Raising teenagers can be difficult and frightening. It seems once a child reaches high school, the stakes instantly rise and suddenly questions and uncertainties abound. Is that behavior, whatever it may be, normal for their age or evidence we’ve failed to train them in that area? Should we, in this moment, teach them to persevere and grow through the struggle or is this the time to step in with gentle grace?
These are important questions, and though we need to address them and more, in the process, there are five foundational facts our teens must know.
They’re going to mess up, and we expect this.
Our kids are going to do and say things they shouldn’t. They’re going to make poor choices–a lot. That’s part of learning and growing. And though we must always hold them accountable for their actions, we also need to recognize they aren’t adults yet. Growth takes time, a lifetime, in fact. We need to be aware of this, and our kids do, too. This means when we parent them, we come to them as their coach, discussing their behavior with an eye on next steps rather than perfection and with words that are blanketed in grace and truth.
They need to know we’re on their team.
I want my daughter to understand the why behind our parenting decisions, and I want her to know-know-know that everything I do is with her longterm success in mind. In other words, I’m on her team. I’ve found when I communicate this, discipline has an exponentially more positive effect, resulting in team-effort behavioral changes. This also encourages open and honest communication–about everything. And that’s huge, especially in the teen years.
They need to know they can come to us, about anything.
Many parents say they want unhindered communication with their kids, but then in the day-to-day, they act distracted. Busy–too busy to be bothered. Or they have a gut-emotional reaction when the teen does open up and shut off further communication.
If we feel like we’re constantly running, we need to slow down and reprioritize. Free up time to regularly connect on a heart-to-heart level and to hit the pause button when needed.
Our teens need to know their behavior is not who they are.
Consider this for a moment. Does your child tend to respond with angry outbursts? That doesn’t mean they’re out of control. It means they need to learn to express emotions differently. Do they have a tendency to be dishonest? It doesn’t mean they’re liars. It means they need to grow in personal integrity. And it’s our job to help them do this. But as we do, we need to be very careful to guard our words, because people often become who they are expected to be. So parent up, viewing your kids like Christ does–destined to be beautiful works of art.
Finally, they need to know our love is constant.
This last lesson could be a blog post in and of itself, it’s that important. We must tell our kids we love them often, especially when we’re upset or they’ve done something wrong. And if things begin to feel out of control, we must never give up. Never walk away, shut down, give in, or retreat. Instead, we’ll hold tight and get help.
What are your thoughts on my “teens must know” list? In what ways have you conveyed these truths to your kids, and what were the results? Do you have any other principles to add? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below because we can all encourage and learn from each other!