I woke up one morning and realized I had three teenagers.
Where did the time go? Does this make me old? And what does old mean anyway?
In James 4:14, he reminds us that we are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. In the whole line of the human race, we are all but a fleeting shadow on the timeline – as it reads in Psalms.
Here are a few parenting helps, based from my experience with my six children, to consider, pray, use or just read about and keep in mind when raising your teens:
1. Teach teens to obey you because this is how they learn to obey God.
In Proverbs 1:8 we read, “Hear, my son, your fathers’ instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching for they are a graceful garland for your head and a pendants for your neck.” This simple verse is packed with meaning for today. The first tip I have is to follow this verse.
The word instruction in this verse is from a Hebrew word that actually suggests correction and warning – counsel. The father in the home is supposed to have the firm hand and lay down the rules in love, show where to draw the line, correcting in fairness.
The role of the mother in the home is different, and compliments that role of the father. The word in Proverbs that describes the mother’s is coaching and coaxing. It sure feels like I am doing a lot of that lately. I can’t discipline my children like I used to – time outs are so elementary. I have to change the way I coach them with each passing year.
As a mom, AKA coach, my children listen and want to obey. I’m their cheerleader, in their corner, helping them, giving tips. I’m allowing them to play the game without getting on the court, taking the ball away, and showing them how to do it better. I’m letting them practice as I coach them along.
If they get used to respecting, listening and hearing their coach (mom) they will appreciate the leadership and likewise depend on God for direction, correction, counsel, etc.
2. Train them in character by giving them variables and chances to test it out.
Remember when we messed up as teenagers? Assuming we all have…the times our character was tested and we failed.
If you don’t allow your kids to fail when they are around you, you will regret it later. No one is perfect – neither are teens. If they fail and mess up in front of you, then you are there to help them figure out how to do it better next time.
If they feel they ‘need’ to be perfect in front of you, chances are they won’t come to you first when something is wrong – and they may never tell you until after they have their own kids.
Anyone still have some closet secrets from their parents?
You can save them heartache yes, but you can also help mold them into the person God created them to be by being present and coaching through crisis.
3. Your kids think you are unfair – oh well, you are the parent.
God loves all His children so dearly. He gives each gifts according to His purposes. This doesn’t mean He gives gifts out equally. In the Bible He obviously gave certain people different gifts, talents, what seems a better way of life and so on, just to fulfill His purposes. Is that fair?
The answer…it doesn’t matter. It’s God’s choice. He knows things we don’t.
As parents we know things your kids don’t, some of which we can share with them, some of which we can’t, and some of which they won’t understand even if we did share it.
We may have not allowed the oldest child to stay out until midnight, but the younger siblings now can.
Not fair. Rightly so.
But as maturing parents we know more, we’ve been around the block more, we’ve experienced more and have a better handle on what kids at certain ages can or can’t do…
or we are just tired and don’t want to fight the battles so we let the younger ones have a little more freedom…
4. You don’t have to share your one plate with all your kids, God gives you more plates.
My pastor’s wife once told me that when she had 3 young daughters her plate was never full. This is because she said God gave her another plate.
People ask me all the time “How do you do it, with 6 kids and all?”
I joke and tell them I’m not sure I am ‘doing it’, but the real answer is. “God gave me more plates.”
Each teen requires a different requirement and quality of time. Some are more reserved and go through a stage that requires less talking, more sitting. They internally are figuring things out. So when a parent prods and intervenes when they aren’t ready, it disrupts their thoughts.
Another teen may want to talk right after school, while the reserved one will wait until the house is quiet – at bedtime.
Ask them how best to communicate with them. Ask what they are looking for, needing, how to best meet their needs, how best to serve them, what would be the best thing you as a parent could be or do for them this week, etc? It’s okay to be honest in asking.
One day your kids will appreciate you taking the energy and time to invest in how to meet their needs – they may just try to meet yours (once the stage has passed).
5. Don’t ever be jealous of other parents on how their children turn out – no one is done ‘turning out’.
We’ve got to know this by now – we aren’t perfect and the grass will always seem greener on the other side of someone else’s fence…so we need to get over it. If we can’t handle some of these issues, our kids will find us out and follow suit.
Teens aren’t dumb. The learn from us, regardless of how bad or good we demonstrate our character. They know things we don’t think they know.
We as adults are going to make mistakes in parenting, we just don’t like to admit it. The ‘parenting 101 guide book’ isn’t the first thing we are handed in the delivery room after giving birth.
However, there is so much practical guidance about training our kids in the Bible it’s not even funny.
The true way to combat jealousy is to connect with Christ. When we as adults build our character on the ROCK (the only standard by which we should live, one that’s never changing or moving) and listen we will lose sight of the less important things in life, like jealousy, and move our attention to what we can control, what we can help and what we can help fix.
We build our character by getting right with our Creator. Since we are not perfect adults we fail at things – as do our teenagers. Jesus is the only One to forgive our sins and make our insides clean and right. We must confess to Jesus. It’s the only way to truly be freed from jealousy and character incompetence. Christ should be the standard of measuring character development.
6. Connect with your kids every morning – no matter how small.
Those with teens know they can wake up late, scurry in the kitchen and grab some breakfast (or not) and head out the door with no more than a few grunts of verbal conversation..
It’s not that they aren’t communicating – they are. It’s just not the way you as an adult prefer it. Their non-verbal body langue probably said 100 words.
One of my daughters loves to talk in the mornings, about 5,000 more words than her brother, so this is the time I listen, even if she already told me the night prior. She had a night to sleep on it and wants to provide more details I guess.
A little side hug, a listening ear, a prepared breakfast, music in the background to lessen tension in the morning air, whatever the connection before they head off to school – we can make that connection. These touch points add up. Our teens depend on it as it provides stability and an avenue to see and feel love. When they need us, they know we will be there.
7. Respect and honor them and they will return the favor.
Kids are going to do stupid stuff. After all, we did as teens too. We desire privacy as we figure things out. We want to know we can have a place to escape, write our thoughts, tell a few secrets to friends and not have any adult know about it.
Parents must find a balance of interruption. If a teen is going through an internal spiritual crisis, questioning or an awakening, sometimes they don’t want to talk about it with their folks.
We have to trust that they will one day, but that it doesn’t always have to be us first. I like that my kids have other adults they can turn to besides me. It brings perspective and a new set of eye balls on the situation. I never want to sound like a resounding gong to my kids.
I cherish my adult friends who cherish my kids.
If your teen needs to separate from a good thing, like youth group, in order to get their mind and heart in the right place, do some soul searching or step back from the immediate to see how they fit in the bigger picture – it’s okay.
Respect their decision to step back from something – at the same time set parameters around it.
For example: If they don’t want to go to youth group and they aren’t telling you why, then make sure they go to church, set up a smaller bible study, or figure out other touch points with them on how to be spiritually refilling weekly.
Respect their soul searching and allow them time to process and question without a ‘speech’ or a direct talking to.
8. Don’t always save them! Allow them to fall down and then teach them humility and tough love.
Humility is a hard pill to swallow. No one wants to fail, then admit it, and then know they have to fix it – in front of others. It shows we have flaws, we aren’t perfect and we don’t have it all together.
WOW! That’s kind of nice – isn’t it? We don’t have to have it all together.
If we show our kids as adults we can fail at things, they won’t feel like they have to live up to something unattainable. But it really goes beyond showing them we fail, it comes to how we react when we do.
Are we blaming others, gossiping, posting things online, grumbling, being distant. Are we demonstrating positive character traits?
When, not if, your kids fail, help them instead of hinder them. Show them how to make things right instead of just disciplining and that no matter what, you love them.
9. Don’t keep slamming a round peg in a square hole.
I birthed 6 children in 6 years – and yes it was and still is a whirlwind. But one thing I have seen first hand is that even my twins are so very different and will not fit a mold I create for them.
Generally speaking siblings don’t like to eat the same things. Yes we can make them sit at the table util they try it, but it’s not cool to keep making the same foods over and over that they truly despise.
Of course we can use this as a disciplinary tool!
But seriously, there are usually other options to cook, right? (if you need ideas on dinners you’ll find them on my web site) If I keep making spaghetti on Mondays, and I know more than half my family hates it, I’m setting them up for failure.
It will be a bad dinnertime with lots of extra work because there will be left overs. Then, I’ll be fighting them off in the kitchen as they reach for crummy snacks to fill the void. There are other options. I could make lasagna or enchiladas instead.
All your teens to appeal. If a child has expressed their dislike for something, and it is in our power to change it without it really being a bog deal, it’s okay – help them out. Now, I refuse to make 2 different dinners. That won’t be happening. But, I can take their suggestion and accommodate when needed.
Of course you know this applies to almost anything…and it doesn’t always apply to every situation.
This is why in those smaller moments like dinner choices, teens will KNOW you respect their choices when you switch it up and honor a request. So, when they want to take the car somewhere where there is NO WAY you are going to let them, at least they know you do take their ideas in to consideration on some matters and they can’t say you NEVER do.
10. Be there for them when they are ready – not just when you are.
Sometimes I want to go to bed before my teens. Okay, pretty much all the time. But, this is when my son wants to talk the most. This means I need to be available otherwise I could miss my connection point with him.
I an catch a nap later. I can drink another cup of green tea in the afternoon for a pick me up, but I might not have a chance to talk to my son if I keep pushing it back.
Most boys don’t need mega amounts of time. It’s the quality that is desired. Plus, boys need to see mom when she’s at her best and worst, energized and super tired. It will hone their communication skills when they talk to females. This way they will know that women aren’t perfect and won’t fantasize about a girl who is.
11. Teach them how to truly ask for forgiveness
We can say sorry for a number of things. But sometimes it’s super shallow – and we all know it. Being forced to say sorry, when they really aren’t, is super de-duper superficial. It belittles the entire act of the apology.
A sister hits the brother, the brother hits her back. Who’s fault? It doesn’t matter honestly. They both hit (although the boy never should hit back – especially a teenager). They are also not sorry right at that moment, so making them say it isn’t teaching them anything.
Asking for forgiveness can go something like this.
I’m sorry for hitting you, I apologize, will you please forgive me?
Yes – it sounds better too. We don’t allow quick sorry’s.
12. Always come back to prayer – remind them to pray even when you are not around.
We have special occasions that we pray as a family. Some of which are in the car on the way to church, sickness, when others are having a really bad day, during Bible study times, before meals and bed and especially during a crisis.
Crisis in my family may look different than yours. In the eyes of a teen, forgetting a homework assignment on the kitchen table is a huge deal, but nothing my kids will pray over (except to not get in trouble).
Sometimes just having a bad day can lead to other stresses in life. This is a prime example of just being honest with your teen, and asking them if you can pray with them. The more you do this together, the more it won’t feel as uncomfortable.
If they see you praying for bad days, asking for God to lift your spirit, they will remember. They will know that praying isn’t just for mealtimes.
13. Allow them to experiment with their personal finances and then show them consequences if not handled well.
Some kids get allowance and others don’t. Doesn’t matter as long as they are learning how to be better stewards of their funds. Are they tithing, are they giving, are they buying things for others, are they saving…or are they just buying things for the immediate here and now?
I allowed one of my daughters to keep her gifted money instead of me usually holding on to it for her so she doesn’t spend it. Some of the kids were saving it for a plane ticket to visit family down south. I agreed, and she kept the money with her.
Things came up, little things here and there, and she soon realized she was down to little to nothing…not nearly enough for a ticket. So, she got to stay home, when her sisters went. It was tough love, but was a great example for my spend-a-thon daughter to wise up before her savings was gone on things that don’t amount to much.
14. Just be you.
When I was younger I would think to myself “how would so-and-so” parent in this situation. I was trying to parent my child the way I saw someone else parent. I thought this would work…was I wrong.
Every situation is different and so is every child – obviously. I do think it’s nice to think about how another parent would react and train their child, but I don’t think it wise to compare yourself to them.
God made you – you. We don’t hold all the answers, but look to God for them. Learn from mistakes, pray for wisdom, seek wise counsel and never be jealous or compare. Our kids don’t react the same way, so parenting them the exact same way may not be the best way to reach your teen.
15. Never stop tucking in your kids – even as teenagers.
Another connection point! Routinely we still ‘tuck in’ our kids, including the teenagers, at least as much as possible. We talk about our day and then pray. Honestly, they don’t always jump at the chance to pray.
I know, sounds so unbelievable – right? Ha.
Sometimes when things don’t go their way, they wonder where God is in all of it. This is a healthy reminder that God doesn’t exist to grant all our wishes. We are here for Him.
But when I do pray, I always tell them as I’m leaving the room, to pray by themselves to God and that it’s not my relationship with God that will save them – it has to be their own.
If this is the last thing going through their lips and ears before bedtime, then you have succeeded.
16. Make them continue with chores even if their activities, sports and homework keeps them up too late.
Time management isn’t learned by helping them take things off their plate. It’s honed by making them stick with their tasks and prioritizing.
One of my daughters is a true social butterfly and can’t wait to do the next thing with her friends. Before she runs out the door, shirts are flown and shorts strewn all over like she didn’t even clean her room 20 minutes prior.
In the rush with emotions of going out with friends, her internal prepping, getting-ready mode, was developing a habit of chaos.
We as parents decided to make her go back to her room, turn off electronics and tidy back up before she would head out the door. Even if that meant being late.
Yes she was mad. Yes she was embarrassed her friends had to wait. Yes this habit would eventually get kicked to the curb if she wanted any social life.
When they are in college, they will have no choice but to add more things to their plate, without being able to take them off simultaneously. And yes this applies as they blossom in to adulthood.
We are coaching up the next generation to be awesome adults, let’s not enable them to remain dependent…
17. We are all part of one family and there is no ‘me’ in the middle of it.
We have to remind our kids often enough that just because they want, or don’t want, to do something doesn’t mean they get that choice.
In any family regardless of the size, there are others in it. That’s what makes it a family. We all support, help and pitch in without selfishness.
Really – there is a family like this that exists?
Well, I’m sure there could be. We on the other hand are constantly reminding even ourselves, we are in this together and must all get priorities done before the “me” time can commence.
Plus, when things get wild and we take a second to slow things down, remind everyone there is no “I” in team, and that we need to pitch in as a family – it just goes so much faster and smoother.
18. Talk about sex, love, and inappropriate viewing often and at young ages.
Children are not just connected to the Internet – they are addicted to it – even by first grade. You betcha – FIRST GRADE.
We are super open when talking about sex and love. We remind them it is reserved for their spouse and it is the coolest most awesome thing ever, but that is should be experienced with one person – after they get married.
We are not naive that our community doesn’t see it this way.
We realize our children are going to see things on snap-chat or whatever the new social media outlet is, that will stick in their minds forever – like a video recorder. Even if they just look over the shoulder of someone else at school – it will happen.
Sex and love go together and a lot of the media content is sexual – and extremely glorified without the love component. Of course the media doesn’t fill in the blanks as to what the emotional implications are…no one wants to hear that – it would make them feel guilty and the rating of the show would plummet.
Teens don’t share their true feelings (after giving up their virginity – or their first baby) to the rest of the high school or college campus . They also don’t generally share with others that they were wrong and that they would take it back. In fact, they tell their friends they should try it too – all so they don’t feel guilty alone.
Misery wants a party.
19. If you ever see the eyes roll, immediately stop the show and correct it.
The big disrespectful eye roll. Never knew where that came from, but in our house it’s just like giving the middle finger – it doesn’t fly.
When we tell our kids to sit down when undergoing correction, and they do with a defiant eye roll, it’s basically telling us that their physical body may be sitting, but their insides are still standing.
So yes, we should just make them stand.
But the point it, we shouldn’t allow it to happen in the first place. If they did that to their teacher, boss, pastor, etc…well…
Maybe some people do this to other adults, but that is not how I train my kids. Oh, the eye rolls have taken center stage at our house, but it’s dealt with immediately. I’m sure another ‘eye roll’ equivalent is brewing, but it doesn’t mean we won’t find that one out too.
It all comes to the heart of the teen. Where is their heart when we correct, train and teach them. The real question is…where is our heart when we are corrected, trained and taught. Do we give an internal eye roll?
20. Hugs and kisses, going down memory lane and dates make an impact.
Teens need physical touch. I’m not talking inappropriate, I’m talking hugs, kisses and even a foot rub. When these touches are met, they aren’t going to be as quick to look for it else where.
It doesn’t mean this will solve any physical issue. It does mean this is another connection point flooded with love.
Some teens don’t want to be touched. We honor that with emotional connections instead. Take them out on a date, do something THEY want to do.
Make a DVD of when they were little and spew love and memories all over them as you narrate it. This connection point will remind them you are not the enemy and really do love them.
So set the calendar and figure out your next date!