5 Fundamentals of Parenting a Teen (without Pulling Your Hair Out)
By Heather Riggleman, Crosswalk.com
You remember vividly the day your first child came into the world. Then it was 2 a.m. feedings and surviving the ginormous responsibility of keeping a little human alive.
Now that little human is taller than you and has basically turned into a cat. He only comes out of his room when he’s hungry, and the idea of hugging him is akin to playing Russian Roulette--will he hiss at you, or will he hug you back.
Don’t worry, all parents face challenging times when it comes to the fundamentals of parenting a teen. Not quite sure what I’m talking about? Check out Trey Kennedy’s impersonation of middle schoolers--there’s five videos because parents relate!
Now that I’ve survived raising one teenager who is a fully functioning adult in her last year of college, I’m in the trenches with a tween and teen. And let me tell you, it’s not easy. There’s hormones, moodiness, attitudes, sprawling legs and arms, turbulent times, pimples, texts, memes I will never understand, body odor, and the task of keeping the eye on the prize, fully functioning adults raised up in the way that they should go.
It causes me to drop to my knees on a daily basis and rely on my friends who are going through the same challenges with their own teens. This has given me so much insight on how to parent my teens, and in the process, I’ve discovered some tips that you might find useful.
1. Love Unconditionally, You Were a Teen Once Too
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. A right attitude towards your teen will communicate love even if every conversation leaves you exasperated? It is the same for teens too.
You were once a gangly teenager with an attitude full of sass and eye-rolling. With that said, I’m sure you look back at your teenage years and cringe just a bit.
Not because of choices you made but because life seemed so hard. Your break up felt like the end of the world. The rumors about you were brutal and you thought nothing could be worse.
Now that we’re in our thirties and forties, there is no way we would go back to those teenage years.
Your teen will make poor choices. Your teen will go toe to toe with your rules. Your teen will also demonstrate strong character and make some pretty big choices you didn’t expect that will make your heart soar. No matter what they do, they need your unconditional love.
Love that is not based on what choices they make or how good they are. God loves us unconditionally and this is the example we need to set for our teens!
Parenting Tips to Love Unconditionally
- Teach teens with discipline, don’t use it for revenge.
- Choose your battles and let go of the smaller issues.
- Keep in mind that unconditional love doesn't mean unconditional approval.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-38.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Eye-for-Ebony
2. Allow Choices Whenever Possible
One of the common stereotypes of adolescence is the rebellious, wild teen continually at odds with mom and dad. Okay, maybe that was just me as a teen (sorry mom, I get it now!).
Although this may be the case for some teens, there will be emotional ups and downs as they yo-yo between gaining more independence and wanting to feel like a kid. You will need to adapt your parenting to your child. The same drive for independence that made your toddler say no all the time is the same drive that is making your fourteen-year-old inquisitive about rules or why you say he can’t stay out until 11 p.m.
It’s easy to step into many parenting moments and make the decisions for our kids, especially when we’re rushed or frustrated. But kids learn to make good choices by making choices. Good and bad.
If good choices lead to more privileges and bad choices earn them a week of being grounded, they’ll begin to avoid painful choices. Just as adults, we know that if we choose not to show up for work, speed above the speed limit, there will be some painful consequences--they need to learn the same way.
Parenting Tips for Choices
- Keep track of where your teen is and what they are involved in.
- Keep in touch with other adults in your teen’s life. They will let you know how she is doing when you aren’t around.
- Listen, observe your teen and her actions in the world and at home.
- Keep “house rules” for safety that cannot be argued.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14
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3. Be Consistent
Today you took your son’s phone for his attitude while getting ready for school but yesterday you ignored it. Consistency is key.
Some parents find this to be the toughest task of all when it comes to how we respond to their actions. Part of raising teens is to have good rules. This sets boundaries. Teens need to know where they stand, what the rules are, and what is expected of them. When the rules change, they withdraw or lash out. It’s important to establish set rules.
Even though every teen would deny this, they love rules. Every person craves predictability, and being consistent in your discipline helps them move safely through the world.
If you can choose good clear rules that encompass many aspects of love and respect, then you will probably have fewer battles.
At the same time, it’s important not to have stupid rules either. Ephesians 6:4 says not to provoke your child to wrath. In other words, don’t unnecessarily frustrate them, but have follow through on clear-cut expectations and rules that keep your teen safe while gaining more independence.
Parenting Tips for Consistency
- Avoid ultimatums. Be clear and concise when you explain your decisions. Be reasonable and flexible.
- Give them truthful answers based on their maturity level when they ask questions.
- Set a good example of how you want your teen to behave with your own behavior.
- Share your opinions with your teen.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Ryan McVay
4. Learn to Say No (in 3 Different Languages)
“Can I please go to the party with JJ tonight. Please? I promise to be home by nine,” my teen begged one morning. My response? “Kiddo, how many times do I have to say this. His parents won’t be home and no parties on school nights. Let me spell it out for you in English, French, and Spanish: No, No, and NO!”
This isn’t said to be ridicule or to be condescending. We as parents need to harness the power of “No,” while still saying “Yes” as much as possible too.
Going along with the idea of being consistent, be strong in keeping your word when you say "No." Don't budge, don't waiver--your kids will thank you later in life for it.
It’s a balance where we keep the end result in mind. Will this decision build him up or cause him harm?
At the same time, again, it’s our job as a parent to set healthy boundaries for our teens.
Parenting Tips to Say No
- If the conversation gets heated, take a break and ask yourself if you feel good about the decision to say no. Why or why not?
- Are you going against your rules and guidelines that you have already established?
- Trust your intuition. You can always change your decisions. Remember, your job is to protect your teen.
- Find ways to say yes as much as you can.
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” Proverbs 1:8-9
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Kerkez
5. Connection Is Key, Even If It's Not Your Thing
Connection is vital with our teens and for the sake of the future world.
They’re counting on you to raise up a good little human. Sometimes the best way to connect is to join them in what they are doing even if it means sitting down and asking them how to play Roboblox or The Justice League.
My son loves running and he runs circles around me but sometimes the best way to get him talking is to try and keep up. And then there’s my youngest, she loves creating things.
I despise glitter, puff paint, and following instructions but the moment I sit with her in an attempt to create, she starts babbling about her favorite Youtube crafters and why she has anxiety.
Being a parent to a teen is not all hard work. There can be a lot of fun, too. Consider more ways to enjoy your teen. Think of your teen as a new friend you’d really like to get to know. They can be great companions when you’re running a quick errand too.
Parenting Tips to Connect
- Join them in their activities they like doing.
- If there is more than one child under your roof, make a point to have a little ‘date’ with each child.Make time for one on one time.
- Welcome their emotions.
- Show up to their games and school activities.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 1 Corinthians 4:8
As hard as parenting teens can be sometimes, it is my favorite stage. We have front row seats into the young woman or man God has gifted to us who will have a lifelong relationship with us. I’m in awe of my oldest and who she has become and is still becoming.
Now I have a front-row seat to my teens. Some days are wild and other days are exhausting. When you’re feeling the latter, remember God gave you this teen for a reason. You are uniquely designed and equipped to parent this child because God designed you that way. During these moments, take a deep breath and turn to prayer.
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