Hey, I’m a youth pastor. And I think God cares about every part of our lives. But sometimes, teenagers act like teenagers for no rhyme or reason. No super-spiritual reason, anyway. Here are three non-religious reasons you sometimes confuse your kid for a crazy person:
1. They Are a Gushing Fountain of Hormones
It’s no secret that adolescents grow a lot during the Junior High and High School years. The average teenage boy gains about 100 pounds between the ages of 13 and 18 and grows a foot and a half, too. Young ladies put on about 75 pounds during that same timeframe, and grow eight or nine inches. Hair starts growing in places they didn’t used to have hair, and it’s all a pretty nightmarish scenario, when you think about it.
While you may know that hormones are rushing through your student’s body, causing a lot of change, did you know that those same hormones order your child’s thoughts and behavior?
In a great study out of Michigan State University, a couple of doctors trace this connection. It’s kind of long, but if you’re into that kind of thing you can read it all right here:
The bottom line is this: Chemically speaking, the stuff going on in your kids head makes them anxious sometimes. It makes the flighty sometimes. It makes them foolish sometimes. And it makes them confused sometimes. This isn’t news, but it’s important to keep it in mind. If you eat a ton of sugar, you’re going to get a buzz. If you’re fifteen, you sometimes act irresponsibly and cry for no reason. It’s just part of the deal.
Take away: You were like that, too. Be patient. They won’t cry when you ask them to clean off their own dishes.
2. They Eat and Drink Ridiculous Amounts of Garbage
Speaking of eating a ton of sugar, teenagers act pretty ridiculous sometimes because they pound giant cans of energy drinks in amounts that effect the normal person’s ability to function in a sensical manner. The top ten side effects of drinking too much of these sugary, caffeine-laden drinks are (in order of least reported to most):
- Heart Palpitations
- Stomach aches
- Chest pains
- Tingling of the skin
- Respiratory Distress
When I say drinking “too much,” I mean more than the recommended serving. Though many of the drinks are not regulated, most physicians would limit consumers to one energy drink per day. I know students who will slam three in a van ride.
And that’s just the energy drinks. That doesn’t count the bags of chips and the sugary cereals and the lack of vegetables and proteins and other stuff they need. So when they start acting like a freak show, hand them a head of lettuce and lock them in their room. Tell them they can come out when the lettuce is all gone, and then go on about your day.
Take away: Your kid needs a Monster like I need thicker eyebrows. Shove some asparagus down their throat and don’t let them Trick-or-Treat again until they’re in their 20s.
3. They Are Stressed Out and Running on Fumes
I remember when I was a teenager. My memories are pleasant. Good times, seriously.
As I write this, I’m at a camp with high schoolers. The other night we were talking about life. You know what words they used to describe life?
When I was 15, I’m pretty sure I had the best life ever. Sure, I had a lot going on, but I enjoyed it. My parents were supportive. They were appropriately stern, but loosened the reigns as I got older. They set expectations, but let me become who I was, not who they wanted to be. I never once went home and said, “Mom, I’m so stressed!”
It is startling to me that most kids live their lives not just afraid of what their peers will think, but also afraid of what their parents will think. It’s like if they can’t earn you that bumper sticker for honor roll or that varsity letter for sports or that scholarship for college or that salary that exceeds yours when they’re an adult that they’ve failed you somehow.
They’ve got mandatory projects and mandatory practices and mandatory this and mandatory that. They don’t have any space to breath or think or create or just be, and then we wonder why they jump into fantasy land on their XBox or their phone every time they get the chance.
The reality for kids is that they are stressed out, don’t sleep enough, run around like chickens with their heads cut off, and do their best not to hack off anyone too much. That goes for pretty much every adult in their life.
This isn’t a beat-up-the-parents post. I’m a dad. I get it. We want what’s best for our kids. But let’s not forget a key part of that equation:
They are kids.
And when they behave in a less than exemplary manner, it may be that they are just blowing off some steam. All I’m saying is before you lay the hammer down, realize you may have had a hand in the build-up of the steam to begin with.
Take away: Your teenager has the rest of their life to work, be responsible, stress out, and try to please their boss. Cut them some slack and help them discover what they truly love. Then give them permission to quit some of the other stuff.
Look, I’m a Christian. I’m a pastor. But I haven’t quoted one passage of Scripture here. This isn’t a faith issue–it’s a common sense issue. Kids act like kids for lots of reasons, and not all of them are super-spiritual. It may just be that they are chemically going haywire that day. So be patient. Or they might have a fire hose full of Five Hour Energy coursing through their veins. Hand them an orange. Or maybe they’re just sick and tired of being sick and tired. Step up and help them decide what to not do or not try so hard at.
They won’t always be fourteen, but they are now.
Let’s give them a break and let them be.