How Do I Parent My Teenager?"God loves our children more than we do, and He will help us if we lean on Him."
Parenting is a lot scarier when our children are teenagers. Sure, each stage has its scary parts. When they are babies, we watch them sleep to make sure they’re still breathing. When they’re toddlers, we child-proof our home to keep them safe. When they’re old enough to walk home from school, we warn them not to accept rides from strangers. But when they enter the teenage years, the stakes become much higher! Suddenly we have to trust them to make good choices on their own when we aren’t there to guide them. We have to warn them about the dangers of things like premarital sex, drugs, driving and a bunch of scary things with far-reaching consequences. Allowing them to learn from their mistakes has developed a whole new meaning that is frankly terrifying.
I’m still in the trenches looking back on things I wish I’d done differently over the years and pleading with God to help me parent my teenagers so that they grow into godly adults. How do I prepare them to soar when it’s time to leave the nest? How do I prepare myself to let them go? As I try to answer these questions, five words come to mind – intercede, instruct, interfere, influence and inspire.
The most important thing we can do for our children at every age is to pray for them. I have prayed specific prayers for my children throughout their lives, and I have seen God answer them! I pray God’s own words back to Him as I ask Him to surround my children with His angels and not to allow them to be snatched from His hands. I pray for the people in their lives that influence them, and I ask God to surround them with godly people. I pray for them to develop discernment and to have a Holy Spirit convicted conscience, so they will see things as God sees them. I pray for them to get caught if they wander into trouble, so they do not become comfortable in their sin. I pray for them to find their purpose according to God’s will. I pray for their future spouse, worldview, and health. Lately, I’ve prayed one powerful prayer that covers it all – Lord, intervene!
Our children never stop needing our guidance and instruction. When they become teenagers, they’re wading into territory that we’ve already muddled through, and we understand how to tackle the terrain. At this age, some of the things we need to instruct them about can be uncomfortable. I’m thankful that I had a foundation of communication with my children that makes it easier to discuss the dangers they will be confronted with as they get older. As our teenagers begin to form their worldview, they need to know what God’s Word says.
Society presents opinions that aren’t based on Biblical values, and we must counter those with the truth of God’s Word. They need to hear the truth about drugs and alcohol or they’ll think it’s just a way to have fun. They need to hear the truth about pre-marital sex or they’ll think it’s just something everyone’s doing. They need to hear about hard work, putting other people first and living a life that glorifies their Savior. How will our teenagers form a Biblical worldview if God’s Word isn’t regularly injected into their life? We must speak the Word of God into their lives with every opportunity we have. It is during the teenage years that the cement is poured into the foundation. If it’s not done correctly, there will be catastrophic cracks somewhere down the line.
Interfering in your child’s life when they’re young is easy. You can redirect a toddler or physically move them if they’re closing in on danger. Interfering in the life of a teenager is a bit more difficult. We need to find the balance between allowing them to learn from their mistakes and protecting them from the big ones while we still can. We need to set appropriate boundaries and expect them to follow. We need to determine where there is no compromise and draw lines that when crossed, will lead to consequences. Remember that we are still their parents and we know better. If our teenager is careening down a path that leads to trouble, we must step in and stop them. Sometimes it may take some tough love, but if we allow them to live in their mistakes and protect them from the consequences, we are setting them up for more pain in the future.
Our children always watch what we do, and they learn much of their behavior from watching us. Teenagers start to see themselves as “little adults,” and the choices we make are a guidepost. They will talk like we talk, respond to situations as we do, drive as we do and work as we do. They are watching us, and they do not appreciate the hypocrisy of “do as I say, not as I do.” It’s hard to look our teenager in the eye and tell them that just because we yell when we’re mad, they shouldn’t. Or just because we tell a white lie to our boss, they shouldn’t. Think of the difference it would make if we expected our children to act in a way that we act. We are a living, breathing example for our teenagers of what a godly adult should look like. Are we setting a good example?
As we stumble through the parenting minefield, we must also remember to encourage and inspire our children. God created them to be uniquely who they are. He gives them passions, talents and opportunities to accomplish things for His Kingdom. We need to help them understand that none of it is random. That if they live in line with God’s will, He can use them mightily. Understanding this will go a long way towards helping them be who God created them to be. We need to pay attention to what makes our children tick and help them hone their God-given gifts and abilities. We need to encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities God gives them. We need to teach them; not in a way that makes them boastful, but in a way that reminds them they can do anything by the power of Christ in them.
As we set out to parent our children the best we can, we can rest in the fact that we’re not in it alone. God loves our children more than we do, and He will help us if we lean on Him.
“He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” – Isaiah 40:11