How to Adjust Your Parenting Style for the Teen Years
- Friday, March 23, 2012
Most of us tend to parent the same way we were parented. Even those of us who vowed, “I’ll never do that to my kids,” often fall back to imitating what we saw from our parents. The problem is that the world has changed. Our parents would have been horrified by what our kids casually experience and discuss amongst themselves today. Things are different, and your kids are changing every day as well. Are you keeping up?
I went to Chicago recently—and I’m here to tell you that it’s a bad idea for a thin-blooded Texan to make a trip up north in the middle of winter! It was COLD. Fortunately before I left, I got a big warm coat (though it wasn’t big and warm enough) and a hat and gloves to wear. I could have said, “I shouldn’t have to wear something different,” but I likely would have ended up in the Chicago morgue. Making that adjustment didn’t change who I was, it was simply a wise response to changing circumstances.
In the same way, parents need to adjust. But they sometimes dig in their heels and refuse to change their parenting style to respond to the changes in the maturity of their children as they get older. But teens need their parents to recognize their growing maturity. To adjust from controlling to coaching them doesn’t mean you are surrendering your core values or throwing up your hands in futility and giving up; it means you are meeting your kids at their level and respecting their individuality.
Parents who are unwilling to adjust tend to push away their teenagers or cause them to rebel. I’m not saying that your child should be allowed to walk all over you; rules and boundaries must be set and maintained. But adjusting can help your kids think you’re keeping up with their age and are in touch with their world—so they’ll be more likely to lean on you when they need help or to discuss the issues in their life.
Back in the Dark Ages when I grew up, information turned over every eleven years. Today, it happens every nine months. The pace of change has quickened, and if we are inflexible and refuse to acknowledge those changes, our kids see us as “dinosaurs,” out of touch with their world. It’s more vital than ever that we stay engaged with our kids. That means we need to know what’s going on in their lives and in their culture (which probably means we’re going to have to learn a new language or two) and to fit in with the way they relate to others in their world.
Unfortunately, another important authority in our kids’ life isn’t adjusting. Lifeway Resources recently did a study that showed 85% of kids never attend church again after they graduate from high school. It shows that there’s a huge disconnect between kids and the Church. After talking to and working with thousands of young people, I’ve discovered that many of them feel like what they’re being taught there simply doesn’t apply to the world in which they live. The Church isn’t answering the questions many of them are asking, and we can fail to so in our homes as well.
A New Way to Talk
The commanding communication style used when your kids were younger won’t work well when they are adolescents. So stop lecturing; start discussing. Stop talking; start listening. Please understand that I’m not saying the old way is wrong. It’s fine and it is needed for the care and nurturing of younger kids. But the changes in the thinking process of your teen will require a new way to talk to them if you want to really get through to them. Modifying the presentation doesn’t change the content of the message or the values of the messenger. It just makes it easier for you to get through to your teenager.
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