Parenting Teens Is Only For The Brave

This originally appeared as a devo on

Last night we had a parent meeting for our student ministry. Parker did an outstanding job walking through the why of our calendar as well as getting some topics that they would like to see the student ministry unpack.

Parker asked me to share some parenting wisdom at the close of the meeting. I was a bit nervous about this because I’m not sure anyone has the whole parenting thing completely down. Each kid is so different and teenagers present a whole different level of parenting. Amy and I are by no means “experts” as many days we look at each other in complete bewilderment thinking – ‘what the heck do we do now??’

But beyond praying for our kids every single day, there have been 3 huge insights that we seem to continue to come back to as we parent our teens. Here they are.

Sometimes you have to allow the wreck, not rescue them from their own decisions.
This may be the hardest bit of parenting but also the most valuable. It’s pretty easy for Amy and I at times see the coming wreck. A “friend” that really isn’t a friend. A relationship that isn’t going to turn out like they think it is. A purchase that isn’t wise and they will regret. Time spent playing instead of studying – then allowing them to suffer that bad grade and subsequent consequence. Not reminding them of what time it is. Refusing to “fix their problem with their teacher” for them.

It’s not good parenting to run in front of our kids and keep from them some of life’s painful lessons. Sometimes people betray you. Not studying has consequences. Forgetting homework at home isn’t the rest of the family’s problem. These are painful but necessary lessons. And it’s okay to allow our kids to learn them even when we see a way to avoid it.

Don’t rescue your kid from the consequences of their decisions. But don’t play the “I told you so” game with them either.

Parent for adulthood, not the moment.
This gets played out in two ways. First, have some rules. Make your kids do some things. Force them to try new experiences, have some responsibilities. But make sure you spend as much if not more time developing your relationship with them as well. Rules without relationship leads to rebellion. Take time and care to explain the why, choose your battles wisely but choose a battle. Teens need parents.

But also give them space to figure out who they are. Ask them questions and be okay if they don’t give you the answers you want or like. Let them figure out who they are. You can’t control everything that flies into your kids life. You can build a relationship with your kid so that you can talk about everything that flies into their life.

This means that you may have times where you have to go apologize to your kids when you get it wrong – that’s treating them like an adult. I remind my kids often – hey, this is the first time I’ve ever parented teens. We’re learning how to do this parenting thing at the same time you are learning how to be a teen.

Pray for and encourage a 3rd voice.
It happens a lot. One of our kids will come home and say – “Guess what Parker/Nate/Stacey/Some Other Volunteer In The Student Ministry said?” They will begin to tell us something that we’ve said in our house probably 1,285 times. You know what, though? They heard it when that “3rd Voice” said it to them. Not the voice of their parents (1) or the voice of their friends (2).

It’s why we encourage our kids to hang out and have time with other godly adults. It’s not always convenient. It takes some time and planning but the benefits are so worth it. As teens weigh what they hear from their parents and their friends, that 3rd voice is significant. And it’s why being involved in a student ministry or at the very least, having our kids in some kind of a discipling relationship with another godly adult is so important.

There are others I could list – books have been written on the matter. But these three are the ones I find myself coming back to over and over again.


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