3 Essential Tips for Parenting Teens (Plus a Free Bonus Tip)
Jul. 29, 2020
Raising teens can sometimes feel a bit like a free ride on a roller coaster in "crazy town." Parenting well during this last leg of the “active parenting” journey is not for the faint of heart. Like any relationship worth having, it takes lots of hard work, patience, and daily do-overs.
I’d be lying if I told you I had it all figured out. However, with two in college and two left at home, I have learned a few tips I’d like to share with you.
This is a season when you may see and hear about situations and decisions involving your teen in which you and your spouse disagree. When this happens, it will elevate the relationship over the situation. Maintaining influence in your child’s life during this crucial time of development and into college is more important than being “right.”
Here are three tips I have found to be helpful:
Tip #1 – Q-TIP: Quit taking it personally.
Honestly, this one can be pretty hard. When you have an angry or defiant teen staring you in the eye saying they hate you and you are the worst, it can feel pretty devastating. After all, you did give them life and pay for Every. Single. Thing.
But remember, these young humans you are raising don’t have fully developed brains. Sometimes they will say and do things that MAKE NO SENSE. Remember, brains that are not fully formed lead to underdeveloped empathic skills and a large dose of self-centeredness. These things are par for the course in raising teens.
Tip #2 – Put your own mask on first.
They say this on airplanes all the time, but it applies to parenting too. What are you doing in your life to have a healthy mental, emotional, and spiritual relationship with Jesus and with yourself?
There is nothing scarier than a newly minted middle schooler who now has the veil of childhood torn away. They see clearly through every flaw, every hypocrisy, every insecurity their parents carry. Like velociraptors in Jurassic Park, they are ready to pounce and eviscerate when they sense weakness.
If you are not careful, you could respond to their behavior with your inner 13-year-old self, instead of your adult self. These are the moments when you get into a shouting match or get dragged into an irrational argument and wonder how on earth you got there.
One of the very best things a parent can do for their child (and for their marriage) is to get a fantastic counselor and start unpacking "family of origin" brokenness.
Don’t kid yourself. No matter how amazing your family was, there is woundedness and brokenness that need to be addressed to be the best parent, spouse, adult, and human being possible.
Counseling, coupled with regular prayer and bible study, will equip you to be spiritually, emotionally, and mentally healthy. This emotional health goes a long way in being able to do Tip #1 (Q-TIP). It’s hard to stay calm and not take things personally when we haven’t spent time healing our own brokenness.
Tip #3 – Start with the end in mind. (Primary Objective)
I love the song “The Blessing” by Kari Jobe. I have been praying that song, or at least the biblical truths and scripture of that song, over my children since I was in high school.
Yes, since before they were born, I have been praying that my children would love God with their whole heart, all the days of their lives and that God’s faithfulness and blessing would follow them for a thousand generations!
Before I was even married, I knew I wanted to raise children that loved and followed God. This directive and desire helped me choose a godly mate, and it also helps me to parent well.
My goal is not to raise well-behaved kids who don’t embarrass me, don’t ever sass back, or don’t ever disobey. Nor is my goal to raise the best athlete, the best scholarship receiver, the best…anything.
My goal is to raise kids who love and follow God and, hopefully, one day, will join me in heaven. All those other great behaviors, (above) are simply a nice by-product of raising kids who love their Heavenly Father.
BONUS: Tip #4 – Do I ever act like a rebellious teen to God?
Alright, I know I said I had 3 Tips, but as I was writing, I decided to throw in #4 as a bonus.
One of the most significant gifts of parenting has been seeing my behavior with God mirrored in my children’s behavior with me. When I see behavior that is self-centered, disrespectful, and downright disobedient in my kids, I often go to God in prayer about that particular situation.
In those prayer times, God has been so generous and kind to point out behavior in my own life that is self-centered, disrespectful, and downright disobedient to…wait for it…God. He reminds me that I too struggle in those areas with some of the things He is asking of me. Then He gently reminds me that He loves me no matter what. That all he wants is a right relationship with me.
He graciously allows me to reap the consequences of my behavior, both my godly and ungodly behavior. And this is the gift. The reminder that I’m not perfect, and I can’t expect my kids to be either.
That doesn’t mean they can run wildly amuck. That just means that I need to remember to assess the situation calmly. If I lash out in personal hurt and frustration and discipline harshly, or irrationally, I risk the relationship, and I am disciplining out of my fear, hurt, shame, or baggage. (See where counseling is helpful?)
I need to remember to discipline my children fairly, and with reasonable consequences, because I love them and want what’s best for them. My goal should not be punitive, but through loving discipline, to bring about a right relationship with them and me and God.
Student Pastor, Colleyville Campus
Resources I have found helpful over the years
- Creative Correction – Lisa Welchel
- Bringing Up Boys - Dr. James Dobson
- Shepherding Your Child’s Heart – Ted Tripp
- Too Small to Ignore – Russ Stafford
- The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown
- Feeding the Mouth that Bites You – Dr. Ken Wilgus
- Youth Culture Matters – A CPYU (Center for Parent/Youth Understanding) Podcast
- His-Story Coaching and Counseling - https://www.his-story.org/
- Onsite Workshops - https://www.onsiteworkshops.com/