Parenting teens is not easy. As the father of a 15 year old girl I keep wondering why no instruction manual was included with her when she was born. And teens have an intuitive sense of how to work the system. They can pit one parent against another, they can take advantage of you when you’re at your most vulnerable, and they can make you feel like the worst parent ever. When I make a mistake with my daughter, she likes to say, “Well, there’s another month of therapy I’ll be getting as an adult.”
Parenting today is tough; there’s no question about it. Sometimes, though, we parents are our own worst enemies. Sometimes we forget the most basic principles of parenting. I’ve put together a list I call “The Ten Commandments of Parenting Teenagers.” Some of the items on the list are important principles; others are simple reminders. Hopefully, this list can serve as a touchstone for you as you traverse the dangerous waters of teenagerdom:
1. As the parent, you are the one in charge. All the other commandments flow out of this one.
2. Your teen deserves to be trusted—until she betrays that trust. At that point all bets are off. Trust will then have to be earned.
3. Speak to your teen respectfully. And remember, you, too, deserve to be spoken to respectfully.
4. Eating some meals together should be a non-negotiable. It’s called being a family.
5. Praise your teen publicly; criticize her privately. Most parents reverse these two. Don’t be like most parents.
6. It’s when your teen really messes up that he needs you the most—not to make him feel worse but to encourage him.
7. Love your teen enough to let him hate you. Your teen needs you to be his parent not his friend. He already has friends.
8. Make going to church together a non-negotiable.
9. Spend time with your teen (even if sometimes she’s not all that much fun to be around).
10. Compliment your teen every day. Most of us find enough time to be critical.
And while you’re doing these ten things, remember the eleventh and most important commandment—pray for your teen every day. Susannah Wesley, the mother of 17 children (yes, you read that right!), including John and Charles Wesley, prayed for her children for an hour every day. What a blessing she was to her kids!
If you keep these commandments in mind, you’ll find that they can act as a guide for you as you traverse some dangerous terrain. Raising a teen is a lot like going through airport security—familiarizing yourself with the rules can make things go a lot smoother. Cut out this list and keep it close. Put it up on your fridge for those times when inevitable battles come. And remember, your kids won’t be teenagers forever. Soon, they’ll have teens of their own and then you can sit back and savour the sweet taste of revenge!