When a topic pops up continually in conversation or often catches my attention online, I wonder if it’s the Holy Spirit nudging me to write about it for others who are in the same place. Many of my friends and I are parenting teens, with fewer years of children living in our homes ahead of us than behind. We’re looking closely at how we parented our older children, what did and didn’t work, and what we’ve learned along the way. I hope the ideas my friends and I chew over and insight from thirty-three years of motherhood helps you too.
For some mothers of teens, the parent-child relationship doesn’t look like they thought it would. Some children push back against the values their parents have worked hard to instill. Some children push people’s buttons in general, especially their parents. Most days you’d give anything for your teen to put their trust in you again more than their friends and the world.
With five of our eight children grown and living on their own, three of those married with children and three teens still at home, I’ve parented eight very different teens. I’m far from a perfect mom, but I trust that God specifically put my husband, children, and me together as a family.
Today I’d like to share five things I’ve learned from our years of parenting teens:
1. They need you.
No two teens are the same and some are easier to parent than others, but they all need you equally. My mother used to tell me I couldn’t devote all my time to one child, although it’s easy to pay more attention to the ones that demand it. The squeaky wheel usually does get the grease. The quieter, easier ones may think more than they react. They need your help to tackle the more serious decisions and circumstances they face with age and to bounce ideas off of you.
Set your foundation firmly in God’s truth and uphold those principles. They need to see your beliefs and your consistency and know that they can bank on them.
2. Independence prepares them for adulthood.
If you never require (or teach) your children to do their own laundry, help cook and clean, or share household chores, they will continue to expect you to do those things for them and won’t gain the satisfaction and skills that prepare them to live independently. Set reasonable boundaries and expectations.
Our teens with jobs learn responsibility, accountability, and that it takes planning to stretch your dollars between paychecks. They put gas in their cars, go out to eat and watch movies with friends, and save for bigger purchases. It’s a taste of adulthood within the safety net of home.
Give your child the trust they’ve earned and an appropriate level of independence, and they’ll launch more successfully into adulthood.
3. Don’t be easily provoked.
A popular piece of parenting advice is to pick your battles. When you and your teen can’t seem agree on anything, every topic of discussion is filled with hidden landmines. Keep a grip on your temper and don’t be easily provoked.
Are you discussing an immediate eventuality or one years down the road? Why get into an argument about the future? If your child declares they will school their children differently than what you chose for them and never force their kids to clean their bathroom or fold their laundry, why argue about it?
You probably know someone who likes to play devil’s advocate and delivers contentious opinions to provoke debate. Teens are maturing and learning to think more logically, and many are masters of this tactic. While some enjoy quarreling, others may just want to get a response from you, positive or negative. At times I have allowed an aversion to conflict to hinder communication between me and one of my children.
Ask questions that help you understand each other and learn to keep your cool.
4. Time brings renewed relationships.
Be a steady presence and a source of unconditional love for your teen, and when they are older, your relationship may transform in new ways. One who rebelled against your authority at home may value your company and advice when they are on their own, making adult decisions.
One of my adult daughters tagged me in a Facebook post recently with a graphic that said, “That feeling of ‘I want my mom’ has no age limit, no time limit, and no distance limit.” We butted heads when she was a teen, but now I dote on her babies and we have a fresh relationship. Yes, your teens will be adults someday!
5. Enjoy them.
One of the most fascinating things about the teen years is watching your children mature into young adults. You can have deeper conversations, cheer them as they perform or compete at more advanced levels, and glimpse their true character in how they interact with the world around them.
I like these precious people we’ve home grown. I treasure the time we have left at home, but I look forward to seeing the adults they’ll become and how our relationships will grow.
Where are you in your motherhood journey?
Which of these thoughts most resonated with you?
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