It’s a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, twists and turns, and sometimes you just hang on for the ride. Other times you want to throw your hands up in the air and see what happens.
One evening this past week, I joined a discussion group for parents of teens. I agreed to attend as a favor to my friend, a youth pastor, and as a representative of the non-profit for which I work. My friend orchestrated the discussion at his church and because he isn’t a parent yet, he asked me to sit in and share any words of wisdom I may have about parenting teens.
When someone asks me to give my thoughts on parenting, I always feel so inadequate. My husband and I raised three children to adulthood, but I still don’t feel like an expert. All I can offer as advice is to share what worked for my family.
I totally realize that when my now-grown children were teens, they were really good kids. Oh, we had our arguments and problems just like everyone else, but for the most part, our kids were respectful teens who made excellent choices. My husband and I don’t take the credit but attribute that to God’s help and intervention. He listened to countless prayers we lifted up for our children and He helped us guide them in their paths. And thankfully, they listened!
One of the things I always tell those who ask my advice is that “Children will do what is expected of them.” If you expect them to be smart-mouthed, rebellious brats, they will exceed your expectation. If you expect them to be well-behaved, respectful, contributing members of the family, they will exceed that expectation. I firmly believe setting boundaries and using discipline actually demonstrates to your children how much you love and care about them.
But honestly, my husband and I did not experience some of the heart-breaking situations that many parents face. Oldest daughter, middle daughter and son: you don’t have a clue how thankful I am that all three of you possess good heads on your shoulders and honor not only your mother and father but your heavenly Father as well by making outstanding godly decisions! I am so proud of all three of you!
Two things do occur to me about the way we raised our children. The first is that our family always attended church together. From the time they were born, we worshipped as a family. We didn’t just drop the kids off at Sunday School every Sunday, their Dad and I attended adult Sunday School classes too.
Church was a major part of our life and trying to live a godly life was something we, as their parents and believers in Christ, endeavored to model every single day. We attempted to teach our children that faith is more than religion, that it is a growing, personal relationship with Jesus.
Secondly, we always traveled as a family unit. Part of this was due to the fact that for a good portion of our children’s growing up years, we lived far away from grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and my husband traveled with his job a lot.
So the times we spent together as a family meant the world to us. We taught our children that as a family, we were a tight unit. When one of the kids had a sports event, we all went to cheer her/him on. If one of them was performing in a chorus or band concert or in the school musical, the rest of us were sitting out in the audience.
We ate meals together and played together. We watched TV and went to the movies together. We laughed and cried together. We spent as much time together as we could and we talked and listened to one another.
Their friends were always welcome at our house, and we tried our best to make our house fun, yet still adhere to the rules. As our children grew older, of course, they started to venture away from home, off on their separate ways, but we made sure our lines of communication stayed open and our bonds of connectedness remained intact.
I don’t know in what context she wrote this, but short story writer and poet Dorothy Parker once said, “The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.”
We tried to make our home atmosphere pleasant but never thought about letting the air out of the tires!! If you try that parenting tip, let me know how it works for you!