Wednesday, August 14, 2013

T is for... Teenagers

I am really behind on Blogging Through the Alphabet. Wonder if I can get caught up this week? After writing this one, I don't know. It's longer than I thought it would be, but I hope it's encouraging!

When I was a new mom (seems like a long time ago now!), one of the pieces of advice that I got regularly was something along the lines of enjoying my children while they were babies or while they were little because they grow up so quickly. Valid. They do grow quickly. About half the time this sweet thought would be followed by something like "and just wait till they are teenagers..." Most parents have heard something similar, and it's delivered in a tone of voice that implies that you will need every adorable memory of your child as an innocent little cherub to fortify you for the horrors of seeing that child through the ominous teen years.

But I don't think the teen years are quite so awful as we sometimes make them out to be. So far I've really enjoyed my kids as teens! And with my daughter just entering youth group this year, I am starting to experience what it's like to have a teen daughter. I expect it to have some challenges - and some joys - that are different from dealing with teen boys, and maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I look forward to it. I like my teens. I like their friends. I like my friends' teen kids. I like the teens in our youth group. In general, I pretty much like teens. They are fun and interesting to hang out with. Many of them have bigger dreams and deeper thoughts and more ability than we adults give them credit for. But they do face challenges too - some that are essentially the same as they've been for generations, and some that are new - and parenting teens comes with a set of challenges too.
T is for Teenagers (and some thoughts on parenting them) on Homeschool Coffee Break @
Please don't think I'm offering advice that I've come up with on my own, or that I consider myself a success in parenting teens. I am still in the trenches. I've made plenty of mistakes, and I doubt I'm finished making mistakes. Hopefully I don't keep making the same ones over and over! I'm just passing along a few of the things I've learned and am learning along the way. This is more like a summary of things I've read and heard over the years. They are things I've worked on and have seen firsthand that they are important. Plus, I really believe that educating teens at home plays a huge role in bypassing some of the common problem behaviors and attitudes in teens. The relationships with family are more likely to be positive and intact with homeschooled teens, so they are willing to be open with mom and dad and they're less likely to be conditioned to be disrespectful. Homeschooling parents have more influence over how their teens spend their time and who they interact with. On the other hand, homeschooling parents may have more tendencies towards being overprotective or putting up unintentional roadblocks to kids' independence.

Keep a good relationship. You need to keep the relationship with your child open and loving. They need to know that Mom and Dad love them no matter what. When they are grouchy or sullen or defiant, you probably will need to mentally conjure up that remembered image of a peacefully sleeping baby to remind yourself how sweet they can be. Keep a favorite baby picture on your desk or somewhere you can take a peek at it whenever you're frustrated. Keep having conversations with your kids, about both silly and serious topics. Have fun with them. Learn about their interests, their likes and dislikes, and get to know their friends. In a friendly way, not like you're keeping an NSA file on them. Just genuinely enjoy spending time with them.
T is for Teenagers (and some thoughts on parenting them) on Homeschool Coffee Break @
Look how sweet they are! How sweet they WERE. No really, they still are. They're just less cuddly-looking.
But remember that you're the parent. Don't get so buddy-buddy with your kids that you fail to be the parent and the adult in charge. Does that mean that sometimes you will need to put on your Dad hat, or get out your Mom voice and lay down the law? Yep. If you do, will your kid act like he resents your interference, or will she remind you that you're really out of touch with the times? Possibly. Will they tell you that you just don't understand, or that "everyone else" is doing such-and-such? Very likely. Do you need to establish boundaries and consequences for behavior anyway and just hold on for a bit of a bumpy ride? YES. Teens are notorious for not having a good grasp of thinking long-term. If you've ever seen what kids post on Facebook or Instagram, you already know this. They might be able to verbalize that there are possible long-term consequences, but a lot of times they can't visualize those things as applying to themselves. This is why kids do dumb and dangerous things. It's the parent's right and responsibility to enforce practical boundaries until kids get to a place where they can make their own wise choices. They do get there. Really.

Coach them in making wise choices. They have a much better chance of making good decisions for themselves if they are taught discernment and reasoning. When a girl is six years old, it's fine for mommy to decide for her what she can and cannot wear, or to say she can't wear a certain type of outfit because it's not modest. Once that girl gets a few years older, mom had better start talking with her about what modesty means, and why and how to be modest. Little boys can be told they're not allowed to watch certain show or play certain video games just because mom and dad don't approve. But sometime before those boys have their own money to spend on games and movies, they should be taught why their entertainment choices matter, and how to make their own judgment calls on what they view. When they are little, they might like to listen VeggieTales CDs, but chances are they'll want something different as they get older. Will you like their music? Maybe not. But give it a chance. Don't outlaw it just because you don't like it. Read the lyrics with your kid, take a look at what the band or artist stands for (what is on their website? what kind of artwork is on their CDs?), and help your kid decide if it's worth his time and money. Is it admirable, trustworthy, and God-honoring? Help them learn to make those kinds of decisions on their own, and give them room to do that without imposing your personal preferences as the gold standard. If you're going to object to something, it's better to do it objectively, if that makes sense! I objected to CDs with dark and demonic cover art; to music with lyrics that glorified violence or death; to lyrics that objectified women or promoted lustful and disrespectful attitudes; and to lyrics that were blasphemous or full of cursing and bad language. I tried not to object to music that was not my favorite style of music, just because I didn't care for the sound of it. Turns out I happen to like most of the stuff my kids listen to, but I know it's not always the case that parents and kids like the same stuff.
T is for Teenagers (and some thoughts on parenting them) on Homeschool Coffee Break @
My boys just went to a metal festival - Christian bands.
Landon came home with this "Moshing Our Way to Heaven" tee.
Continue easing them to independence. Hopefully they've been learning life skills all the way along. The skills they need to learn might start to look a little different as they become young adults, but they need to be able to do for themselves, take responsibility, and make good choices. Think of yourself as a sort of life coach, and you're getting your kids - and yourself! - through the transition from dependent child to independent adult. They know how to make a sammich - now let them cook a meal for the family once a week. (I wish I'd done this. I still have a chance with my daughter, I guess.) After all, they'll need to scavenge their own meals when they move out, and you'll want them to have more than scavenger-level skills. Adjust their household responsibilities to their age and skill level. They will need to know how to do their own laundry and dishes, do their own grocery shopping, take care of household maintenance and yard care duties, do their own banking, pay their own bills, etc someday. If they don't move out as soon as they graduate high school, you will want them to clean up after themselves at the very least. Don't let them graduate high school without knowing the basics of running a simple household. Expect them to take responsibility for their own actions and choices. They should learn how to be trustworthy workers, and that they should contribute positively to society, rather than sit around expecting the world to cater to them.

And if anyone knows a good way to stop the ducklips pictures, please. Please pass on that wisdom.
T is for Teenagers (and some thoughts on parenting them) on Homeschool Coffee Break @

Keep your sense of humor. Enjoy being with your kids, no matter what their age. Celebrate who they are and who they are growing up to be. Pray for them. Be a positive role model for them, and for their friends too. Love on the kids in your church youth group. Encourage them and celebrate their milestones. Pray for your church's youth minister, youth leaders, and Sunday School teachers. Tell them you pray for them, and maybe even volunteer to help. Repeat. Repeat again. Remind me to do this stuff too, because I don't always remember, or I don't always follow through on my intention to do it.

On the hard days, have an extra cup of coffee. And maybe some chocolate.
T is for Teenagers (and some thoughts on parenting them) on Homeschool Coffee Break @

What is your best advice or encouragement for parents of teenagers? Leave a comment and let me know! I'm still figuring this stuff out!

Please visit Ben and Me: V is for Victory to join in and to see what thoughts this week's letter has prompted for other bloggers.

This post was added to the Throwback Thursday Blog-Style link-up hosted by Tots and Me... Growing Up Together! on August 13, 2015

This post is also linked to the Homeschooling Through High School Round-up on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog, March 18, 2016.

Homeschooling through High School

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Unknown said...

Monday I will officially have a teenager!!!!!!! I loved this ♥

Kym said...

Congrats! Enjoy the teen years - they go so quickly! ;-) LOL

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