Parenting Teens

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!

This post will be linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find a plethora of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays, as well as  Women Living Well.


15 thoughts on “Parenting Teens

  1. Thanks for the list, we have a 14 and a 10 year old, both girls, it is a joy to see the fruits of our labor paying off in their behavior. And, a grand reminder for when they are not exhibiting these “fruits”. lol

  2. Great post, Barbara. Lots for me digest as a young parent. I do like what you said about not to expect rebellion for your children when they turn teenagers. I seem to remember Elisabeth Elliot talking about the same concept. She said that “teenagers” was not a word in her world when she was growing up.

  3. Wise words! My oldest is graduating in May – and I have 2 almost 3 other teens. They are fun years – but launching them is just as hard as birthing them!

  4. These thoughts are so appreciated, Barbara — especially the assurance that the teen years don’t have to be dreaded. I’ve heard several comments lately to the effect that those years are always terrible! Thanks so much for a contrary point of view!

    I’ve been trying lately to do a better job of listening and giving my presence to the girls. You encourage me to continue on with that.

  5. Looking for my bookmark button to pull this up again in ten years. !??! What a great post. I appreciated it even now (with kids aged 4 1/2 and 2) because a.) people do talk about those years with dread and sometimes it’s very tempting to feel frightened of the road ahead and b.) because it seems like there is an awful lot we can do right now to build a good relationship with our children.

    Glad you decided to post!

  6. This is a great post! I have two teenagers right now, and I agree with everything you said. It is such a blessing to see them coming into their own. However, I do miss the times when I was the greatest person in their lives! 🙂

  7. Excellent post Barbara. I think the most important thing any adult can do when dealing with a child is to respect him/her. Listen to the child and engage in what s/he cares about. That’s the best way to make certain that the children listen to and engage in what they’re being taught.

  8. Excellent tips, Barbara! One of the hardest things I found was letting them make mistakes. But then being there for them when they needed you. I have a huge tendency to try and “fix” things or to have hard things avoided altogether but they need to learn those lessons too.

  9. Awesome advice Barbara! I’m smiling at every paragraph!
    Yes, yes & yes!
    I’m a mom to 2 high school daughters and a son in college! I’ve LOVED every single stage of their lives!
    Just when I think it is the best season of life….God blesses me with an even better one (with them)!

    I love who they are, how they behave (most of the time) and the way they love Christ. I feel privileged to be their mom. It fills my tank when I meet someone who knows my kids and they compliment one of them! I feel so proud and thankful that I invested into their lives. Now I see the rewards of that obedience!

  10. My son is only 6, but having once BEEN a teenager, I think this is great advice! Your points about expectations are very important. Related to that, I think it’s also important not to complain about your teen or teens in general when they might hear you; if they feel you’re not appreciating their efforts to be reasonable, they won’t be motivated to keep trying.

    I recently wrote about still being there when they need you after reading an annoying magazine article in which a parent seemed to think his son should be fully independent already.

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