Relationships thrive in settings where everyone agrees that nobody is perfect.
Unconditional love is fundamental for building healthy relationships with teenage children who will test their parents and their rules in every possible way. When they do, a busy, stressed-out parent can often react in ways that don’t always convey unconditional love.
If that sounds like you, maybe you need to work on mending your relationship before it is destroyed altogether. Consider implementing some of these bridge-builders:
10 Ways to Rebuild Your Relationship
1. By spending weekly time together, one on one…
Of all the advice I swear by, this is one you cannot ignore; Take your child out for breakfast, out for coffee, or do a lunch — and make it a habit every week. Even if they resist, you must insist. It tells your child, “You are worth spending time with, even when you are at your worst.” Make it a one on one time together and come prepared with a topic to discuss that will be of interest to your teen. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. But it should be consistent.
2. By sharing challenging experiences…
Parents need to spend more time, not less, having fun with their child when he or she reaches adolescence. Unfortunately, many organized school and church activities can tend to get in the way of that. I recommend you find a challenge you both appreciate and pursue it together with excitement. Dedicate some resources, time, effort, interest, and vigor to developing your interest together.
3. By looking for opportunities for discussion…
Ask the right kind of questions. The kind of questions that make them think about things, not just a “yes” or “no” questions. Find out what they think, how they would do something, where they would go, and why they think a certain way. Take advantage of reinforcing those moments when a discussion leads to surprising expressions of wisdom from your teen. Talk about controversial subjects as you would a friend or co-worker for whom you have extreme respect. Never belittle their opinions about things. After all, did you know everything when you were a teen?
4. By listening more and answering less…
If you want your teen to grasp what you are thinking, then stop telling him what you are thinking until your are asked for your opinion. Zip your lip – just be quiet. Stop lecturing, start listening. Your teen won’t be ready to really listen until he becomes the initiator of a discussion, so just hush and get out of the way of him taking the lead.
5. By developing a sense of humor…
Some of us are sour, bitter, and stressed all of the time. Lighten up! When was the last time you really laughed? Try having a joke night – where everyone has to come to dinner with a joke to share. Even if it’s corny, everyone laughs!
6, By playing together….
Play paintball, go ride horses, go fishing or hunting, go camping and gaze at the stars, or pull a stunt together. Get them up at midnight to watch a meteor shower. Live it up and enjoy life with your kids in some way. If you don’t like what they like they like to do, then just be there to watch or help them in some way. The key is the two of you being together.
7. By remembering your child’s past and believing in your child’s future…
Carry a photo of your child as a youngster with you at all times! Post their baby photo on your refrigerator. This way you won’t forget who this child was when they turn into an alien in their teens. Keep in mind the joy of bringing them home at birth. Remember, the thumbprint of God is still on their life. Don’t dwell solely on their current struggles and difficulties. Thank God for the work He is doing and will do in your child’s life.
8. By establishing boundaries…
Let them know where they can and can’t “go” in your relationship. Tell them what you expect, before something challenges those expectations. Clearly establish your belief system and household rules. Being too lax as a parent and trying to act more as their friend and peer will hurt, not help, your relationship.
9. By selfless confrontation…
Remember, discipline is about your teen, not you. It is discipleship for their own good, not to make you feel better for all the stress they’ve caused. Seek the right things in your child’s life for the right reasons. Confront with calmness, correct with firmness, and with a love that has their best interests at heart. Confront their mistakes with matter-of-fact and consequences, unwavering and without emotion or anger. In this way, it will become clear to them through the consequences that they are causing their own grief, not you. If you are unsure, ask your spouse if you confronting your teen in an appropriate way.
10. By correcting and disciplining them, even when it makes you uncomfortable…
Your child needs to know you love them enough to correct and discipline them when they behave in ways that offend others or break your household rules or the rules of society. Find healthy ways to discipline through loss of certain freedoms and privileges for a time. Never resort to physical discipline with a teenager and be sure to approach all discipline on a united front with your spouse. And be sure to reward a teen for good behavior by adding more freedoms and privileges. That’s more important to them than anything else at this age.
And one more – as a bonus!
You can rebuild your relationship by acting on your faith and your beliefs. Don’t just say it, put your beliefs into action. Serve others, love others, forgive others, pray, worship. Exercise your faith in front of your teenager.
Which of these will you implement into your relationship with your child this week? I recommend starting with number one. And even if you get nothing but grief from your teen at first, keep up your weekly time together, week after week. Eventually they’ll come around.
Remember, relationships thrive when unconditional love is delivered across a bridge of friendship that never stops — even if your teen doesn’t respond or goes on making mistakes.
“Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love:
therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas. He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 39 years, has two kids, and 4 grandkids. He lives in Longview, Texas with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, 2 llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy. His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with over 2,500 teens, has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents.
You can find out more about Heartlight at www.HeartlightMinistries.org. You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.
For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our Parenting Today’s Teens website at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org, It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent. Here you will also find a station near you where you can listen to the Parenting Today’s Teens radio broadcast, or download the podcast of the most recent programs.