Understanding teens in today’s environment

Mar 2005    

ARE you happy if your teenaged son or daughter is compliant, obedient, sporty, diligent, exercises regularly, dresses decently? Do you become unhappy when he or she presses for independence, is rebellious, too fashion conscious, too generous with pocket money, take too much junk food, easily distracted and lazy, friendlier with the PC than with you?

Understanding and guiding teens in today’s environment require much wisdom. How can we as parents adequately nurture our teens, ground them well in the word of God, and wean them away from materialism?

On Jan 15, 2005 Hakka Methodist Church held a “Growing Teens” Seminar at which two experienced speakers (established parents themselves), Mrs Jamie Hang and the Rev Nicholas Choo, shared some of the common problems faced by teenagers and offered some very practical advice and solutions to 40-odd participants.

Mrs Hang has been with Truthmin for the past three years. Her ministry includes giving chapel talks, training seminars and workshops for youths. She is also a volunteer with Focus on the Family and worships at Toa Payoh Methodist Church.

A mother of three teenaged daughters, she acknowledges the challenges of parenting teens, a difficult growing phase, which unfortunately has no standard solution.

She said that parenting teens is one of discipling and mentoring. Parents should know how to react to their teens when they experience mood swings and jump into their temper tantrums (the trick is to remain calm and composed, and to understand their needs, fears, worries and wishes, too).

Parents playing a game to appreciate the importance of good communication in parent-teen relationships.

Based on knowledge gleaned from her time spent in this area, she mentioned some of the key pet peeves of youths: wanting more freedom, be treated like adults and not kids, wanting their parents to listen and not criticise (so much). Seminar participants were told that half of the problems faced by teens were related to their parents.

From her perspective, being mature and understanding parents is to honour and respect their teens. Teens generally want to obtain their self-esteem and approval from their parents rather than from their peers.

Mrs Hang suggested some simple tips for bonding with teens. These include inviting them to parents’ functions/ dinners, introducing them to our friends, defending them (in front of others especially when they are spoken of negatively), celebrating their milestones and accomplishments, listening and speaking to them as friends, respecting their opinions, showing them courtesy and manners, controlling the tone and volume of our response, admitting and apologising for our faults.

At the same time, she exhorted the participants to balance this honouring with discipline. Discipline should be enforced to help teens accept the consequences of their bad choices which should later lead to the goal of teens exercising self-discipline. Discipline should be delivered without anger or malice, meted with certainty and in measured severity.

Parenting is all about establishing relationships with children and helping them in character-building. Some recipes on how to build relationships were offered:
Spend time with them, be at home with them, go places with them, listen to them, discuss their friends and activities with them, set time for family devotion (with Bible reading), make devotion time short and give bite-sized teaching, pray with them.

Mrs Hang ended with a timely reminder that parents are children’s leaders and that they should walk ahead of them to show them the way, beside them to encourage them, and behind them to support them when they suffer the consequences of their bad choices. “As parents, we need to find the balance and avoid the extremes of being too rigid and harsh (control) vs giving too much freedom too soon,” she said.

The Rev Choo, a father of two, is an ordained minister with the Assemblies Of God who has served in many different capacities involving youths. He is also a World Teach trainer in children, youths and adult seminars.

He began by getting the participants to form teams of four to play a jigsaw puzzle game. Using this light-hearted yet informative approach, he proceeded to share the processes involved in working with teens, highlighting the importance of good communication in parent-teen relationships.

He described the teenage period (only eight short years) as one of boldness.

Their bold character is often seen in their behaviour, which is punctuated with mood swings, their openness to friends but not to parents, their life (teens nowadays appear to have very hectic lifestyles), and their discipline or lack of it (a constant struggle for teens).

Using Deut. 6:6-9, the Rev Choo offered some down-to-earth advice, peppering them with personal experiences and anecdotes. Participants took away the 6E’s: (1) Embrace – hold the right faith and belief, (2) Enable – when children like you, they will hear you, (3) Enrich – offer teens something they enjoy doing as a family and use that as a platform to reinforce biblical teaching, (4) Endear – helping teens to remember the rules and learn to bind them on their hands, (5) Empower – set them free to take responsi-bility, (6) Example – set right examples for them to follow.

A short Q&A followed.

Without a doubt, this enjoyable and activity-filled half-day seminar has provided some simple, yet profound insights into parenting teenagers and offered some very practical fun and innovative tips to help both parents and teens negotiate those challenging teenage years with confidence.

Dr Mark Goh is a member of Hakka Methodist Church.



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