Parenting a teenager in today’s world can be a challenging prospect. According to experts, teenagers today feel more stressed, overwhelmed and generally face greater emotional difficulties than before. Teenagers with a positive sense of personal worth are more likely to overcome the emotional minefields that they have to navigate through.
Take a grace-based approach to parenting
There have been many articles and books written about the various parenting styles, and their pros and cons. Often our parenting styles are influenced by our own personality traits and how we were raised. Sometimes the teenage years can be a cause for great parental anxiety as our children experience greater freedom – some of us might even instinctively want to tighten the reins on our kids at this stage.
Here, it’s worthwhile to consider a grace-based approach to parenting your teen. Grace is defined as “kindness” and “mercifulness” – the exact opposite of harshness. Indeed, just as we are exhorted to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15, NLT), parents must endeavour to firmly enforce boundaries in a loving way. By creating an atmosphere of grace in your home, you ensure that your teenagers will feel confident that they can turn to you in times of trouble.
This certainly does not mean that parents should clear up any fallout from bad decision-making! Rather, your child can face the consequences of their actions in a safe environment.
Give teenagers a sense of value
The Psalmist reminds us that each individual is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Our children need to feel valued – particularly in the teenage years when they might feel most awkward. What does your teenager’s sense of value stem from? Does it come from a sense of achievement or knowing that they are loved and accepted just as they are?
One mother shared a painful experience of how her 16-year-old son had started out as a cheerful and sociable young man, but became depressed and felt worthless when he did not fare well in the national examinations. She realised that his sense of self-worth had been based on his exam results. She began to intentionally rebuild his sense of self, emphasising that he was loved and accepted for who he was.
One simple way to show teenagers that they are valued is to carve out daily time to connect with them. This can be a simple conversation in the car, or over dinner. Take time to understand their likes, dislikes and deepest thoughts – when your children feel heard, they feel worthy and respected.
Proverbs 22:6 says that we should “train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (New English Translation). As parents, are we seeking the specific calling that God has for our individual children? It is important to recognise the God-given abilities and talents that they have, and how we are to hone them.
It is tempting to constantly focus on the areas for improvement in our teenagers. Do you find yourself making a mental list of all the things that your child is doing wrong, or could be doing better? Stop and steer the conversation in a positive direction. Make it a point to identify your child’s strengths and talk about them as well – be specific as you point out instances when your teenager’s strengths have shone through.
Your teen will gradually begin to see himself through the same positive lens.
Parenting a teenager is no easy task, but taking these simple yet significant steps will draw you closer to your child – and gradually help your child to discover and develop their full potential.
© 2016 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Focus on the Family Singapore (www.family.org.sg), a local charity dedicated to helping families thrive through differentiated programmes, trusted resources and family counselling.
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