Open This Heart and Let me In! by Jenny Watson

“Let me come in” “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.” Then I’ll….

How many times could this be a script of a parent trying to get into a teen’s heart? The question for us – what will we fill in at the end of that sentence. Then I’ll… do what? Our teens think they know what we will do, and they are usually right. We are so predictable.


The chapters from, The Backdoor to Your Teen’s Heart discussed in December at T-moms gave us some fresh ideas, some unpredictable responses to help us answer the big question, “What’s a mother to do?”


The answers given by the book seem very simple. Creating an environment where our teens have an adequate amount of downtime and creating a place where laughter and joy are commonly heard will soften the hearts of our teens. But, when we see our son playing video games for hours, or our daughters watching marathons of America’s Next Top Model our skin begins to crawl. We can’t help ourselves. You can predict what happens next, “You have been doing that for too long. Get up and do something.” What does that communicate to our children? How does that make them feel? What would happen if we walked up and said, “I’m so glad that you have been able to have some time to play videos, or watch this show? I know you love it.”


While you have to have a balance and can’t allow this all the time, the holidays are upon us, and can’t we allow a little spontaneous downtime especially if that softens our teen’s hearts and allows us access?


The chapter also gave some ideas for some planned, proactive downtime. One thing our kids needed was some time to stop thinking. When our kids were small we sent them to their rooms to think about their behavior. Looking back we realize that was a big waste if we didn’t direct them how to think. In the same way, we have to teach our teens how to stop thinking, how to control their thoughts so that they can free their minds to hear from God. Remember to practice the method we learned to stop and clear out our minds, and lest you think it is not necessary, read II Corinthians 10:5 “…take every thought captive to obey Christ.” What about Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, what ever is true, what ever is honorable, what ever is right, whatever is pure, what ever is lovely, what ever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Teach our children to take their thoughts captive and learn to change the thoughts they are dwelling on if necessary.


Another way for us to train our kids to have downtime is to encourage journaling. Looking back at what they have written in their journals helps them to gain perspective that doesn’t come naturally and helps them to clarify what they are really feeling, but some of our kids might want to sit down and write in a journal just about as much as they want to read a book about studying for the ACT. It seems more like work than downtime. One idea we tried was to lay out magazines on the table with journals, glue and scissors. Have everyone cut out pictures, words, colors, or phrases that they like and glue them in their journals. Use these “inspired ideas” pages and just comment in the journal as to why they liked a particular picture or what a certain quote inspired them to think about. They may cut out cartoons and comics that they think are funny. This is not a waste because as we learned in the next chapter of the book, laughter is a very necessary ingredient if we are cultivating an environment that will encourage our teens to open the door to their hearts.


Now this seems like an easy assignment. We must enjoy ourselves. There are times living with a sullen teen or one who thinks we are the dumbest person alive that could suck the joy right out of the room very quickly.


Their lack of joy is their problem right now, and we can’t make their problem our own. We must model happiness. We cannot make them the source of our happiness. They are not responsible for it. They have the right to think we aren’t funny, and we have the right to crack ourselves up and think we are hilarious.


Have fun without them if they won’t join in, and maybe sometimes don’t invite them to join. Play a game with your husband. When they were little, we orchestrated their activities, schedules and friends. We made sure they had happy times. They need to learn how to make themselves happy in the same way they learned to comfort themselves to sleep at night. Watch for the things that make them laugh spontaneously. Have those things in your home. If you would like more laughter in your home in 2012, then what can you do to nurture that into being? Buy a joke book. Write out a riddle in the morning and give the answer at dinner. Read three jokes and have everyone vote on which they think is the funniest. Play games. Laugh at your self when you do. Do embarrassing things. Take your family to a pottery place and make a coaster set with each person painting one coaster. Find a movie or TV show that you can watch that is funny.


Especially at this time of year, you can find knick-knacks that say, “Joy” or “Hope” or even “Laugh.” Put one in your home and keep it displayed year round.


Ecclesiastes 2:25 says, “For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?” If you are struggling with enjoying your life, with enjoying our God, it seems cliché, but keep a gratitude journal. Put a poster board with this verse on it inside your pantry door and have everyone write something they are thankful for on the poster before they can “eat” a snack. It will probably end up being a very funny poster.


Remember Psalm 126. The first two verses talk about great things God has done for His people which contributed to their happiness. The center verse states that presently the people are glad. The next verses speak to the future and give hope. Hope is crucial to enjoying a teenager. In order to be presently glad, or happy, we need to look at the faithful past and the hopeful future. This too will be funny one day.


Don’t wait until after the holidays to start enjoying yourself. Begin now. It’s a really fun assignment and may lead to some moments over this holiday time where you can go through the backdoor to your teen’s heart. You will say, “Let me come in” in a way where they don’t even recognize that you asked, and instead of, “not by the one scraggly hair that you just noticed is growing on my chinny-chin-chin” you may get some unexpected access!


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