Do you ever get frustrated when working with your teen? One minute he is so mature, you forget he’s not an adult yet. The next minute he does something so incredibly childish that you suddenly lock up with fear at the idea of releasing him out into the world on his own.
The journey from child to adult can be a confusing and difficult time for teens and their parents, but it doesn’t have to be.
Becoming an Adult
Teenagers are people on the verge of entering adulthood. This is an important season in their development.
- It is not a time to abandon them to fend for themselves, thinking our parenting job is almost done.
- Nor is it wise to turn them over to their peers, assuming they will no longer listen to us.
- However, it is also not the time to hold firmly to our desire to control and say “you will do what I say because I’m the parent!”
Teens need our guidance in making decisions, learning how to navigate through life on their own, and thinking through all the important issues they face like education, career, and their own future family.
Teens must transition from being told what to do and how to do it to being guided by God without parent as go-between.
It’s not about control
Your job is to guide your teens through this sometimes turbulent transition into adulthood, not to control them or force them into the mold you desire.
Your efforts to control will only clash with their necessary growth toward becoming an individual. You will find yourself battling one power struggle after another. Nobody likes those!
Not only are power struggles counterproductive to the development of your teen, but it also hurts your relationship with them.
That said, teens still need boundaries.
Although teens are almost adults, they still need some reasonable boundaries. These boundaries should not be inflexible.
Boundaries should stretch and expand with a demonstrated increase in responsible behavior.
Likewise, boundaries should tighten and shrink with immaturity and poor judgement.
It’s also important to take the individuality of your particular teen into consideration. Not all teens need the same boundaries to flourish and grow. Even two teens within the same family may need totally different boundaries. Boundaries must be custom-made and frequently adjusted to fit the person God created your teen to be.
The goal of providing boundaries is not about restricting, but increasing personal freedom.
Teens also need adequate freedom within those generous boundaries. How will they learn to be responsible and accountable if they are never given the freedom to fail and flounder a little? Tighten down on the freedom as required to help them course correct, but over-bearing control could provoke rebellion.
Teens need your guidance, not your control. Allow them the freedom to learn to control themselves. They will not have the opportunity to learn self-control completely until parental control is relaxed a little.
What to do When You Mess Up
All parents make mistakes, especially if working with teens is new to them. Don’t be too hard on yourself, but do be brave enough to be honest. Humility before God, yourself, and yes—even your teen is necessary.
Swallow your pride and confess your mistakes to your teen.
They will respect you more for your humble honesty than they ever will for your feigned perfection.
They’ve already figured out you aren’t as perfect as they thought you were when they were little. You might as well admit it. A good relationship with your teen is far more valuable than your own self-image.
What to do When Your Teen Succeeds
Times of transition in life can also be times of heightened insecurity. Acknowledging their successes (no matter how small) and encouraging them to keep moving forward will increase their self-confidence which is a necessary component of being a successful adult.
Celebrate your teen’s successes with the same heart and enthusiasm that you cheered his first steps or her first word. No one ever outgrows the need for encouragement. Be deliberate about looking for opportunities to high-five your teen’s accomplishments.
- Make sure she knows you are on her team.
- Make him believe you are in his corner.
- Cheer her achievement.
- Encourage him to reach for the next one.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Target
Our primary goal is to send our teens out into the world with the strong foundation of a personal walk with Christ. We want them to live for Jesus, serve and love others, and have God-honoring priorities.
A subsequent goal is to develop and maintain a strong, meaningful relationship between us and our teens. As they grow older and increase in their own personal responsibility, our relationship to them must gradually transition from that of parent-child to one of being their brother or sister in Christ.
Our target is to help them be more Christ-like, not to make them more like us.
Remember to keep your eye on the target as you fire your arrow out into the world!
Children are a gift from the LORD;
they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!