7 Steps to Raising the Perfect Teenager

My {imperfect} teens (and twenty-something!)

I can almost hear the snickers now. Especially from those of you who actually know my teenagers! There are no perfect teenagers, and my teens aren’t any exception. So, if you clicked on this blog post for a formula for raising teenagers, this is not the blog post for you. But if you are interested in hearing some of the things that my husband and I have learned while raising {imperfect} teenagers, then keep reading.

1. Realize your teenager is a sinner, just as everyone on this earth is a sinner. This means that when they come home and tell us their side of story, there is probably another side. I recently had someone e-mail me to tell me something that their child had heard in our home a couple of years ago. What she said was completely inaccurate and even heretical. I don’t know how their teenager had come away with that, but somehow they had. And so when our kids come home and tell us the teacher or coach was really mean to them, or their best friend double crossed them, or their boyfriend broke their heart, always remember there is another side to that story. Try to find out what it is before reacting too quickly.

2. Be the person you want your child to become. Don’t expect your child not to cheat if you cheat on your taxes. Don’t expect your child not to lie if you call in sick to work when you aren’t sick. Don’t expect your child to speak respectfully if you don’t speak respectfully to them or to your spouse.  This is one of the greatest challenges as a parent and one we failed miserably sometimes.  I would hear one of the kids speak angrily or unkindly and I would cringe, hearing the echo of my own angry and unkind words.

3. Teach basic doctrines of Christianity.  Kids have BIG questions. Be prepared with the answers. Why am I here? Who is God? Why can’t I have sex before I am married? Why can’t I see that movie? Why is that music group off-limits? When they are little you can get away with a simple “Because I said so” to many of these questions. But if you try this tactic with teens it will most certainly breed rebellion. They need answers. And they deserve them. So it is our responsibility to not only know the answers but to talk about them with our kids. We have held conversations about everything in this house. And we always take it back to God’s Word. What does God’s Word say?  Ultimately, we are teaching our kids that they are accountable to God. It doesn’t really matter what we think. It only matters what God thinks. Many of the questions are hard and sometimes we don’t have the answers. So we search God’s Word together or we ask a pastor we trust.  But don’t avoid the questions!

And one more thing about this — oftentimes these conversations take place at the most inconvenient times, like 11pm. When the kids want to talk, don’t let a little thing like sleep get in the way.

4. Love them unconditionally. They are not always easy to love. They may shout “I hate you!” but inside they are crying “please love me, anyway!” Don’t give up on them. They can be mean, spiteful, unkind to their friends, disrespectful, and liars. Deal with the behavior firmly but keep loving them!  Make sure there is never a doubt in their mind that they have the love and support of their parents.

5. If Dad is around, make sure he is involved. If you are a single parent, I know that God is faithful and He will most definitely meet your needs. But if Mom and Dad are in the home together, then it is critical that you work together. Mom needs to treat Dad with respect and refer the kids to him sometimes for permission or discipline. Dads need to encourage conversations with their teens. Many dads grow uncomfortable with their kids as they grow older, especially their girls. Oh, they love them, but they are not quite sure what to do with them. But this is when girls need the love and listening ear of their father most. Just keep listening and loving. Keep helping Mom with discipline. Don’t make Mom field all of the tough questions. This is a partnership. It is so important that Dad doesn’t disappear during this critical time.

6. Have fun together. For our family, we love camping together. It is a time we can all get away from the routine of life and just relax and laugh and have fun. Our kids are between the ages of 13 and 22 and they still all go along when they can, because we have a great time. When I was growing up, it was sports in the backyard. We had countless football, soccer ball, and bopper ball games in the backyard. The neighbor kids would come and even my {non-athletic} mom joined in the fun. For your family, it may be something else. Maybe you all love shopping at Saturday morning yard sales or you have a family game night. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but it is important that you all do something fun together on occasion. And, by the way, movie night doesn’t really count, since there is no bonding taking place when all eyes are staring at a screen.

7. Pray, pray, pray. I can’t stress this one enough. Because when I look at all of the other points I have listed, I can see where Eric and I failed miserably many times. But God meets us in our failures and His grace covers them. It is really one of those small (or is it great?) miracles in life. Don’t pray for good grades or for them to be the football star, pray for the stuff that matters. Ask God to give them a hunger for His Word. Ask Him to bring them godly spouses. I have been praying Mark 12:30 for my kids since they were born, “Please help them to love You with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength,” pours from my lips almost every day for my kids.

I have so much more I could say, like: don’t expect too much but make sure you expect enough. And if your kids have godly grandparents, let them be a support to you. But, alas, I guess this isn’t a book, so I will stop now.

When our oldest was a pre-teen we were SO clueless. That stage felt a lot like I had felt as a brand new mom, holding that tiny newborn in my arms. I looked at the awkward and opinionated 12 year old and wondered what in the world I was supposed to do with her? But as we fell into the role of parenting teens, we learned that pre-teens need a lot of boundaries. They are emotional, oftentimes angry, and downright disrespectful at times. They will shout that they are the only ones not allowed to do something and they will sometimes be right about that. But through it all, we stuck to our guns. We didn’t give in. And I will tell you the ages between 13 and 16 were ROUGH–especially with a couple of them (I will refrain from mentioning names!). But right around the time they turned 16 things started getting so much better. All of a sudden there weren’t so many battles. And they started talking to us about their problems. We could trust them and loosen up the boundaries. It was a very gradual process. But we have never, ever regretted the firm boundaries we clung to during those tough early teen years. And now, with my older kids, we trust them. We see that they want to please God and we aren’t worried about what movie they are going to or what is on their phone. We know that they have reached a place where they understand their accountability is to God. Sure, they will make mistakes, just like we did, but they are headed in the right direction. Interestingly enough, they will often ask our advice about many of the choices they face each day. It is such a blessing!

No, there are no perfect teenagers, just as there are no perfect parents. But if our kids profess to know and love God and the fruit of their life gives evidence of this profession, what more could a parent ask for?

2 thoughts on “7 Steps to Raising the Perfect Teenager”

  1. Leslie, thanks for sending me the link to this post! It was really helpful, and just what I needed to hear as I embark on this parenting a teenager gig. ~Kathleen

  2. Pingback: A Few Favorites on Parenting - Growing 4 Life

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