A friend of mine, we’ll call her Mary, is a single parent, a business owner, and the mother of an angry teenage daughter. Naturally, she needs a place to vent, so we talk a lot about her situation. Lately the daughter, we’ll call her Jane, has decided she’s not that interested in school. She stays up late, says she feels sick, and if she does make it in to school, sleeps through most of her classes. They are engaged in a classic power struggle, and their relationship has deteriorated precipitously.
On a recent weekday evening, Jane and Mary were in the living room sort of watching TV, and Jane was on her cell phone with her boyfriend. The boyfriend is problematic; he has dropped out of high school, is living at home, and his mother has pretty much thrown up her hands in terms of trying to impose any structure on his life. He has become Jane’s support network when she is fighting with Mom, so naturally Mary sees him as the enemy.
Headed in the right direction?
Ancient writers believed that INSPIRATION was a state of being filled by Spirit so that one’s thoughts and actions were divinely guided. While our modern definitions tend to be more down to earth, inspiration is still a lofty concept. The Random House dictionary calls inspiration an “animating action or influence,” while the World Dictionary defines it as “stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc., to special or unusual activity or creativity.” So inspiration is more than something that makes us feel good, it is something that causes us to act in ways above and beyond our normal realm of activity.
How often we feel inspired has a lot to do with how often we seek inspiration. I find that most parents, teachers, and counselors I know expect the teenagers in their lives to act as if they were inspired, while they themselves rarely show any trace of this vivifying force. Many of us who wear our tension and anxiety in our furrowed brows and clenched jaws demand certain behaviors of teenagers without modeling any motivation in the supposed fruits of those behaviors. What they hear is “You need to work hard so you’ll get a good job, make lots of money, and be happy,” while what they see is “Life is a never ending series of frustrations and hardships that keep us too busy to possibly notice whether we’re happy or not.” Why in the world would they follow our edicts when the results we’re modeling look completely undesirable?
There’s a lot to be said for the concept of balance — it’s important to be aware of it in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us. Being in balance in your own life is a key to helping others recognize when they might be out of balance.
In working with teenagers and their families, I find that it’s easy for relationships to get unbalanced quickly, and without anyone recognizing their own part in the imbalance. One of the key ingredients is balancing acceptance and change. In other words, what parts of my life can I learn to accept, and what parts demand that I make changes?
I’ve been reading Ready or Not, Here Life Comes, by Dr. Mel Levine, and he articulated this concept of balanced relationships between teens and parents better than I’ve heard it anywhere else. He has a number of spectrums, I guess you’d call them, which provide clear guidelines for families to assess areas of their relationships which might be unbalanced. To see these, read on!