I don’t know if raising teens is any harder today than it was in previous generations, but it sure seems so. Doesn’t it? You probably think your teens go through temptations worse than you had. And your parents thought that the trials you experienced as a teenager were worse than what they had to deal with.
Whether things are worse now than they were before, here are some practical tips for raising teenagers that every Christian home can put into practice regardless of the generation. These are not in any particular order and they can be worked on one at a time or together. Try to find one or two that you can implement today.
Love Your Teenagers
Love can be shown in many different ways. The actions and attitudes we show towards our teens mean much more than the words we say. However, don’t neglect to tell them you love them. It may seem mushy and unnecessary to say “I love you” to your teen, but it will mean much to them in the coming years having heard their parents say it.
A right attitude towards your teen will communicate love to them. Does every conversation leave you exasperated? It is doing the same for your son or daughter too. Find ways to engage them in conversation that does not end with one or both of you frustrated with the other. Communicate with love.
Respect Your Teen
Show your respect in the way you speak to them and about them. Talk to them with honor and speak of them respectfully before other adults and your teen’s peers. Your kids are watching and listening. They will pick up when you speak honorably towards them.
While you are probably mentally and emotionally superior to your teen, this does not mean you need to lord that over them with insults. Even as innocent as playful insults seem to you, make sure your child sees them that way too. Teasing on your part may not be accepted as funny to your teen.
Have Clear, but Few Rules
Part of respect and love is to have good rules. This sets boundaries. Even if we say we don’t like rules, the truth is, everyone likes to know the limitations and expectations. Have rules that are clear. I don’t know that I can give you a set of rules that will work in every house or situation, but I can give you an example of what my parents used with us growing up.
As older teens my brothers and I had already learned what was expected of us from our parents. Therefore, I only remember one rule that we had through those last years in my parents home. The amazing thing is that rule summed up so much of everything we had been taught as younger kids. The rule was, that we must be home from any activity or outing by 11:00 PM. If we were going to be out any later, we needed to call for permission or to explain why we could not be home by then.
This simple rule kept us out of a lot of trouble. My parents knew exactly where we were and who we were with. Our parents were showing respect to us in trusting us. We showed respect to our parents by calling (even if we were only 2 minutes from home at 11:00 we would find a pay phone and call because we respected them enough to not cause them to worry). It also caused our friends to have a higher respect for my parents and they knew the rules were not negotiable.
A single-rule environment won’t work in every family. But if you can choose good clear rules that encompass many aspects of love and respect, then you will probably have fewer battles. Our system worked because we were taught well in our more formative years that rules were to be obeyed and authority was to be respected.
Don’t Have Stupid Rules
Ephesians 6 says to not provoke your children to wrath (Ephesians 6:4). This means don’t frustrate them. Stupid rules that no one understands or rules that are inconsistent with other expectations simply frustrate those being governed by them. As adults we have probably all experienced these types of rules at work.
When you set rules, you should also discuss consequences. Allow your children help you determine the consequences. You might be surprised that they would assign greater punishment on themselves than you would. Then you need to be consistent in applying the consequences. This goes along with not frustrating your child with stupid rules. Your teen needs to know that there are always consequences for disobedience. If one of your children gets away with breaking a rule and another one doesn’t then you frustrate your children and break down the respect they have for you and their siblings.
When enforcing the rules you have agreed upon, you need to remember you are the parent, not their high school best friend. Your job is to train your teenagers into godly citizens who know how to think on their own. A true friend and parent will do what is right for the teen, not partner with them to fight other authority figures.
Talk with your teenager. Find ways to engage them in conversations. They aren’t going to go to you for advice and share their heart if their only interaction with you is when you are saying to them: “Brush your teeth.” “Clean your room.” “Don’t wear that.”
Find conversation starters—and, “what did you do in school today?”—does not count. What is your child interested in? You should become at least somewhat knowledgeable about that subject and engage them in it.
Seek common ground to help you engage your teen in conversation. Then listen. Let them talk. If you correct them on everything they say or feel like you have to control the conversation, then you are going to turn off your teen’s interest in talking. They should talk and you should listen. You may be surprised as to what you can learn from them.
Be a Good Role Model
Be an example of how you want them to live. Speak respectfully to and of others. Model the behavior you want your child to show. If you spend the evenings complaining about the way the boss runs his business, you are modeling the behavior of your teens sitting with their friends complaining about the way you run your house.
“Do as I say and not as I do” should never be part of your training strategy. Your children will do as you do. The question is, are you living in the same way you want them to live?
I have heard it said that what leadership does in moderation, their followers will do in excess. If you took all of your own habits, good or bad, and multiplied their intensity 2 or 5 times, would you want to be around yourself? Consider that every trait you and your spouse have will be magnified in your teenagers. Do you like what you see? Change what you can.
Pass on Your Relationship with God
It is said that God has no grandchildren. What is meant by that a child is not saved because of the relationship his parents have with God. Each person must come to God on his own. Theologically that is true. However, practically a child will more likely come to a personal relationship with God because of the lessons he learns from his parents. Share your love for God with your children.
Affirm Their Good Actions
Teenagers need reassurance. While they are seeking independence they also want to know that they are accepted and loved. Praise them when they do well. It is so easy to live in the same house without talking or engaging one another. Even in a home which is free of stress.
For many, the only time they talk with their teenager is when they have to deal with a problem. Don’t let this be your relationship with your child. Seek out ways to affirm their good actions and decisions.
I am curious to see what God has taught you in raising teens. Particularly I am curious as to what you consider to be good rules for teenagers. Please leave a comment below with your thoughts.