As I’ve gone through the different stages of parenting, I have realized something. They all have challenges! And parenting a teenager is no different. In fact, parenting your teenager can be one of the most challenging times for your whole family!
Over the past 8 years, my husband and I have had at least one teenager in the house. Our kids are very close in age (18, 19, and 21) so we’ve spent the larger part of these 8 years with 3 teenagers. This has been both a blessing and a challenge!
One blessing from parenting 3 teenagers is how much we’ve learned from this experience. In fact, we’re still learning from it. Four of the main areas we’ve learned about parenting your teenager are these: be the parent, model behaviors, stay positive, and remain flexible.
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Be The Parent
When parenting your teenager, you must be the parent. This is not easy! In fact, it’s insanely hard!!!
It would be sooooo much easier to let you kids do everything they want, but you know that won’t be good for them in the long run. They’re craving independence, but they also still need rules, guidance, and structure in their lives. Here are four key actions to help you be the parent while parenting your teenager.
You’re Not Their BFF!
This is key while parenting your teenager. You need to remember that you’re the parent, and you are NOT their best friend.
Doing this can be extremely difficult! As parents, our protective instincts kick in. We want our kids to be safe and happy. And when we try to make them happy all the time, we can suddenly find ourselves morphing into a friend role instead of a parent role.
Your job is not to be their friend. While parenting your teenager, your job is to help them become good people. It’s to teach them how to be a productive member of society. When your kids become adults, you might be able to form a friendship with them. But at this time, you need to be the parent.
Give Consistent Rules and Consequences When Parenting Your Teenager
Consistency is another key part of successfully parenting teens. When parenting your teenager, you must be consistent with your procedures, rules, and consequences. Being consistent helps your teen know what is being expected of them. They will also know what to expect from your reaction to their behavior, whether good or bad.
Kids of any age don’t handle changes very well, and teens are no different. They may want to do whatever and be in charge of their life, but their developing brains need your guidance and consistency to help them along the way. Teen Paths has some great teenage parenting articles on consistency and setting limits with your teen.
By setting clear behavior expectations and having consistent consequences when they don’t, you’re helping your teenager learn right from wrong. As they grow into adulthood, the lessons you have taught them through consistency will help them become reliable and consistent adults.
Don’t Shy Away From Serious Topics
When parenting your teenager some serious and sensitive topics will come up. Dating, driving, sex, and drugs are just a few of the serious topics you’ll probably have to navigate with your teenager.
I don’t think that any of these topics, or others like them, are enjoyable to talk about with your teenager. With that being said, they are some of the topics you MUST address with your teen!
I remember realizing that we needed to talk to my kids about sex a few years ago. They were not yet teenagers, but they were getting close, and we wanted to wait another year before going there. I confided in a friend about wanting to wait, and she told me I’d better start having the talk with our oldest now. She said that if I didn’t, someone else would. It would probably be another kid, and they would give some BAD information and advice!
So, I sucked it up and had the talk. It was awkward (I think we were both pretty embarrassed) but I was happy to find out how little she knew at that time! Plus, by bringing up the topic with her, I hoped that she would feel comfortable talking with me about other serious topics later.
Like I’ve said before, none of these sensitive topics are easy to talk about with your kids. But if you don’t discuss them openly, your kids will get information from other sources. And it’s a good bet that those other sources won’t give the type of advice you would want your teen to hear!
Make Their Friends Welcome in Your Home
This is a great way to help your family navigate the teenage years and get out alive! While parenting your teenager, having the “hangout” home can provide many benefits to your teen and also to you as a parent.
First off, if your teen’s friends want to be at your house, then your teenager will enjoy being home more often. You’ll know where they are and who they are with. This gives a momma (or dad) greater peace of mind with your teen at home!
Secondly, you’ll have the chance to get to know their friends a little bit. You can ask them a little bit about themselves and their family. This information can help learn more about their friends. It also lets you in on WHY your teenager likes the friends they have. This is a huge benefit to any parent!
Being the home where your kids hang out is a good thing. But, being the parent that lets the kids drink or do drugs at your house is not. Your rules and consequences should be consistent for your family and for guests. Even if your kids are at home if they are participating in unsafe behavior, then you’re not doing your job as a parent. You are also not keeping their friends safe, which could cause trouble for you later.
Model Behaviors You Want When Parenting Your Teenager
A part of parenting your teenager successfully is modeling the good behaviors you want to see. “Because I said so,” and “Do what I say, and not what I do,” doesn’t work well with anyone, and especially not teenagers. They are looking to you for an example of the type of person they should be when they grow up.
Speak Calmly and Rationally
When parenting your teenager, it’s important to stay calm. But this is hard to do when they are driving you nuts!
Let’s say your teen breaks curfew. And when you confront them, they flip out! They start accusing you of being nosey and ruining their life before they stomp away and slam their bedroom door.
Your first reaction will probably be to turn it back around and start screaming at them. How dare they speak to me like that! There have been (many) times we’ve followed a kid to their room and started screaming right back. And guess what? It didn’t work!
NOBODY enjoys having someone scream at them. We don’t, and our kids don’t either.
Colossians 3:20-21 says “Children, do what your parents tell you. This delights the Master to no end. Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.” As parents, we LOVE that first verse! Our kids should be listening to us. But verse 21 is speaking directly to us as parents.
We can’t “make” our kids do what we want them to do. But we can model good behavior and hope they will catch on. By speaking calmly and rationally when parenting your teenager, they will hopefully follow your example as they grow up.
Love Your Teenager Unconditionally
Another way to model good behavior when parenting your teenager is to show them unconditional love.
Teenagers can be hard to love at times. They will try your patience. They will push you to the end of your rope! Even in the best of circumstances, teenagers can seem lazy, leave a mess everywhere, and answer every question with one-word answers (I hate that one).
One of Socrates’ most famous quotes is, “Those that are hardest to love need it the most.” This quote is one we need to remember as parents, and especially as parents of teens!
Teenagers want and need boundaries (even when they don’t know it). They also want to know they are loved and accepted by you, no matter what. Even when they are being a pain. Especially when they are being a pain!
Your home should be a safe space for your kids. That doesn’t mean a safe space to do anything they want without consequences. But it does mean that they are free to express their frustrations at home without ever losing your love for them.
My son is adopted, so he’s had a lot of questions and anger to work through over the years. And sometimes that anger bursts out towards me or my husband. During these times when his anger explodes, we try our best to simply listen. After listening, we let him know that he is always loved and that we are on his side. His reaction is a grumbled “I know,” followed by a torrent of all the emotions raging inside.
He didn’t need to be yelled at, but he did need our unconditional love.
Remember Your Teenage Years
As you are parenting your teenager, you’ll soon come to the realization that you are officially old! First off, your teen will make it obvious that they think it. Your clothes will be lame, your music will suck, and those old movies they used to watch with you as a kid will now be “stupid”.
Secondly, you’ll start to feel old. Waiting up late for your teen to come home makes you tired and cranky. Those grey hairs and wrinkles you get from the extra stress and worry will make you feel even older!
When you’re feeling old, it’s hard to remember your teenage years. But if you can remember, it will help you relate to them!
Take some time to yourself. Close your eyes, and think back to your middle school and high school years. Remember how self-conscious and awkward you felt. Try to envision those butterflies you got when that cute upperclassman finally said “hi” in the hallway.
Remembering your teenage years will help you understand what your teenager is going through. And if you can understand them, you can better meet their needs as their parent.
While Parenting Your Teenager You Must Stay Positive
Parenting your teenager is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Actually, it’s like a long course triathlon when you train and train beforehand, and the actual race never seems to end!
As parents of teens, you must stay as positive as possible. But man, that’s a tough one! You’ll need to be intentional when staying positive. You will also need a little help along the way.
Get Support From Other Parents of Teens
While running your super long race of parenting, one way to stay positive is through finding support. Your spouse, family, and friends are a wonderful source of encouragement and support. But, while parenting teens, you also need support from other parents who have teenagers.
As my kids have gone through the teen stages (and even now) I reach out to my friends who’s kids are a little bit older than mine. These parents have already navigated the craziness I’m now going through, so they are somewhat of an expert in the field.
One of my best friends has two boys in their early to mid-twenties. They are a few years older than my kids, so I’ve picked her brain on a lot of the difficult situations I’ve encountered. She’s been a great support to look to for a listening ear or advice. And I know that she loves my teens like her own, so she always has their best interest at heart.
If you don’t have friends who have teenagers, then you may have to think outside the box for support. You could find a church group for parents of teenagers. And in the age of technology, Facebook groups and Twitter hashtags can help you connect with parents like you all over the world! The Parents of Teens Survival Group on Facebook has over 1,000 members. Its goal is to help parents work together to raise their teens.
There are many ways to find support as you are parenting your teenager. You will need this support, and there are many resources out there. All you have to do is look for it and to ask for help.
Pick Your Battles With Your Teenager
People say “pick your battles” all the time. This phrase is good advice, especially when parenting your teenager.
Essentially, “pick your battles” means that you will choose what’s important to address with your teen, and what is not important. Let’s say EVERYTHING your teenager is doing right now is driving you nuts! When asked what the one thing you need your teenager to change, you want to exclaim, “Everything!” But that won’t work at all.
There’s no way you can help your teen become better in everything all at once! It’s just not possible. In fact, there’s no way you can work on everything about yourself that you need to fix at one time. The same is true, if not more so when working with your teenager.
So you need to “pick your battles”. You need to choose an area of need that your teen has, that needs to improve quickly, and focus on that. For starters, I’d probably pick something that deals with their health and safety. If your teenager is involved in something that is unsafe for them, such as sex or drugs, that might be an area to address first. And if it’s a serious issue, like the ones I’ve mentioned, you might need to involve external help.
If your teen isn’t involved in something serious (and I hope not) then you can choose something else that drives you nuts. It could be backtalk, not turning in schoolwork, or leaving a mess in your house. The point is to pick one thing at a time and help your teen become better in that one area. After they are successful in that area, you can move on to something else!
Take Time for Yourself
While parenting your teenager (or any kids, for that matter) taking time for yourself is one of the best and most important things you can do as a parent!!!
You must take care of yourself. You can’t fill anyone else’s bucket if yours is totally empty. And if you don’t take time for yourself, empty is where you’ll be!
There are many different ways you can take time for yourself. An hour bubble bath once a week is a great way to unwind and destress. Exercise is another great way to take care of yourself. Even if you have to break your 30-minute walk into 3 ten minute sessions, at least you have ten minutes of peace!
A few years ago, I realized that spending a few minutes reading the Bible and praying was the perfect way to start my day. Not only did I get to spend time in worship (which always lifts me up) but it also gave me a time of peace and reflection into my morning routine. This was a perfect way for me to address my needs as a person and as a mom. I also lift my husband and kids up to God in prayer. By asking for His help and guidance, I feel more equipped to deal with the day that lies ahead.
And taking time for yourself can include time with your spouse. There’s nothing wrong with scheduling a little couple time every week or month. Your kids are teenagers, and they are more responsible, so this should give you and your spouse more time to spend together!
Parenting Your Teenager Takes Flexibility
The last thought I want to leave you with is this- parenting your teenager takes flexibility. You have to be flexible when dealing with people, and kids are no different. Actually, teenagers may require the most flexibility of all! But, if you remember to be the parent, model good behavior, and to stay positive while parenting your teenager, you’ll learn many ways to be flexible in your parenting. This flexibility is not only good for your teenager, but it’s also good for you too!