Are you a parent of someone between the ages of 15 and 19? I’ll be the first to say that teenagers often get a bad rap in today’s society. I’ll also be the first to challenge that stereotype by saying that I know many totally awesome teenagers! In my nearly 36 years as a parent, I’ve met a lot of moms and dads who immerse themselves fully in the toddler and elementary years of their kids’ lives but start to distance themselves from their own older children and other teenagers.
I relate well with teens and have always enjoyed being a chaperone on field trips and retreats, as well as a “second momma” to many of my children’s friends. It’s rare for a day to go by in our house that doesn’t include a bunch of teenagers sitting at the table, hanging out in the family room or just passing through for hugs and hellos on their way to some other destination. No parent is perfect, and I’m sure my kids can attest to that fact. Navigating the teenage years can indeed be challenging, but if you keep a few things in mind, I think your kids will be grateful to you someday.
Be a parent to your teenagers, not a friend
It’s a beautiful thing when a child reaches adulthood and considers his or her parent a best friend. When your kids are teenagers or younger, however, trying to relate to them as a buddy or friend can backfire in a major way!
This parenting error typically plays out in one of two ways. Either you try to act as though you’re 17 again to relate to your kids and their friends, or you’re reluctant to reprimand or discipline your child when necessary because you worry that he or she won’t “like” you if you do. Teenagers are becoming adults, but they are NOT adults. They need their parents to have authority over them in life to help guide them and teach them important lessons. This helps them become independent when they’re grown and on their own.
Hold your teens accountable for their actions
What actually prompted me to write this post was that my 20-year-old daughter who is a junior in college, two other daughters who are a sophomore and junior in high school and a family friend who is a senior in high school happened to thank me today for being a parent who holds teenagers accountable for their actions.
They said it is immediately noticeable when they meet someone whose parents have not held them accountable for their actions. They also said that knowing they will always be held accountable helps guide their choices and decisions in life. I was glad to hear them all say that because they have been held accountable growing up, they clearly understand that they are responsible for the choices they make and that all choices have consequences, either positive or negative.
Tell your teenagers that you love them
I’ve always been annoyed by people — in this case, men, who, when asked if they often tell their wives they love them respond, “I married her didn’t I? She should know that I love her without me having to say it all the time.” Ugh! Listen up, men! Do NOT do this! Seriously poor form!
Wives aren’t the only ones who need to HEAR that they are loved. Your teenagers want to hear it, too, although their attitude might not always suggest as much. Never assume that your teens know you love them. Tell them often and offer lots of hugs and kisses, too! As your teens work their way through some very awkward stages in life, they might not feel loveable all the time. Hearing it from you reassures them and helps them love themselves as well.
Let them rise to the challenge of responsibility
My mother always used to say that if I wanted something done right, I should do it myself. I see the wisdom in this. However, when it comes to teenagers, they need responsibilities in their lives. When you expect them to clean up after themselves or assign chores such as doing laundry, washing dishes, taking out the trash or mowing the lawn, you’re teaching them far more than how to check tasks off a to-do list.
By entrusting household chores to your teenagers, you’re letting them know that you’re confident in their abilities to help maintain the household. You’re also strengthening family bonds by working together to keep your home looking nice and clean and comfortable. You might be surprised at how many college students and young adults do not possess the basic life skills needed to take care of themselves! Giving your teens responsibilities also teaches them the importance of managing their time, accomplishing tasks in a timely manner and fulfilling obligations.
Most of all, enjoy your teenagers while you can
Every time one of my kids enters his or her junior year of high school, I have a mini meltdown half way through the year. It always happens at some random moment where I am suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelmed by the thought that the child in question only has one more of high school left and then “THAT’S IT — WE’RE DONE.” As a homeschooling momma, it seems to really strike a chord, if you will, that my time with said teenager is almost over. I usually work through my self-pity party and look forward to sharing the next phase of the journey with each of my sons and daughters as they go out into the world.
I’m glad that I take time to enjoy my teenagers and their friends. These tips will hopefully help you during your child’s teenage years, especially if you’ve hit a bump in the road, which you will because we ALL do. I also hope that you recognize how equally important it is to enjoy the time you have been given with your teens. If all they ever see is that you “mean business” you and they might miss out on some wonderful opportunities to laugh, explore, play, pray and simply BE together! Don’t be afraid to let down your guard and enjoy your teenagers!