Top 10 Ways to Parent a Teenager
- LISTEN and ASK questions. Chill questions. Casual. Don’t act like Sherlock. The point is to ask questions that usually require something more than a grunt, and hopefully you’ve been listening and can come up with one that they will want to answer. A great place to attempt this, is at the dinner table or while they are trapped in the car with you. (This is tricky, and requires much effort and patience on your part. Don’t get discouraged, it will get easier)
- Set guardrails a/k/a boundaries and rules with set consequences. Rules or, as I like to call them, non-negotiables; such as lying, cheating, disrespecting you, getting a zero on a report card… I don’t know what yours would be, but I’m talking about the issues you will fight to the death for. Those are in stone and set your family’s standards. Everything else is a guardrail, which you discuss, explain and can possibly alter under circumstances. If these are in place, then you are parenting proactively instead of reactively. (much easier for day to day drama) Really.
- Hang out with them. Have a date night. A shopping trip or, a breakfast out. Something that you regularly do with your kid – that’s different than the daily grind. Be intentional.
- Know your Social Media. No excuses. If your young person has any kind of an internet identity, then you better know what it is and how it works. Period. Take a class if you have to, but it’s the INTERNET. The ENTIRE world in the palm of their hands.
- Know your kids internet passwords. They don’t have a right to internet privacy. Seriously. If the government and all the interfaces they are using, know their passwords, and activity, so should you – you, the parent and the person that is supplying all of that electricity, wifi and phone service. If you both understand the internet, this point is valid. Check their social media. Now that you know it, and have the passwords, every now and then, do a check. Kids need parents and accountability. Otherwise they wouldn’t be kids. Man up and just do it. It’s not invading their privacy. Now reading their diary/journal is a completely different story. Leave that alone.
- Make your home a place they want to be… and their friends. Find a used ping-pong table or a basketball hoop. Always have snacks in the pantry and something to drink in the fridge other than milk and water. (Please don’t think I mean you should have all the latest video games, and let them do whatever they want)
- Say, “I’m Sorry.” Be an example of learning from your mistakes. Especially when you lose your temper with them! Even if they have pushed you over the edge, freaking out is never a good idea. So, when you do freak out, (assuming you’re like me) be sure to tell them you’re sorry.
- Encourage them. They need it. A lot. Encourage without sounding like you are babying them. Avoid pinching the cheeks and telling them how cute they are… especially in front of their friends.
- When (not if) they mess up, and come to you, or even if they don’t come to you, never say, “I told you so.” Don’t even say, “I was afraid that would happen.” Consequences will be hard enough when they hit the wall. Having you there to listen and love will be much better, and will set the foundations for the impending friendship that you just might have with them someday. I’m not saying save them from consequences – Don’t do that. That’s how they learn and grow. I’m saying to love them through it. They already know they messed up. They don’t need us pointing that out again and again, or telling them what they should’ve done. This would be a great time to implement #1 …
- Pray with them. Pray for them. Share the Word of God with them in a real way. It’s not the Churches job to train your kids up in the Lord. It’s yours. You can’t be too busy. You can’t put busyness before that. If you do, don’t be surprised when they grow up and are too busy for the things of God. What you make priorities in your life, will probably be theirs. I know… Ouch.
Parenting teens is hard. They are emotionally driven, hormonal, men/women children under our stewardship! Thank God we have all of those sweet memories of their first steps and loose teeth to remind us how much we love them! They are not always going to like us, and will most likely even tell us that they hate us. (which usually means you’re doing something right) They are full of passion, ideas, hope and energy. God help us.
This list is far from complete. I could have made this a “Top 100”. These are just the ones that were the hardest for me to learn. I didn’t even address dating! That’s a blog post all unto itself. Really.
What would you add to this list?