The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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I spend a considerable amount of time playing video games, more than I probably should. The reason being is that they are very fun and enjoyable, much more than a movie or television show. As a result, I don't frequently hang out with my family during the evening, as I probably should. It's very hard to detach when everyone you know is online.

I just turned 16 this month, and I was about to go to my friend's house for a little party. I woke up this morning studying for my permit test tomorrow, and when my dad came home. He asked if I had cleaned my room, which I had no knowledge of being told to do so, and when I said no, he looked at my room and said I wasn't going to the party. This really upset me because I was looking forward to the party the whole week. I simply said "Cool" (because I wanted to get back at him and not let him get a reaction out of me). When he repeated what I said as a question, I said "I don't care" and walked out of the room.

Anyway, my mom came in later, and I was overwhelmed with emotions. I said some things I shouldn't have and everything went off topic. She kept on telling me how I have 'distorted thinking,' but when I talked to my friends about it, they all agreed with me that my parents were wrong in the situation, even when I presented both sides of the story.

Now my parents don't seem to want to talk to me, even the next day, and are a bit moody around me if anything. I feel lonely and depressed, more than I normally do. What should I do?


I think you'll agree that you didn't handle the situation well. Nor am I going to give credence to your friends, nice as they might be for agreeing with you. They are teenagers looking at the situation from a teenager's point of view.

We can't change the past, but let's learn from it a bit. When your dad asked if you cleaned your room, you would have been better off saying, "I didn't realize you wanted me to clean it." The simple answer of "no" was accurate, but it gave your dad no information about why. It is a natural human tendency to assume the worse, so your dad probably was left with the impression that you didn't clean your room on purpose. That is why he reacted so severely.

But you also hinted that this isn't the first conflict between you and him. You pretended that you didn't care because you wanted to get back at him. You also have the impression that your dad makes these demands to purposely get you upset. I don't know your dad, but these things don't ring true with me. Most parents think it is difficult enough to live in the same house with a moody teenager without going around trying to needle him into further moodiness. Since I know there is a phase in adolescence when teenagers have a very hard time reading other people's body language and facial expressions, my suspicion is that you took things as more severe than they really were. Your mother's statements are hints that I might not be so far off.

Now, this doesn't mean that your parents handled everything perfectly. I'm sure they've made several mistakes as well. But I'm limited to talking with you, which means we can only discuss your options in making things better.

I can't assume that your father didn't tell you that you needed to clean your room. I accept that you didn't know, but that could merely mean that you forgot because he told you this last week, that you didn't hear him, or that you were paying attention at the time. There are just too many possibilities.

Having your room straighten out isn't a bad thing. Sure, it takes effort when you would rather be doing other things, but one of these days you are going to be on your own and learning to maintain your own space is a good habit. Parents often resort to tying permission to do something fun with a chore because they've run out of ideas how to motivate their child to do basic chores without some type of threat.

"Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21).

It seems strange at times, but when you think someone is doing you wrong, the best response is to do something nice in return. Your pretending that you didn't care didn't work, so try something different -- try being extra nice. If nothing else, it will drive your parents bonkers. They'll think some space alien has taken the place of their son. Rather than sitting and moping, clean up your room while you mope. Then as an extra touch, vacuum out your dad's car or help your mom with the dishes after supper. It will give you something to do that will take your mind off your problems for a moment. It will make your living space a bit nicer. And it will stun your parents.

One of the things I've noticed is that you are smart and articulate -- you wrote extremely well for a 16 year old boy. But I can't help also noticing that you mention that you have done things that you know are probably not the best; yet, you continue. If you see something that isn't quite right, the smart thing to do is make some improvements.

You know you spend too much time on video games. Here is a simple suggestion: pick one night each week that is "family night" for you. It doesn't have to be the same night each week, but plan on a night spending time with the rest of your family. If you don't want to watch a movie with them, then in advance (so they don't have to change plans at the last minute), ask if you can play a board game, go for a hike, shoot hoops, or whatever it is that you enjoy doing with your mom or dad. Once a week ought to be manageable.

You said some things that you shouldn't have because you lost control of your emotions. That happens, especially when you are a teen. The best thing to do is just tell your mom: "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said those things." It doesn't have to be an elaborate production, but it will help ease the tensions in your house.

Getting along with people rarely just happens. Everyone involved has to put effort into the relationship. When there are small things that you can do that makes life better for others, your own life also improves. In the Bible you'll see the idea of "prudence." It means considering things in advance and thinking about their outcome. As a teenager, you begin to see the need for it, but your mind literally doesn't function well in that direction. However, it is important to start practicing. "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished" (Proverbs 22:3). Head off problems by doing something about them before they get out of hand.