You may or may not have a teenager in your life right now but these years are often stereo-typed by rebellion and relational difficulties. This can cause a lot of parents to experience a great deal of fear as their children approach the teenage years.
Nicole and I are the proud parents of three teenagers – aged 19, 17 and 15. We can honestly say that we have enjoyed the teenage years as much as any of our years of parenting. Obviously, they haven’t been without their challenges, but then all relationships need work and wisdom.
Last year, Nicole led a panel of parents for a special presentation on Parenting Teenagers.
Here is a brief summary of the advice that emerged …
- Seek to build a good relationship with your teenager. Yes, you are their parent but you can be a friend too. After all, ‘rules without relationship often leads to rebellion’ (Josh McDowell).
- Model your values, don’t just talk about them. Your teenager will learn more about life from your behaviour than your words. Teenagers crave for authenticity and integrity and they despise hypocrisy and duplicity. Love God, watch your words, be grateful, learn to forgive, and say sorry when appropriate. Be a model of what you’d like them to be (1 Cor.11:1).
- Seek to understand. It is vital that we as parents do all we can to understand our teenagers and the world they live in. They are experiencing massive developmental and relational changes. Hormones are going crazy and moods can tend to swing wildly. This affects their feelings about themselves and their relationships with other people. Ask God for wisdom and gain all the knowledge and understanding you can (Prov.24:3-4). When you truly to seek to understand another person, including your teenager, it communicates great value.
- Discuss and define your expectations as clearly as possible. Then be consistent in following them up. The older a child becomes, the less boundaries you have. The idea is to use boundaries to help bring a teenager to maturity until they have discernment to make their own decisions.
- Take responsibility and own your mistakes. Don’t blame others or make excuses. Admit your own mistakes and apologise when necessary. This teaches your teenager to do the same. Apologising appropriately is not a sign of weakness, but of maturity.
- Discover your teenager’s gifts and passion. Each child is unique Help your teenager understand how they are ‘wired’ so that they can pursue fulfilment of their own God-given potential. Don’t force them into your mold or pressure them to follow your ideas for their future. This only creates frustration. Not every child is musical, or artistic, or academic. Help your teenager discover who they are, to find their voice, and then pursue its expression with confidence.
- Help your teenager set their own value system. This can be a little scary – bringing your teenager to a place where you gradually let them go. The key is to do our best to help them establish a value system that will enable them to think through the consequences of their own choices.
- Help your teenager connect with God in a personal way. We all sense God in different ways. Help your child discover how best they connect with God. See my post on How to Connect with God.
- Pray for and with your teenager. Model your faith and belief in God. Teach your teenager to know and rely on God for everything in their life.
- Encourage your teenager. Look for the good and commend them as often as you can (Heb.3:13). Don’t adopt a negative focus and allow yourself to be continually bothered by their short-comings. Speak about those when necessary and confront appropriately, but choose to make the majority of your words be focus on edifying and encouraging them. Nitpicking tends to harden and close hearts.
- Love your teenager at all times. The Bible says that of all qualities, love is the greatest (1 Cor.13:13). This kind of love is … patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs … always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, and it never fails. We want our teenagers to experience this kind of love and become people who allow the love of God to flow through them. How we love our teenagers will often be a reflection of how they love others. Consider the concept of love languages also.
For some more general parenting tips, see my post Some Wisdom for Parents.