Parenting is not for the faint at heart, and parenting teens emphasizes this reality.
If you are in the midst of raising teens, you know firsthand that emotional ups and downs can be as unpredictable as springtime weather. Will today be a fair day or will it storm—or maybe both?
Dispositional climate changes can happen within the same day or even the same hour. Attitudes and emotional irregularity can be a temptation to parents who are already tired from endless carpools, sports schedules, social events, extracurricular activities, and school demands.
My husband and I have raised three teens, but those years are falling into the rearview mirror. As I reflect on the teen years, I want to share what we’ve learned in the “school of teen parenting.”
While you begin to prepare your kids for school and all that entails, may I suggest some spiritual preparation as well?
Elevate the relationship
If I could sit and have a cup of coffee with you, I could share many things these years have taught me. These are not only lessons in being a parent but also in being a child.
How often am I like a volatile teen to my heavenly Father? How many times have I pushed back against the Father’s will? Isaiah 1:2 has described me. Yet the Lord continues to be a loving and gracious parent. The lessons learned in the season of parenting teens are numerous.
One of the most important lessons I learned is this: When you disagree with what you are seeing or hearing, elevate the relationship above the situation.
This doesn’t mean that correction or consequences are ignored. It means that the issue is an opportunity to find a way to convey the value of the relationship.
This is not easy when emotions are high, both in your and your teen. It is especially challenging when your teen has broken your trust or has been blatantly disrespectful.
So how can parents elevate the relationship in the midst of a heated situation?
Here are a few things that will help.
1. QTIP: Quit taking it personally.
I am not sure where I first heard this, but it has served me in many interactions with my teens. It is easy to take their actions personally. After all, you are on the receiving end of their actions. It is your rules being challenged or broken.
More than likely, you are getting in the way of your teen’s perceived happiness, and when their disappointment turns to defiance, it is easy to feel personally attacked.
In order not to take things personally, you need to step aside and view these moments as parenting opportunities. Take into account teenage hormones, exhaustion, or emotions that are likely at play. Just like the Lord does with us, take into consideration their frame and frailty (Psalm 103:14).
2. Deal with you first.
Much of not taking things personally happens here.
Before you respond to a difficult situation with your teen, take a minute to know what you are feeling at the moment. Are you angry at the fact that you are being challenged? Are you hurt from the audacity of your child’s behavior? Are you embarrassed, or maybe annoyed, that you actually have to deal with this situation—again?
Responding out of any of those feelings will only bring more tension. Take time to deal with your own heart first.
3. Know how you want difficult interactions to end before they begin.
This is something you must learn long before the teen years.
My husband and I decided that whatever situations we had to navigate with our kids, whatever issues we had to face with them, we wanted them to know that we loved them and that God loved them.
It didn’t mean that we never had to have hard conversations or bring consequences. It meant we were committed to letting them know that we loved them no matter the situation. Our interactions with our teens often ended with the simple statement of how much we loved them and how much God loved them, even if the conversation was difficult.
The next time you see a challenging conversation or situation coming, take time to review these three tips.
Pray for help to keep them in mind as you interact with your teen. If you can implement even one of the tips, you will find yourself on the path of elevating the relationship above the circumstance, and that will go a long way toward strengthening your relationship with your teen as you navigate the years ahead.
The Christian Parenting Prayer Journal
If we are going to raise the next generation of kids who honor the Lord and change our culture for his glory, we have got to refocus and re-strategize. Of all the hundreds of things we do each day for our kids, we have to believe that praying for them is the single most powerful and significant thing we can offer.
In an effort to resource you in doing this, we have written a prayer journal that I hope you will order. It is set up to have one main focus to pray over your kids each week of the school year, beginning in September. There’s a place to make notes on specific areas you’re praying about for your kids, as well as related Scripture to guide you in praying each week.
I believe that if Christian parents will band together and commit to faithfully prayer over their kids, we WILL see a difference.
Keep up the good fight in raising your kids and give yourself a break in the places where you haven’t gotten it completely right.