Adolescence – an exciting time of development

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Adolescence

Most parents of teenagers find this a difficult and trying time. It is often experienced as an emotional roller-coaster ride and a clash of wills. But when properly understood it is an exciting time of development.

When babies arrive they are helpless and need constant attention. With our toddlers and children we are constantly telling them what do and how to behave but the moment they reach adolescence our parenting role needs to change.

Adolescence is that difficult time of transformation from child to adult. The parenting role changes from ‘dictator’ to trainer and coach. The skills that they need to acquire for adulthood are quiet daunting and this takes place over a very short period.

  1. They need to learn how to postpone gratification.
  2. They need to learn not to do things on compulsive urges but consider the implication and consequences of their action.
  3. They need to develop a tolerance to frustration.
  4. They need to learn how to set and achieve goals without supervision.
  5. They need to learn how to disengage from a current activity in order to fulfill their responsibilities.
  6. They need to be competent, confident and responsible in their ability to meet the demands of life.
  7. They need to learn how to handle money to achieve goals.
  8. They need to learn how to create and maintain healthy relationships outside the family.

Because there are so many physiological, neurological and hormonal changes taking place during this time, the adolescent life is one of turmoil and chaos. Much of their emotions may be internalised, which is not always beneficial. Sometimes it erupts with vengeance or demonstrated through unhealthy behaviour.

Part of their development at this time is to challenge authority, norms and structures. They need to learn how to argue constructively and determine for themselves what is valid. They need to experiment, make mistakes and learn to accept consequences. This all needs to happen within a stable support structure that sensibly limits the risks.

For parents this task may seem overwhelming but with a good understanding of how to apply limits of personal responsibility and why they are behaving the way they do, life can make more sense.

What does it mean to be adult?

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ADULTHOOD

In my last blog I was talking about maturity. I said that maturity includes adulthood. So what is adulthood and what does it look like?

We all know that when we are in our 20’s we are adults but this does not necessarily mean that we are able to take on the full mantle of responsibility or authority of that role. Adulthood goes beyond being a certain age.

The mantle of adulthood will include the following:

  • Being in control of our lives including our emotional and mental faculties
  • The ability to define our own particular role and execute that role with reasonable efficiency
  • Being able to exercise control over our lives – e.g. knowing when to stop drinking or in the appropriate circumstances, saying no to alcohol
  • It will include a host of skills – like buying groceries, cooking, driving or running a financial budget, all depending on our currently defined role
  • We should be able to influence others positively within our area of influence like our children, friends or colleagues
  • We should be able to submit and obey those authorities over us without internal conflict, perverse or rebellious behaviour.

But the most important feature of an adult is the ability to form a good, positive, healthy, loving and lasting relationship. This type of adult relationship goes beyond what we can get out of it and what suits me. This loving bond carries the concern for another’s well being as a prime importance. This adult relationship includes the ability to work through difference, stand and support each other in difficult situations and in hard times. This is the ultimate goal of being an adult.

The ability to form a life long relationship is a beautiful gift that is often overlooked. An adult life-long loving relationship should be nurtured, cherished and protected with all of our being.

 

WHAT IS MATURITY?

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MATURITY

When we are born we have no dominion or authority. Everything is done for us and we are told what to do. More importantly, we have no skills to live life. Maturity is the task of learning to take on responsibility and authority for our lives in an adult manner.

It is without question that God wants us to mature, but what is maturity and what does it look like?

Maturity, authority, responsibility and adulthood all go hand in hand. One cannot have the one without the other.

Some of the aspects of maturity are:

  • Taking responsibility for how we respond emotionally.
  • Taking responsibility for our actions.
  • Understanding how our actions could impact and affect those around us and our environment.
  • Thinking through the consequences of our actions and then making the correct choices.
  • Knowing what we are responsible for and what we are not responsible for.
  • Being able to implement a course of action in a manner that does not infringe upon the rights of other people.

Our task in life is to develop towards maturity. This can only happen when we examine those areas where we lack maturity. Once we have identified where we still need to mature, we can begin developing that area. We need to take responsibility for our own development. It cannot be done for us – we have to do it.

Here are some keys to developing maturity:

  • Recognise the role we must play in our area of authority.
  • Understand what we are responsible for and what we are not responsible for.
  • Being honest with ourselves in recognising those areas where we are not fulfilling our role.
  • Seeking to equip ourselves with the necessary life skills to fulfill our role.
  • Seeking outside help and assistance in learning new life skills.
  • Finding someone who will hold us accountable, while at the same time not condemning nor judging us.

Lastly, we must not be too hard on ourselves. We are in a constant state of development, learning and acquiring new life skills. We all have to start somewhere. We all are going to make mistakes – this is how we learn.

Think of mistakes as stepping-stones of how not to do something, so that the next time we are more equipped to achieve our goal.

Knowing what we are responsible for

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Knowing what we are responsible for and what we are not responsible for is vital to be able to live life successfully. If we don’t know these boundaries we are in serious trouble. We call this our limit of personal responsibility.

Imagine we own a plot of ground. The boundaries of that ground are where our responsibility ends. We are only responsible for what lies inside the boundary.

So if we were mowing the lawn we would only mow the grass up to the boundary. If someone violated our boundary, by throwing their rubbish onto our plot of ground, we would become annoyed.

In life these boundaries may often become confused as in the example of trying to keep someone happy. We cannot keep another person happy. Their response to our actions is their responsibility. We are only responsible for doing the correct thing. While we are trying to keep others happy we are unable to make a good or a Godly decision.

Likewise, when people invade our boundaries by telling us what to do or how to behave, we become cross. As adults, we must take responsibility for our own behaviour. If we forget to pay a parking fine we cannot blame other people. Other people may advise us but they should not force or manipulate us.

Lastly, we should not take other people’s responsibility away by covering up for them. For example, we should not pay their parking fine if they are being irresponsible. They will never learn to take responsibility if we won’t allow them to suffer the consequences of their actions.

Most boundary problems begin within family relationships where emotional manipulation can feature strongly. When these boundaries become confused we are not able to live the life we were created to live.

Even God applies this principal. It was His responsibility to provide a way of salvation and a manual with the principals to live by. It is our responsibility to accept that salvation and to learn how to live life. God is not going to take that responsibility from us.

Discouragement

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We become discouraged when a desired result is deferred or when we are unable to achieve a goal. The desired result may vary from a heath issues to just plain living life. It can be in the area of work, study or relationships. Discouragement is different from hopelessness or depression – it is that sense of ‘I am getting nowhere fast’.

The dictionary describes discouragement as a loss of confidence and enthusiasm. What is interesting is that within the word ‘discouragement’ is the word ‘courage’. The word ‘courage’ is defined as the ability to do something regardless of the danger to self. It is acting on our beliefs despite the opposition or hardship we may encounter.

Here lies the key: if we can keep our hearts, our minds and eyes fixed upon the goal, regardless of the opposition, we will be able to persevere. With this attitude there is a disregard for personal comfort; it is not about me, it is about the goal I want to achieve and the belief that I can achieve it.

So when we are feeling discouraged what should we do? How can we restore confidence and enthusiasm?

  • Form a picture in your mind of what life will be like when you have achieved your goal
  • Draw upon the success of what you have already achieve
  • Understand that we only learn by mistakes; only by knowing what not to do, do we know what to do
  • Treat each ‘mistake’ as a stepping stone to success
  • Become inspired by reading the stories of others who have preserved under difficult circumstances
  • Draw on the strength of Father God; get His perspective by drawing close to Him
  • Draw on people around you who are encouraging, supportive, confident and full of hope.

    Ultimately, it is hope and faith that will overcome discouragement.

    What is God’s part and what is my part?

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    What is God’s part and what is my part in living life?

    I was reading an article in a Christian magazine, which said, “If you commit your problem to God, He will sort it out for you”. As I pondered that statement I began to realise that is not entirely true. There is a part we need to play and then there is God’s part.

    Here on earth we have been given a free will. We can choose and God will not interfere with that choice. Secondly we have an intelligent brain, which God intended us to use. We are intelligent enough to work it out that we cannot out-think God. We are intelligent enough for us to realise that He actually knows what is best for us. We must use our intelligence to reason that if we don’t do it God’s way then we could suffer the consequences.

    So the question is, what is God’s part and what is our part?

    Our part:       we need to enquire from God what is the best solution to our problems.

    God’s part:       He will instruct us how to solve the problem.

    Our part:      we need to listen and follow His instructions, even if we would prefer not to.

    God’s part:      He will equip us with the power and courage to carry it out.

    It all looks deceptively simple but it is a bit more complex than that because:

    • We need to own our problems.
    • We cannot blame others.
    • We need to acknowledge we need God’s solution.
    • We need to confess, forgive and get rid of the resentment in the heart.

    If we commit our way to God, He will direct our path by showing and telling us what we must do.  But it is up to us to do it – that’s our part!

    Performance Base Living

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    Performance Base Living.

    From an early age we are taught that we need to do something to achieve a goal. We learn very quickly that we need to do our school work and study to pass our exam and so progress to the next level. If we do this well we get praise and recognition. When we don’t do well and fail to achieve a minimum requirement we are rebuked and criticized. This may often cause us to feel inferior. Unfortunately failure can lead to feelings of worthlessness. This experience heightens our expectation and fear of failing again. It now becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and confirmed when we don’t reach our and other people’s expectations.

    Because we all need to feel we are accepted by those around us, we will begin to strive to achieve the next goal. We may think, “Maybe if I achieve this goal, I will be recognized and accepted. Maybe even loved.” The problem is that there is always another goal. We are now into performance based living.

    In itself, having goal and achieving them is not wrong, but it becomes a problem when we seek to find our identity in our achievements. We should never derive our value from our achievements but from who we are. Likewise our value as a person should not be determine by what we have not achieved. We are all unique and have distinctive talents. Because we have not yet discovered what that talent is should not undermine our value of ourselves.

    So who are we? As a person, we are spirit and soul expressing ourselves in a physical body. We are completely unique, one of a kind and therefore extremely precious. If God were to lose me He would lose the only one He ever created. I cannot be replaced.

    We have the ability to express ourselves uniquely in many ways that no one else can. We have the wonderful privilege of a free will and the ability to choose. And we can choose our attitude in any given situation. Even when we may be limited physically, be through misfortune or by others, our soul and spirit can still be free[1].

    Because we are trapped in a time-space continuum it is often very difficult to get a correct value of who we are, especially when our beliefs and thoughts are distorted by world opinion. To get a true value of who we are we need to adopt the value of the One who created us.


    [1] The author acknowledges the fact that there are people who have mental and spiritual impediments – this article as aim at encouraging those who are not impeded in that way.

    I am not good enough!

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    Performance base living:

    One of our greatest human needs is to be accepted. If we do not feel accepted or think of ourselves as unacceptable then we will do stuff to achieve it.  When we try to get this acceptance in the wrong place or in the wrong manner, we are on a slippery downhill slope of performance.

    Often this feeling of, ‘I am not good enough’ begins in childhood. A child experiences emotion but is often unable to understand the cause or able to process it correctly. For example, what is intended as encouragement by a parent may often be interpreted as ‘No matter how hard I try, it is never good enough’. In many cases this may be a reality where we had a demanding parent or grew up in a dysfunctional home.

    When we feel not accepted we try harder. When we manage to reach the ‘target’, we find that the bar is raised and we are still not accepted. So we just try harder and harder until eventually we get to a place of hopelessness. We are worn out, exhausted and depressed. We may try to find comfort in substances or by treating ourselves, which in time may cause us more problems.

    The reverse may also apply where we cannot accept another person unless they meet ‘our standards’. This in essence is a pre-determined and expected level of behaviour. Unfortunately when our expected level of behaviour of people is not met, we become critical and judgemental.

    So how do we get out of this destructive way of thinking ‘I am not good enough’? The first step is to realise that we have formed the value of ourselves from another person’s point of view and that their opinion of us may not be valid. Everybody is different and will see things differently. We need to realise that it is impossible to please everybody. We need to realise that other people are not perfect.

    We also need to re-establish the value of ourselves from the one who created us. This may not be easy on our own but with the help of non-judgemental counsellors or therapists we are able to become who we were created to be.

    Hearing God’s voice

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    Hearing God’s voice.

    To many people, the idea that God wants to talk to us is preposterous. We may think that if  God were to speak to us, it would be in the form of a rebuke. We may also expect God’s voice to be something like a public address system.  Unfortunately none of the above is true.

    The first step to hearing God’s voice is to realise that He wants to talk to us. It is an amazing revelation when we eventually understand that God is not ‘mad’ at us, that He understands our difficulties, our pain and our weaknesses. He also knows we are unable to succeed without help and He wants to be the one who helps us.

    Once we are comfortable with the above we can begin to learn how to hear His voice. We also need to have the desire to hear Him and understand we can hear His voice.

    So what does His voice sound like?

    We have only one brain and one mind. Think of it this way: I say to you, ‘the sky is blue’ and ask you to repeat it back to me. The sound of my voice goes via your ear into your brain, then you process it with your mind and can choose to repeat it. God speaks via our spirit into our mind where we can process it. It is then our choice either to say it or write it down.

    The Bible describes His voice like a gentle whisper. It is soft, quiet, something like a spontaneous thought. It is definitely not a voice in our head – with which some of us may identify. It is that spontaneous thought that comes into our mind that we need to catch hold of. We may be doing something and suddenly we have a thought that is totally unrelated. Most times we tend to dismiss it, as it is contrary to what we are doing at the time. This is usually God speaking into our mind.

    At first we often miss it but as we begin to attune ourselves, we begin to catch His voice. Here is a suggested method that may help.

    Set yourself aside in a quiet place where you will not be distracted or disturbed. Make sure all phones are off. On a piece of paper write a letter address to God. It can be any subject you like but by way of suggestion, write about your love or how you perceive Him. Close your eyes for a moment and ask Him to speak to you. Now, write down the spontaneous thoughts that flow through your mind. Don’t try to analyse it – just write. When finished you can read what you have written down.

    You should compare the tone of your writing against the following criteria: does to bring a feeling of peace and freedom? Does it encourage, strengthen and build you up? If is does, then it is God speaking to you. Your writing should follow the guiding principles of the Bible. If you are still not sure, why not ask someone whom you trust, to read it and give their opinion.

    Hearing God’s voice is a little like riding a bicycle. First you see someone one doing it and think to yourself, ‘I would like to try that’. So you give it a try. In the beginning you wobble a lot. You may have a few crashes but very quickly you get the hang of it and then it is a whole lot of fun.

    What is forgiveness?

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    What is forgiveness?

    We know about the concept of forgiveness but what is it exactly? Simply saying, “I forgive you” is not enough, since this does not change the hurt or the resentment we feel.

    Forgiveness is the understanding that people don’t realise how their actions and words hurt us. If they could fully comprehend the consequences and were fully able to engage in our pain, they would have acted differently. If they had had God’s love and truth as their foundation then they would not have done those things.

    The problem is that we feel that they should have known better. When we harbour resentment, grudges, hurts and feelings of ‘you owe me’, we are trapped. It is us who suffer.

    Forgiveness does not depend upon the person that hurt us. Forgiveness has everything to do with the hurt we are experiencing and being set free from that pain.

    Forgiveness has nothing to do with ‘who has done what’ and who is right and who is wrong. Forgiveness is all about us and not about the person we are forgiving. It is about letting go of the wrong and the need for justice so that we can be free.

    Forgiveness does not mean that a person’s wrong actions or behaviour is acceptable. It does not mean that we should allow wrong to continue. On the contrary, we should take positive steps and action but without the need for revenge.

    Forgiveness does not imply that we need to become friends with the person that hurt us. We cannot be at peace with another person while they are unrepentant.

    There is a big difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Reconciliation requires an action from both parties whereas forgiveness is all about us.

    True forgiveness will change our attitudes and emotional responses. Our life will become more pleasant. In all honesty, unforgiveness is not a viable option.

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