust in God. As I let my kids fly across the world on airplanes or travel on public transport by themselves in their pre-teen years, I often would wait with trepidation until their return. God always took care of them.
Let’s also trust God with our children’s studies. God needs to come first. As we train them at this most crucial phase of their life, we need to show them the right priorities. We need to make sure they have daily times with God, attend the meetings of the church, make time to build friendships, etc. School work and exams are important of course, but not ahead of God. That means having to sacrifice as parents to take them to church events, pre-teen meetings, etc, as they may be too young still to travel alone, especially at night. It’s worth it. Jesus’ parents took him to the meetings and he did well!
5. Lots of Encouragement
I will include this point in all the age groups. Empowering our children and giving them positive feedback is so important. It is especially important in this phase of their life. This is an insecure age. Their bodies are changing, weird things are happening, the world is attacking them, friends are telling them things, etc. We need to be their greatest fan! Tell them every day you love them. Praise their appearance, not in a worldly way, but reassuring them that God has created them beautiful and smart. Do NOT criticize their physical appearance! They are starting to look awkward, they may wear braces, acne makes it entry. They also often put on weight at this age. Stay clear of negative comments.
And remember to hug them long and hard, even if they stink a little!