I think one of the nicest things a mother can hear is, “I just love your teen!” Ok, it can be a little embarrassing (what do you say to that? I just stammer, “Thank you!” and stand there awkwardly), but in hindsight it is so affirming.
Rearing children through the teen years is so daunting, and those adolescent years are especially frightening. We can’t help but wonder what kind of person is our teen becoming and what is he really like when he’s away from me and all those scary unknowns. It’s those scary unknowns that makes us want to clamp down and grab harder and control more, but in reality the opposite is what they need.
We have to let them go so they can grow.
I’m not a teen expert (this is not “kickenitmomofteenswithstyle.com” — but if you get that reference we are BFF’s), but this is a short list of ways my husband and I have handled this. If you are just entering the teen years with your children or looking for ways to make it easier on them and on you, here’s some good ways to help them mature nicely.
How to Help Your Teen Grow Up into a Very Likeable Person
1. Hold your teen accountable.
The young toddler and preschool years were all about obedience and the school years were about learning a lot of rules of life. But now we are a little exhausted and our teen yearns for freedom so we are tempted to loosen up big time. The reality, though, is that our teen also needs structure and the sure foundation of consistency to appreciate how real life (beyond living with Mom and Dad) works. So still let yes be yes and no be no and rules be rules until they leave the house for reals.
2. Let your teen fail.
It’s also a huge (I mean inescapable) temptation to step in and fix things for them — to over-help on that term paper and point out mistakes on the test and offer excuses for tardiness and gloss over public and private stumbles. But that’s not doing our teens any favors. They need to fail to learn the important life lessons that only come from F’s. They need to experience the natural consequences of their own irresponsibility, laziness, and poor judgement now so they won’t make bigger — and more painful — mistakes in their twenties and thirties. We must be diligent to not short-change our teens from these important growing experiences, no matter how embarrassing them may be (even to us) at the time.
3. Make your teen get a job.
Yes, our high school students should be working a job. And the best way to motivate your teen to work is to require him to pay for his own luxuries. In our house, that’s electronics. Our teens pay for their own phones and phone bills, computers, tablets, and the accessories that go with them. Our oldest pays for his own automobile insurance, gas, and truck maintenance, and he will have to put himself through private, out-of-state college. None of that is cheap, so our senior has been working full time for nearly a year now, and the ones below legal working age have become very creative at endenturing themselves to friends and neighbors. In the process, they have learned invaluable lessons on work ethic, indebtedness, money management, and stewardship of their property.
4. Require your teen serve regularly.
Ministry isn’t optional in our house; it’s mandatory. If God has given you an ability, gift, or training that could be used to serve others and worship Him, then it is imperative it be given back regularly. That can be difficult to remember and inconvenient to practice, but David and I remind them of the spiritual principles involved while modeling the same example consistently. And so as they grow and see God using them, our teens have become increasingly self-motivated to serve the Lord with their gifts now and to talk about how they will do so in the future, no matter what their secular career may be.
The teen years are naturally self-focused. As the adults in the house, it’s important we talk every day and model every week serving others before ourselves. So that’s getting involved in church ministries together, volunteering in the community together, reaching out to hurting neighbors together. If we want neighborly love to be a regular habit of our teen’s life, we have to make it a habitual culture in our family today.
5. Model honesty with your teen.
That natural self-focus in the teen years lends itself to excuses, pride, and deception so easily. It is hard for a teen to face his mistakes honestly, to apologize sincerely, to view his life and work with humility. And we parents can make it more difficult or we can set the tone for sincerity and truth.
That’s why it is important to be quick to apologize — and to apologize openly — when we mess up. It’s important to say, “I know, I’ve made that mistake before, too,” when our student meets with failure. When we are honest about our own shortcomings, we invite respect and honesty from our teen. Humbling ourselves before them can be, at times, so difficult, but it’s the way to life for them.
6. Treat your teen with respect.
The biggest reason teens are difficult, obstinate, and disrespectful is they are seeking respect and acceptance. They are trying to change from children to adults, and they are seeking recognition and approval. If we as parents give them that freely and unconditionally, they won’t see the need (quite so often, anyway) to act out for it. This, at times, can put us in the odd place of saying, “I love you, I value you, but you’re making a mistake here. I’ve made it too, and this is how I overcame it. Let me help you work through this, and I know you can be better for it.” We can, in love, hold our teens responsible and let them face their consequences while simultaneously affirming our love for them and respect for the amazing adult they are on the road to becoming. It’s a powerful parenting combination.
7. Regularly remind your teen of his success.
Celebrate those grades, compliment his manners, thank him for doing his chores, brag about him in front of him and behind his back. Remind your teen during hard times and great wins that he is becoming a remarkable man (or woman) that God is using — and will continue to use — in an amazing way. Cast a vision before him, and be his biggest cheerleader. He will then have the confidence to share with others.
So when you think about it, this is the same way God is using each of us, molding us into the creation we aren’t yet perfectly but someday we will become. God gave us his guidelines in His Word, chastens us when we go astray, gives us jobs to do and opportunities to serve others, listens to our prayers and leads us in His Spirit, and always works everything for our good. That’s how we know He loves us.
What would you add to this list? What else do you think is important to raising a great teen?
I’d love to keep in touch!
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