Hello friends! I’m back on the blog after a week away for our family vacation. We spent a couple of days exploring Philadelphia, which was fun for us since we all like checking out historical sites. Then we had a day at Hershey Park, a morning visiting Amish country in Lancaster, and finished up with a few days at Bear Creek Mountain Resort, which was very relaxing!
Our daughter’s fiance came in for the July 4th weekend and it was nice, as always, to have him here. And now it’s July 6th already and it feels as if summer is just flying by!
Yesterday I was catching up with a mom who’s just ahead of me in parenting. She already has a couple of young adult married children. We’ve known each other for a while, and she and her husband were a hugely positive influence on our daughters during their high school years.
I was reminded of some of the rough spots we hit with our girls during those teenage years. She and I talked about how rewarding it is when your children make it through those trials and, as best as you can tell, are walking with the Lord.
As I think back over the struggles we had at times, I tried to pinpoint what kept us in relationship with our teens. If I had to name one overarching theme, I would say that our daughters believed that our heart was for them. Even when they disagreed or didn’t like our decisions, I believe they sensed that our desire – whether we always communicated it well or not – was that we wanted what was best for them.
I understand that there are many parents with prodigal children who’ve turned away from God, at least for the moment. Our children make their own choices and they can break our hearts. That could be the case in our family tomorrow. But I wanted to share ten things that will hopefully help us as we try to build relationships with our teenagers.
First, let’s look at five things NOT to do when trying to build a relationship with your teenager.
1. Make arbitrary decisions.
Once our children are teenagers, it’s good to move beyond answering their “Why?” questions with “…because I said so.” Try not to make decisions based on a whim or simply because you’re in a good – or a bad – mood.
As Christians, we have the Bible on which to base our decisions. Use Scripture to explain why you are or aren’t allowing something. Does that mean that they will always understand and jump on board with your decision? No, but you do have a reason for what you’re doing, not just something you made up.
2. Be inconsistent.
We all like to know what the boundaries are whether in a job situation or in a relationship. We want our children to be able to trust that our response will be the same no matter what.
3. Be unwilling to listen to them.
Listening doesn’t mean you will give in to what they want, but you can at least give them the courtesy of hearing them out. Communication is foundational to any relationship, so don’t let yourself be the only one who gets to talk.
4. Compare them to others.
Maybe your friend’s teenager gets better grades or is more involved in extracurricular activities or seems more spiritual than your child. Even if you don’t verbalize the comparison, it can affect how you respond to your teen.
5. Fail to acknowledge your own mistakes.
If you’re doing everything perfectly in parenting, I don’t even know what to say. You certainly don’t need to be reading here – please go write your own blog and I’ll come read it!
One of my dad’s favorite lines, when I was a teenager, was, “I’ve never parented a __-year-old before.” We’ve certainly used that with our older daughter – and we could find ways to apply it with our younger one as well. We’re going to make mistakes as parents and we should be willing to go to our child and admit it and ask forgiveness.
Now let’s look at five positive things that we could do to build that relationship.
1. Support their interests.
It may mean spending a little money and perhaps lots of time, but support them in the activities they’re interested in. And make sure it’s their interest and not just yours.
2. Spend time with them doing what they enjoy.
When we were at Hershey Park, I was sharing a memory about my dad with one of my daughters. I’m not sure that my dad actually enjoyed roller coasters, but I do know that if any of us kids wanted someone to ride with us, he would do it.
It’s easy to bring our teenagers into what we love, but let’s make sure we’re seeking to know what their interests are and find ways to join them in it.
I’ve written a lot about praying for our teenagers already! Pray for specific needs in their lives, and pray for wisdom for yourself as you parent them. Our sovereign God loves them and His Holy Spirit can guide all of us through this season.
4. Use your words to lift them up.
There’s plenty to criticize and lots of things to correct. But let’s keep some of that in check so that we can say, “I love you” and “I’m proud of you.” Be specific with your praise and especially take advantage of opportunities to praise their character and not just their accomplishments.
5. Celebrate their joys and empathize with their sorrows.
Make a point to find ways to celebrate when good things happen for them! That’s usually a lot easier than dealing with a disappointed teen. Be available to listen and empathize without having to offer a solution right away.
I hope these ten ideas will help all of us as we seek to build better relationships with our teenagers!
- 7 Ways to Parent a Teenager
- What to Do When Your Teenager Disappoints You
- 5 Things Parenting Is Teaching Me About My Relationship with God