4 Hints for Leading Your Teenager.

Teen girl with partents

Today is your darling little daughter’s twelfth birthday.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

You are entering the most difficult period of parenting known to mankind. The years between 12 and 18 are the most influential of a person’s life. They will likely set the course for the man or woman they will ultimately become.

The main reason teenagers are difficult to raise is that your leadership style has to undergo a radical shift if you want to continue to be influential. From newborn to about age eleven, moms and dads are the most important people in a child’s life. With teenagers, not so much. Small children, even when they are being difficult, are attempting to judge your reactions and hear your opinion as a means of making sense of the world.

Teenagers, on the other hand, are preparing for adulthood. They are trying to establish their own identity apart from the one that is attached to their last name. If you try to continue your dictatorial power that worked wonderfully with your preschooler, you will likely get a lot of pushback from your teen.

Here are suggestions to help navigate the treacherous pre-pubescent, adolescence, and young adulthood years of your child.

  1. Monitor their social media. If you suddenly tell your sixteen-year-old that you want all their passwords, be prepared for a major battle. However, a frank discussion with your twelve-year-old about the dangers, responsibilities, and conditions of their social media use will be accepted and well-received, especially if it comes with their first smart phone. Set expectations from day one that nothing posted in any chatroom, forum, or blog is private . . . especially from you. Insist that teens must keep you informed of any password they use as a condition of their continued media use and put reminders for yourself on your calendar to spot check their accounts. If you discover that they have accessed media that you have been blocked from, even if they swear that it is because they “forgot” to tell you they changed the password, impose a strict “going dark” punishment for a time period commensurate with the infraction. By “going dark” I mean, no interactive media access.
  2. Discourage “bad company” relationships. The old adage that “bad company corrupts good morals” is a sad truth with teenagers. Once a child hits the age of twelve, family night at the movie theater or amusement park won’t be as much fun as it was when they were seven. You shouldn’t keep teens from doing things with their friends, but you can encourage friendships with the right people. Encourage your teens to participate in group activities with their peers at Boy Scouts, youth groups, and other Christian environments. They will likely make their close friends from among the people they hang with. Be aware, however, that not everybody who wears the title “Christian” on their nametag, has that title written on their heart. Even Christians can bully, engage in sexual activities, and commit crimes. Like Ronald Reagan, “Trust, but verify,” that even the “good kids” aren’t just acting the part.
  3. Help your children maintain a healthy view of their body. Boys and girls with unhealthy bodyweights become the targets of mean kids. Sexual attraction becomes increasingly more important during the teen years, so help your teenager develop modest dressing practices, good eating habits, and an active healthy lifestyle. Invite them to visit the gym with you, but be aware of an unhealthy fixation on being “sexy.” Teach them everything you know about health and nutrition even if you need to read a book or two to brush up on it yourself. Set a good example by staying fit and maintaining your hygiene. Encourage open discussions and try not to blush if you are asked a question on a sensitive topic.
  4. Train your children to be leaders, not followers. One of the best firewalls you can build for your children against ungodly influence is helping them become the influencers, not the influenced. Teach your children to take a stand for their beliefs, in a loving, non-antagonistic manner. Help them to have the courage to be steadfast and firm, even with teachers or other authority figures, that attempt to dissuade them from the values they’ve been taught.

One day you will remember your child’s tumultuous teenage years and marvel at the adults they have become. Work at these suggestions as if the person they ultimately become depends entirely on you, but pray knowing the truth is that God is much more interested in seeing them through these years than you.

I would love to hear how you handled the struggles with your teenager. Please comment below.

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