As I write this, Nathan is 20 years old, Janina is 17, Ryan is 13 and Joaquin is 7. I guess you could say that I have substantial experience in the teenage department. To be honest, I really expected to have a lot of rough patches in raising our teenagers. That is because of the many horror stories I’ve heard and read. And frankly, because of my own experience as well.
However, now that my eldest is 20 and my 2nd child is 17, one thing I’ve realized is this: rebellion doesn’t have to be the story of your teen. No matter what other parents have told you, no matter how the world has labeled teens, no matter what you have seen in the movies, it is possible to have teenagers who are loving, obedient, respectful and responsible. I know this because in spite of all the fights and arguments I’ve had with my teens, inspite of all their mistakes and imperfections and mine too, I know they love God and they do desire to honor us as their parents. There will be moments of disobedience, for sure. But at the end of the day, it is possible for your teen to right their wrong because they want to honor God.
I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned in the last several years since we had our first teen.
1.Don’t make the trivial important. For sure, your teen will try new hairstyles, fashion styles, music, books and everything else that’s out there. There have been times I’ve been tempted to nitpick on my son’s unkempt appearance, or my daughter’s mismatched clothes, or their loud music. And then I’m reminded to ask myself, “Will I allow this trivial thing to get in the way of my relationship with them? Is it even worth it? Will this thing affect his future?” In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t judge them based on their preferences. If it’s not an issue of sin, if your son or daughter is not violating any of God’s commands in His Word, if it is only a matter of taste and preference, then my advice is to just let it go and let them be.
2. Make time for them. Some parents think that the older their kids get, the less involved they need to be in their lives. They think that their teens don’t need as much time from them as they used to. To some extent, this is true. We don’t prepare breakfast for our teens anymore, or do their homework with them. However, our teens go through emotional ups and downs, and someone has to process that with them. A lot of questions go through their minds about life, and someone has to answer those for them. When we are not available for them, that’s when they turn to their peers or the internet for answers. Be home before dinner. Have regular dates with them. Text them throughout the day. Spend the holidays with them.
3. Stay involved in their lives. There will be times you will start a conversation with your teen and he’ll say “I don’t want to talk right now.” It might seem like your teen is pushing you away. This young man who used to beg you to bring him with you everywhere, who wouldn’t stop talking about his day, who couldn’t get enough bedtime stories… this young man now would rather be alone in his room or hang out with his friends. And your tendency is to step back and pull away from his life completely because you feel hurt. My advice? Don’t take it personally. Wanting to be alone doesn’t mean that he loves you less. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be with you. He just needs space and time by himself, just like every other teen. Your teen needs you. He still needs your guidance and wisdom. Do not withhold your counsel and advice. He needs your input in his life. You just need to be sensitive about the timing of when he is most receptive to listen.
4. Step into their world. When your teen seems uninterested to spend time with you, it is your job to get him interested. I’ve noticed that my kids talk freely when they are doing something they love. Find out what they enjoy doing. Find out their interests. Listen to their music. Sing their songs. Make an effort to join activities that they love. If your son loves to bike, then plan to go on a biking trip together. If your daughter likes to cook, enroll in a culinary class together. Do what’s fun for them, not what’s fun for you, and try to enjoy yourself as well.
5. Focus on what’s important. If we’re not supposed to sweat the small stuff, we need to find out what are the stuff we need to fight for. If there’s one thing that I would put all my time and energy into, it would be my teens’ walk with the Lord. I believe that their relationship with God steered them away from a lot of wrong choices. As it says in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” As they spend more and more time away from us, they will have to make decisions on their own, but my prayer is that they will hear God’s voice clearly and obey Him. Help your teen grow in his relationship with God. Talk about God’s word openly. Bring him to church. Model a life of faith and obedience.