Some time ago I began jotting down some thoughts in regard to parenting teens as a possible post one day. It’s been incubating, because every time I think about posting it, I think I should wait because there will probably be more I’ll think of later. But this isn’t a book: it’s just a blog post, not meant to be exhaustive. So I thought I’d go ahead and share these thoughts.
Let me quick to say, though, that I am no expert, that neither my children nor their parents are perfect, and that there is room for differences of opinions in many areas. But as my boys are 26, 23, and 17 now, these are just some helpful things I’ve learned along the way.
- Don’t dread the teen years. A wise older mom once told me never to dread any stage, whether the “terrible twos” or the teens or anything in between. If you come into it with negative expectations, that will color everything about it.
- Don’t “expect” rebellion. Modern media makes teen rebellion sound like a given, and all you can do is hang on and hope for the best. They are journeying toward independence, and that will raise a difference of opinion sometimes, but that does not have to include rebellion and disrespect. .
- Don’t be afraid of their questions. For many this is a time when they begin to examine what they believe, and, hopefully, when they begin making the truths they have been taught their own rather than just following along parroting what they have heard. Though scary, this can be a good thing as they come out of it stronger and more fully convinced of what and Who they believe in. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have an answer for that now, but I’ll get back to you on it.” Josh McDowell has some good resources for some of these types of questions.
- Discipline in early years will carry over, but if you haven’t disciplined well til now, stop and have a frank discussion about how and why things need to change
- Give them opportunities to try various things, yet keep balanced so as not to over-pressure and over-schedule and have both the teen and his family running ragged. On the other hand, don’t keep pushing one area that you want your teen to excel in (living vicariously through them, perhaps?) if they’re not interested.
- Listen. Someone once said, “If you want your children to listen to you when they’re 15, you have to listen to them when they’re 5.” Listen without pouncing on things that need attention or things you disagree with. Listen without demeaning.Keep the lines of communication open.
- Let them begin to handle situations and make decisions so they can gain experience.
- Encourage service toward others, probably best done at first with you or with school or youth group.
- A lot of what makes for a good relationship with your teen is built on the relationship you’ve had when they were children. Those foundations of respect and discipline are so important.
- Don’t think they don’t need you as much. Their needs are different from when they were small, but they still need you.
- Stress that the Christian life is not just a set of dos and don’ts: let them see the relationship you have with Christ by how you talk about Him and to Him and acknowledge Him through the day.
If you have teens or remember something helpful from your own teen years that your parents did, please share!