Hope for Parents of Struggling Teens
- Monday, April 16, 2007
Understand your teen’s needs. Consider how your teen may be using inappropriate behavior to meet appropriate needs, like security, validation, acceptance, value, honor, significance, meaning, and purpose. Whenever you catch your teen behaving in reckless ways, ask your teen to consider whether or not the behavior is actually working to help meet his or her needs. Instead of lecturing your teen, encourage your teen to come to his or her own conclusions about whether or not the behavior is helping your teen get where he or she wants to be in life.
Focus on three core components of character. When guiding and disciplining your teen, focus on what matters most: honesty, obedience, and respect. Do all you can to help your teen develop these qualities as part of his or her personal character.
Prepare your teens for the real world. Don’t try to insulate your son or daughter from the harsh realities of the world - know that if you do so, you’re only delaying the inevitable introduction your teen will have to the world, anyway, and you’re setting your teen up to rebel against you. Realize that once your child reaches the teen years, you need to help him or her mature by learning how to think critically and make choices for himself or herself. Rather than lecturing your teen, engage in discussions that respect your teen’s right to make decisions freely.
Allow your teen to make mistakes and learn from failure instead of rushing to bail him or her out of natural consequences. Give your teen the responsibilities he or she needs (chores at home, a part-time job, accountability for getting to school on time and completing homework, etc.) to move from dependency on you to the independence necessary to live on his or her own. On your teen’s next birthday (or at age 13, if your teen is still younger than that), celebrate his or her transition to more maturity with a special event like a ceremony, outing, or party (just as Jewish young people recognize their growing maturity through bar and bat mitzvahs).
Expect your teen to respect your boundaries (such as not taking your things without your permission and not expecting you to drive him or her to activities you don’t have time for). Respect your teen’s boundaries, as well, by giving your teen as much privacy as you can while still making sure that he or she is living a healthy lifestyle. Instead of trying to control your teen, build a home environment that will empower your teen to thrive in his or her next stage of life.
Express unconditional love. Ask God to help you avoid basing your relationship with your teen on performance (what your teen does or doesn’t do) and instead realize that your teen’s value is based on the fact that he or she is God’s child, as well as yours. Let your teen know clearly that you won’t take your love away if he or she doesn’t perform the way you hope. Remember that God loves your teen unconditionally and expects you to do the same. Ask God to help you keep forgiving your teen and continue to extend grace to him or her. Give your teen the confidence he or she needs to grow beyond his or her mistakes – confidence that’s rooted in knowing you will be there for him or her, no matter what.
Appreciate your teen’s uniqueness. Don’t pressure your teen to become someone that he or she wasn’t created to be. Ask God to help you understand and appreciate all that’s unique about your teen. Replace your own agenda for your teen’s life with God’s vision for your teen’s life. Give your teen the freedom to be himself or herself, and encourage your teen to discover and pursue God’s purposes for his or her life.
Don’t run from pain. Understand that God can use pain in powerful ways to motivate your teen to reconsider options, reflect on choices, and reevaluate the results of his or her current choices. Allow your teen to feel pain so it can motivate him or her. Give your teen guidance and options as he or she goes through pain. Set clear boundaries and don’t be afraid to follow through on consequences for wrong behavior. Use temporary discomfort to move your child toward repentance and change. Realize that the pain you want to avoid may be the very means God wants to use to connect your teen to Him and to you in stronger, deeper relationships.
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