How Old Are You – 12?

by Amanda Box

Research shows that during conflict, people revert to their behavior from about age 12—sad, but true. Since I happen to have a 12-year-old daughter, I have an up-close-and-personal daily view of what this looks like. It’s not pretty. It’s all about the win/lose, deserve/earn with her. I most definitely have my work cut out for me with this little fighter.

Just today, I took my daughter to the orthodontist to get braces. On the way home, she called her friend, who also recently acquired braces, and they were comparing notes. After their conversation, my daughter kept talking about winning and not backing down. Huh? What is she talking about? How do you win braces, back down from what? She clarified that her definition of winning is being tougher than her friend and refusing to let braces affect any and all activities. Apparently, her friend took a day off after getting braces. While I applaud the grit, I cannot condone the braces smack talk.

Me: “You know you don’t actually win a trophy with this situation, right? There is nothing to actually win.”
Daughter: “I know, but it makes me tougher than she is.”
Me: “That might be true, but the way you are talking right now mainly makes you more obnoxious. That’s not a good contest to win.”

Another situation with my daughter involves kids at school. In her words, they are quite bratty and annoying. Since the teacher refuses to move her, she’s stuck and impressively committed to being bitter about it. SIGH. In true 12-year-old form, she has successfully returned alllll the bratty and annoying. You know this twisted version of the Golden Rule: treat others as you have been treated.

Me: “You know that’s only going to make it worse, right? That kind of behavior only invites more annoying and bratty behavior. Why don’t you make friends with these people? You should give them some gum or something.” The look on her face was one of sheer disgust, revulsion, and disbelief of such a hideous suggestion.
Daughter: “Mom, they don’t deserve gum.”

Like I said, I have my work cut out for me with this one.

Scene change.

I was at a baseball game when I became aware of an angry exchange on my row between four adults. The gestures were agitated, the volume was getting louder, and the language was getting bad. I heard the word fight multiple times and everyone around me was increasingly uncomfortable. I happen to spend a big chunk of life at baseball games and I’ve never been so close to a situation like this. Things were escalating and headed toward something much worse than a few cuss words. Someone on my row was getting up, so I asked them to send security. However, security wasn’t too speedy and no one was backing down. I was so worried that fists were about to fly that I moved down a couple of chairs towards the angry fans. I invited two of the guys to simply move a few feet over to some empty chairs. They pretty much had the same look that my daughter had when I suggested taking the bratty kids some gum: disgust and disbelief at such a heinous suggestion. I pointed out three super close spots where they could move and watch the game in peace. Like my daughter, the loudest guy was super committed to being bitter. He said, “If we move, then the man-child wins.”

Ahhhhhh, the truth. You don’t want resolution; you want to win. I said, “Nobody is winning this one.” I wish I would have said, “The only scoreboard I see is for the actual players.” Sadly, that brilliant comeback didn’t come to me until much later. The good news is that all parties were quiet after that, and we at least had a tense truce until security came and escorted them out. In my defense, I thought security was going to just tell them to knock it off; I didn’t know they were going to get escorted out.

While we have these examples of 12-year-old behavior, only one of these people is 12. The actual 12-year-old is immature because she’s 12. Everyone involved at the baseball game was an adult. Yet, the behavior was still 12—win/lose, deserve/earn. These adults have jobs, pay taxes, drive cars, and drink alcohol.

This makes me reflect on past behaviors of my own; I’m certainly not proud of some of my own actions that were decidedly defensive and immature. Admittedly, it’s always easier to tell someone else what to do. What I’ve learned to do, though, is to be laser-focused on what I want to happen, instead of taking the win/lose bait. The bait always leads to a trap. Focusing on what I really want leads to an entirely different kind of conversation, and most likely a productive resolution.

If my daughter would focus on what she says she wants with the bratty kids, she would work on some diplomacy. If she was really concerned with showing grit through the soreness of braces, she wouldn’t even care what her friend did or did not do. If the guys at the baseball game really wanted to watch the game in peace, as they all claimed, they could easily have found a way to do that.

I continue to point to Jesus as one who wouldn’t be distracted by interpersonal winning and losing. Trophies do not exist for these wins, but the scars and bruises are real—and, sadly, long-lasting. Two of my favorite verses are from Luke 19:9-10, from the narrative of Zacchaeus, the height-challenged tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus in Jericho.

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short, he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

As Jesus went to eat with Zacchaeus, he was being criticized for being a dinner guest of a sinner—in fact, a despised “tax collector sinner.” Let’s pause and read verses 9-10 again. Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus was clear about his end-game goal: to seek and save the lost. Everything else was just win/lose bait. If we can pause, think about what we want to happen BEFORE we leap into the 12-year-old win/lose mindset, we will seek and save the lost too, my friends.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *