I have two kids, they are 5 and 2. I don’t have teenagers of my own so I totally get it if you decide to tune me out totally at this point…
For everyone still here, I am a Student Pastor. I was a teenager 7 years ago and I work with dozens of teenagers on a weekly basis. Not only do I work with them, but I sit with many of their parents. Sometimes there is broken heartedness, anger, confusion, frustration, hurt, sadness, and disappointment when we sit together. There is also desire for better days, hope, transparency, brutal honesty, and a willingness to listen and learn (though I typically do most of the learning).
The world is very different today than when parents were in Middle School and High School. In fact, it is quite different from when I was there. Below are some “tips” for parents of teenagers. No, these are not tips coming from a parent with amazing teenage kids. These are tips coming from a Student Pastor that works with all different types of kids and parents.
- Don’t let the culture tell you what a good parent is. God gave us the Bible for a reason. Let’s use it. Even the best parenting blogs in the world fall terribly short of what we can learn about parenting from the Bible. Our culture tells us a lot of wrong things about teenagers, entitlement, freedom, discipline, etc. The Bible doesn’t tell us a wrong thing about anything, including parenting.
- Once you have firmly set yourself on God’s word as your guide in parenting begin to look for biblically based resources to help. There are a lot of good resources out there to help us learn and grow as parents. Knowing that I only have one shot at parenting my kids is terrifying to me. Therefore, it is a mission of mine to learn and grow as much as I can as a parent while I am in the trenches. Most parents admit, “I don’t always know what I am doing and I know I am not the best parent.” Good, humility helps! Now, let’s take action to grow and learn.
- Make sure your kids hear praise for their character more than their looks, skills, accomplishments, friends, athletics, etc. Your kids will see what you value in them by what you praise. Encourage them in every area of life, yes… but make sure it is abundantly clear that God in them reigns supreme. Everyone around them wants to know what they can get out of them, what they can accomplish, let them hear trumpet sounds of praise from their parents about the type of person they are.
- They don’t have to be given access to everything. Their life won’t end if they don’t have the newest, coolest cell phone. You do not have to allow them to be on every social media outlet. From what I have seen most teenagers do not know how to conduct themselves online. The internet is the last place teenagers need to be learning social skills. It isn’t healthy when such a large percentage of their “conversation” is online or through texting.
- Know what apps they have. I promise you there are a lot of apps out there that you know nothing about that can cause a lot of damage. Pay for a service that monitors everything they do on their phone and on their computer. Everything. I’m not even sure I would let my kids have smart phones until at least 16, but even if I did I would monitor everything. There is a lot of power and responsibility with technology. Be aware of their activity and have consistent conversation about it.
- Know the Sexual Revolution taking place in our culture and fight against it with all of your might. This is taking purity away from teens and heaping shame, guilt, and condemnation on them. It’s a bad trade off. What your daughter wears does matter. If the coolest, hippest clothes say, “I’m a sexual object” don’t buy them. It is better for her soul to wear “uncool clothes” than clothes that objectify her. Watch your daughters closely, “How do they seek attention from boys? What type of attention are they seeking?’ On to the boys, watch them closely, “How do they treat and look at girls? How do they talk to them?” Fathers, set an example. Show them how to treat a girl by how you treat your wife. Talk to them about this issue, a lot! Teach them what the Bible has to say about sexuality and why.
- Create a culture of repentance and forgiveness in your home. We all fail. Parents fail, teenagers fail. You need to create a culture in which mistakes aren’t the sworn enemy. Create a culture in which your teenager feels safe coming to you with their sins, hurts, and shortcomings. They are going to share with someone, let it be you. Don’t have a harsh, condemning approach. Be the first one in the family to repent of your mistakes, apologize, and seek forgiveness. They will see it, they will follow.