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?
On parenting teens: Be a steady presence and a source of unconditional love for your teen. -@DawnMHSH: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
This is all excellent advice from a mom who’s been there in the trenches. I agree with everything you’ve said. A good friend of mine is the head of admissions at a nearby college. The one thing that they have noticed more and more, in recent years, is that teens come to college having had no taste of independence at home. They don’t know how to manage their time, their finances, and they don’t know how to deal with failure. More students are needing counseling to get them through the transition to college. I would strongly suggest that parents not “hover” so much especially as your child grows. They need to know that they can fall flat on their face and have the confidence that they can pick themselves back up and continue on. It’s imperative that they learn these skills while still at home if they are going to successfully transition into being an independent adult. Of course learning how to lean on the Lord is going to be paramount as they get older. They are, after all, God’s children before they were ever ours. Great post!
Dawn Camp says
The current health situation is testing how we handle independence even more. My teens were disappointed that their track meet was cancelled today, but we let them run with friends on our county’s greenway. They need the outdoors and friend time, we just said no hugging! 🙂
I’m mum to a 13 turning 14 in August year old Boy and two girls 10 & 9. You are right, we went through a rough patch with my son it was quite hard but he’s turned a corner and I just shower him with love. I do pick my battles but I also loose my temper too. Not as much as I used too but our relationship is very strong because of the shift in parenting. It’s certainly rewarding, worrying and constantly changing!
Dawn Camp says
Jas, you are right in the middle of it, aren’t you? Teen boys can be difficult, but they are some of my favorite humans. 🙂 Keep that relationship healthy and keep communication strong with those girls, who are probably in an easier stage. Their time will come and you’ll be thankful for the foundations you set now.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Dawn I not a Mum. I never will be. That was my choice. I was a Registered Childminder for 19 years. I did love my job. But I have Sister’s with kids. So I have seen then grow up one is coming the eldest 20. I prayer for my Sister’s who are not saved nor any of her kids. To always treat their kids the same. Enjoy them. As they grow up far too far. One minute they are babies in your arms. Looking up at you needing you for everything. Then nexr they are away at Collage or Uni. Those years far by so quickly. I told my sister’s to enjoy every second with them while they are at home. As you will look round one day and the house will be empty. There will be no nose. Yes you will have day they will not agree with you. But you remember you are the Parent. You sometime have to say No. They might not like it. But you have to do for their own good. You only do in Love. You will always love them be there for them. They are your kids. I pray for God to kids my sister’s kids safe and that they will get saved. Plus their parents get saved. As I know in God perfect timing they all will. My sister’s might not listen to my advice they might. But they both know I said it in Love. As I look after some of my sister kids when we. I love them all. But I one big piece of advice I did give my sister kids and I give you parents is to have no favorite’s in any of your kids. Treat them all the same. Love them all the same. As Jesus has no favorite’s in us. Jesus Loves us all the same and treats us all the same as we are his precious Children. Lets do the same. I do the same with my sister Kids. Love today reading xxx
Dawn Camp says
Dawn, treating children equally is a great piece of advice. Thanks for sharing!
LISTEN…. teenagers will talk if given the chance. I want to hear what their heart is feeling if they want to share.
I am learning to be a better listener to my 15 and 13year old and it feels good to connect.
Last night I thanked GOD for giving me 15 beautiful minutes of real heartfelt conversation with both kids and I feel that moment will carry on with them in times of struggle and know that I am on this journey with them.
Dawn Camp says
Gina, being a good listener is such good advice. It’s so tempting to jump in and comment, but they just want their opinions to be heard before we insert our opinions.
Theresa Boedeker says
Such great tips Dawn. I remember when my daughter hit pre-teen age everyone was saying “wait until she is a teen.” Warning that I wouldn’t have a relationship with her, that life with her would be miserable. etc. But we had a wonderful relationship and still do. And she now has her own family and we are such good friends. My son is a teen now, and he is a delight. I love having him around. Yes, don’t provoke them or argue with their flippant remarks or thoughts that don’t agree with yours. Ask them questions, instead. They may change your mind or they may change their own. Enjoy them. Give them freedom. Respect them. Start asking for their opinion on things.
Dawn Camp says
Theresa, sound like you’ve had wonderful relationships with your teens. My teen son is also a delight. My teens are a lot of fun to be around and I enjoy them so much. Relationships with adult children are so special too. My mom and I were such good friends and I miss her. I hope to have that relationship with my children too.
GK Coombs says
YES! Thank you. My teen is wounded often by the utter cruelty about teens being worthless, incompetent and generally horrible. I found inevitably it was parents clinging and controlling, not modeling respect or decision
making or fairness. My two are amazing, also.
Well, we must learn to laugh..There will be many things that totally are nerve racking & we wonder if we can hang in there; but good news..You plus God makes a huge difference. I have three kids that made it through the rough years & now are wonderful adults who love the Lord with all their hearts. They are now 52, 49 & 46 & I love them with all my heart! No matter what happens, they are on loan from God.
Dawn Camp says
Frances, thanks for the reminder that “you plus God makes a huge difference”—God gave our children to us and us to them!
GK Coombs says
THANK YOU! Thank you for not jumping on the bashing teens bandwagon, the rampant disrespect so popular. Teens are a composite of values they have seen, what you REALLY model (they are subconsciously intuitive, so packing your front as perfect or hiding your own issues doesn’t work, they know and will cope either the same way or as far from it as possible), how well you have prepared them for – teens face so much disrespect yet we want them to learn respect. Hmmm….. Teens are constantly devalued with ridicule, lack of respect for their very humanity, lack of trust while expecting them to act fully like adults and yet put down for their efforts to grow and learn. I think the worst disrespect they face is that their God-given role to test independence, to separate, is not respected. Same with 2 year olds, this is a God-designed stage to separate and mommy and daddy usually resent giving up passive, cuddly baby. It’s an unhealthy dynamic to desire a passive, cuddly one but fight and be upset over the next normal stage of separation I oft say try strapping me into a car seat when I don’t understand where I am going and my wishes weren’t consulted, if you want a big fight, Who can blame a 2 yer old? Well, a lot of parents, apparently. Same with teens, respect the stage of life they are designed for and it’s easier on you, parents! Prepare them for it, don’t fight them over it. If you clung to your middle-schooler, you didn’t get them ready. I don’t mean not to be close and hug and hold them, but rather not give them consequences, testing responsibility, and let them become humans with values instilled. So again, thank you for referring to teens as real people with respect from someone who has two and has mentored many.
Dawn Camp says
GK, you are right: it’s hard on a parent when our children start to separate and become independent, but it’s a necessary step in the relationship that has to happen on their path to adulthood. Thanks for your comment!
Ok, I’m balling. I feel like I walked through some of this with you. You’re spot on. You did (and are doing) good, mama. Love and miss you!❤️
Dawn Camp says
Girl, we’ve been there in the trenches together. I love and miss you too!
Rachel C says
My oldest son will be 9 in June. I can see the days for teaching him more responsibility and independent choices coming soon. Do I miss some things about him being little? Sure. Do I, at the same time, get annoyed with my current 3 year old for not doing as he’s told? Yes. Parenting is both a job and a relationship, and God is there to help me manage both of those things and to care for my kids in their unique stages of growth.
This is so good. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I love your perspective on parenting! ❤️
Beth Williams says
Such excellent advice. Parents need to quit “helicopter” parenting & let their children grow up. Don’t continue to baby them through the teenage years. Let them go out & make mistakes. They will learn from them & be the better for it. Parents please “adult” your children. Teach them how to do chores, work & save money. The more they learn at home the better off they will be out in the world. Through all the trials & tribulations that come with teens please be there for them. Love on them as much as possible. Letting them know you want them to fly high & be successful. My parents started early & had me help mow & do yard work. When I graduated HS I lived with them & instantly had to pay rent. It was based on what I made, but the concept of paying bills & doing life was instilled. When I moved out I was able to function normally without any help. I was able to save for what I needed.