Parenting Teens 2: Worldview and Struggle

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When we try and develop our skill at a sport, our success is dependent upon our ability to train our bodies to hold the correct position while performing. Body position is essential in every sport. As we are learning sport, we tend to assume that our bodies are doing things correctly until a coach or observer comes and critiques movement and its function. After some practice, our bodies eventually hold their shape without thinking. This post will be my attempt to tweak a position of which you may not be aware.

This metaphor is also true with parenting. It’s really easy to over-appraise our ability as parents, because we are deeply committed to the philosophical assumptions which influence our parenting. We are quick to (emotionally) dismiss alternative philosophical approaches. Please consider this as you work through this content. Feel free to completely disagree based on your knowledge of your teens and your environment. Please do not receive any suggested changes to your “position” as required or as promising an outcome. If I illuminate something that you missed, please know that I understand that we don’t make mistakes intentionally, each child is different, and we are all doing what we believe is the best we can with what we have. The goal here is to find a tweak or two which can deepen our relationships with our teens, and invite more healing.

  1. Evaluating Our Worldview

Every parenting decision comes from a person whom has formed their worldview from within their own experience, understanding, intelligence, emotional health, and spiritual grounding. It’s common knowledge that parents who lack self awareness and skill usually produce children who lack self-awareness and skill. Whether we are aware of it or not, parents are constantly giving our children a framework to understand the world, in fact, a parent’s main job is to prepare their children to successfully live in the world.

If we give our children a deficient worldview, they will face more struggle and suffering as they try and make sense of it. Suppose a parent is fearful of the world and their experience is that the world is hostile, cutthroat, and cruel… or that the world is declining and hopeless (redshift cosmology). The focus on preparing your teen to enter the world will be based on an entirely different set of priorities than those who are taught the world is beautiful, exciting, full of opportunity, and many joys (blueshift cosmology). As parents, we must pause and ask if we have accurately represented the world and thus prepared our teens appropriately. Where and how we live will have a huge influence on this. This is because parents are not solely responsible for the worldview. The microcosms of our communities, environments, education, politics, and economics all serve to either reinforce or erode what we teach our kids.

2. The Toxic Cosmology

I need to say something which may come across shocking in order to wake you up. Any worldview that is derived entirely from present observations of the world will inevitably be toxic. The best of intentions have only perpetuated worldviews which expand pain and suffering. Any worldview that comprises the tribes “one side” is far too small and ultimately toxic to the world and your teen. Thus when a teen outgrows the tribal boundaries, he or she may push strongly against it, questioning it, and will ultimately be required to deny or rebel against the reality the tribe has given them. Technology has dramatically enlarged worldviews and as a result, younger generations are no longer held captive to the same frameworks of their parents. It’s a huge source of tension and confusion. It’s important to ask: Have I provided a world that is too small? A toxic worldview creates a toxic sense of self because our identity is derived in part by how we understand the world and our relationship to it.

Once a parent sees this, healing becomes possible. The greatest source of disunity is when a parent forces the teen into a worldview they are expanding beyond. Like cramming a plant into a pot which is far too small, the disunity is a teen in “root stress”. A parents observations of the world are actually just their opinions about their experience of it. While true for the parent, the teens often realize that it isn’t all that is true and this creates a “double life” or competing realities. If left only to the parents perspective/opinion, the worldview given will always be too small and thus toxic to life.

3. The True Cosmology

Upfront, I want to let you know my underlying premise is that nothing shapes our worldview or our grasp of truth more than our spirituality. I’m not referring to a person’s religion, although that is the most common framework for spirituality. Whereas not everyone subscribes to a religion, everyone possesses a spirituality. Teenage problems occur when their spirituality is either stifled by fundamental religion, or when spirituality is neglected or diminished by parents seeking to avoid religion. The path to healing that I will offer is the restoration of a healthy spirituality . If you do not value a spiritual worldview (which I derive from Scripture not religion) then you are not ready for this content.

Parents, if your are staying with me, I want you to think about your teens most prominent problems. Are they lazy and unmotivated? Are they addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex or the party life of escapism. Are they withdrawn and disconnected? Are they angry or even violent? Do they only want to follow their consumption appetites for sleep, junk food, leisure or pleasure? Do they lack appreciation for how good they have it? Nothing has a greater impact over all these areas than a persons grasp of the world and themselves in it. Parents often assemble a version of the world out of small, disintegrated pieces, and the self formed within that world will also be fragmented.

Healing requires the integration of each child’s fragmented worldview. That’s what being a teen is about. It’s about figuring out how to make sense of the world. This requires that parents have an integrated worldview and have undergone their own healing, and most have not. This is why many parents ignore this advice and continue to contribute to their child’s and our world’s suffering. We can either transform or transmit our pain, and transmitting requires nothing from us.

If your teen is struggling, evaluate the world you gave them, because they are forming a disintegrated self.

So how does a parent integrate their teen’s worldview? You see, the worldview given to us by the “World” is horribly deficient, scripture calls it darkness, but it is the default mode into which most parents are trying to prepare their kids for entry. Parent’s are aware of the severity of our world. It will chew us up and spit us out. It can be a source of fear for parents and teens. As a result, parents usually focus on equipping teens to become economically self supporting. This starts with pressure for good grades, higher education, and trying to avoid pitfalls like getting pregnant or addicted or hanging out with losers. Sound familiar? None of this seems very spiritual, but it actually is if we uncover the worldview behind all of these assumptions.

Can you see the fragmentation? Can you see that focusing on the “important” things in life is training a value system into our teens? Can you see that this approach is “outside-in?” It’s essentially a religion being hoisted upon them. It’s a worldview. Parents who have moved out of religious fundamentalism are usually blind to the fact that they blindly embraced the religious fundamentalism of a toxic and darkened world. Everyone is a religious fanatic, unless….

Integration through spiritual healing is coming to know the Truth from the inside-out. Instead of pressuring teens about many things in the world like homework, housework, politics, and jobs, a parent’s primary job is to train their teens about one thing, which is to find spiritual True North from within. These are diametrically opposed worldviews: One is outside-in, behavior modification pressure with bribes, manipulations, threats, and drama (religion). The other is the inside-out spiritual transformation with freedom and love (relationship).

My wife and I always taught our kids that: “How you do anything is how you do everything.” The darkened worldview is that the world is disconnected bunch of individual pieces. Trying to develop autonomous agency is the path of darkness, taught by the Prince of darkness. Behind this false assumption that some things are “not important” if they don’t empower our autonomous agency. It puts our teens on the throne of life. If as a parent, we reinforced over and over that some things are important on which we must do a good job, like homework or sports, but other things don’t matter, then how can we blame teens later for devaluing things we think are important? Is it not we parents who taught our teens this value system?

This is why we require a value system which is far bigger than each of us. It must be external and objective, not internal and subjective.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

“In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” (Ecclesiastes 11:6)

My wife and I trained our kids with this biblical view that everything is an integrated, interdependent whole of which they are a small but very important part. Everything they do creates a ripple in the pond. Self awareness, integration, are the byproducts of spiritual understanding and seeing oneself in the larger context of everything else. This is applied everyday in being able to see the one thing we must do well, not the many things we have to do some of which are worthwhile some of which are not.

A many things worldview is stressful and complicated, a one thing worldview is pure and easy to give oneself to. If our teen only want to do some things like video games or hang with friends, it’s because we have given them this value system. Until the parents are liberated from their darkened worldview, they cannot lead their teens to a better one.

Leading our youth from the inside-out is only possible if we are led from the inside-out. Parenting turns out NOT to be about preparing them for the world, but about helping them to “know who they are in God and their role in God’s world.” Once they see their true self transparently grounded in their Maker, the worldview which flows from that is easy, and unlike the worldview we get from the world or our limited observations, the one given by the Creator of it all is actually true.

Many parents never enjoy their teens because they struggle in futility to make sense of all the misleading parts and try to get them to do many things just as they do. Though sincere, parents mistakenly derive the worldview from their observations and experience instead of that of the world’s designer. This is proved out by the fact that parents only struggle teens who have adopted the worlds pseudonym and have not learned their true name. A teen who discovers who they are in their Maker, and learns to love what God has said, will quickly discover that the world meets and exceeds all expectations, and they will be equipped to go out and subdue it as intended. The rebellious teen that seeks to consume the world has adopted the worlds dark worldview and will suffer because of it, because the world simply doesn’t work that way. The world’s self is that self which only feeds on pain, frustration, and confusion, and satisfies itself with distraction, anesthesia, and avoidance.

There is healing and the potential for course correction. However, this will only take place once the true design of the world is understood and applied. Every bit of struggle and pain can always be brought back to this watershed reality. Please consider what I’m offering, even if it seems very odd to you at first. If you need help, please feel free to reach out.