In late December, I launched a new way of reaching out to parents of teens and preteens — through a Parenting Today’s Teens page on Facebook. Since then I’ve shared hundreds of communications with the growing number of “friends”who have joined our page—almost 2,500 in just 60 days. See it at http://www.facebook.com/parentingtodaysteens.
For those who have not joined our discussion and encouragement group on Facebook, I thought I’d share just a few of those conversations and the profound words of wisdom from others, as we’ve discussed everything having to do with raising teenagers. I’ll first indicate my post and then some of the selected comments others have made in response to it. Their Facebook name is removed for their privacy. I hope you will learn some bits of wisdom from both, or perhaps you’ll chuckle or cry, as I did.
“Setting boundaries is good for teenagers. They’ll complain, but what they’ll feel is security and relief.” – Mark
Friend Comment: I have noticed that when we put our foot down, and we don’t give in, there is sometimes an attitude of gratitude! It’s almost like, “Shew, I really wanted to just stay home.”
Friend Comment: Doesn’t it seem as though sometimes they are just screaming out for a boundary and for a parent to say NO!
“Children seldom misquote you. In fact, they usually repeat, word for word, what you shouldn’t have said.”(Author Unknown) – Mark.
Friend Comment: Ha-ha-ha! “Ain’t that the truth!” One of my kids used to “tell on us” in public…it was pathetic…but taught me to guard my words…a good lesson.
Friend Comment: I learned that back when I worked in daycare long before I had my own kids. Helped me remember to watch my works when I did have my own. However teens have learned the fine art of twisting the words or taking them out of context.
Friend Comment: If you want to know how the world sees you, your children mirror you.
“Give your teen a life worth mimicking.” – Mark
Friend Comment: I was a rebellious teen. My mom clocked more carpet time than Enoch, I’m sure. Every situation I came across had a reminder of God’s love, or my mom’s…and I HATED it. In my early 20’s I returned to Him and began a relationship of my own. Only opened eyes can see relationship and not rules…and only God can open eyes. He will never give up on your children. He knows how to reach them, how & who to bring across their paths. Trust Him and be encouraged. They will return…He just has to work on their hearts. Live honestly, love unconditionally, and keep those boundaries–they will respect you for them later (as long as they’re not too over the top or unattainable). P.S. I’m now 38 with teens of my own and seeing the other side of my issues…and frequently call my mom and tell her how thankful I am that she didn’t give up. It’s hard, but someday it’ll be worth it.
Friend Comment: I agree completely!! I was very rebellious also, but my parents did not stick it out with me. They gave up and I was alone. Even so God never did give up on me. I also returned to Him. My mom has passed away now and I miss her terribly. I would love her advice now as I raise my kids. I would love to tell her how sorry I am for all the rebellion. We both made mistakes, but please don’t EVER quite on your kids… no matter what. They do need you, especially when they act like they don’t.
Friend Comment: Instead of praying for God to change my 13 year old daughter. I’m praying now that God will change me to be the mother that she needs every day.
“Parenting a teen? Stop lecturing…and start listening. Stop worrying…and start praying. Stop frowning…and start laughing” – Mark
Friend Comment: Tough to do on a day like today, when your daughter yells at you that she hates you…just because you woke her up for school.
Friend Comment: Theresa — she doesn’t hate you. Remember that first and then try to diffuse it — I have had that same comment from each of my boys any number of times. Sometimes I answer with, “Well I love you,” and other times I answer with – “Not too fond of you today either…” but I love you anyway. It’s when we get hurt and defensive that they get one up on us.
Friend Comment: Great advice; a recent tidbit that I received regarding parenting my teen was to transition from telling to explaining. Teens today do not seem to grasp the impact of their behavior, actions, etc. So instead of telling them to stop the behavior, explain to them the impact. I have been implementing this and wow it really works. For example, when my teen talked to me disrespectfully, I said to her, “You know if you had a boyfriend and you spoke to him the way you just spoke to me, well he probably would not be your boyfriend because he wouldn’t tolerate being talked to like a second class citizen.” She turned to me and said, “Mom, you are right and I am really sorry for how I communicated to you.”
“For every freedom given a teen, equal amounts of follow up and parental attention are required.” -Mark
Friend Comment (teenager): If you watch a teen that closely, and it’s obvious, they’ll think you’re pretty much just waiting for them to mess up. So watch us teens, but do it in a loving, encouraging, firm, and respect-earning way, and we’ll respect you more, even if we don’t like it.
Friend Comment: Thank you Hannah (sincerely); unfortunately most teens don’t ante up truthfully leading to mistrust, I think this is really about letting teens try out new situations where they have to rely on what they have been taught but their needs to be open communication to say I am ok…I can make good decision. Communication and relationship is key.
“What great thing did your teenager do this week? Shout it out!” – Mark
Friend Comment: Samuel my oldest (16) had a friend at school who’s house burned down on Valentine’s day – The students at his school were given an opportunity to wear jeans (to school) for a donation of $2 to a disaster relief fund for that student. Samuel not only gave $2 but on the way home from school Thursday afternoon he asked me for $10 (before I knew why). When asked why he said it was for a fundraiser and to drive down this particular road. Little did I know about the house and how his heart was broken (they are in the band together). Needless to say he took $20. That’s the great thing my teenager did this week – gave from his heart.
Friend Comment: He brought me out to a movie for my birthday – he paid!!!
Friend Comment: Husbands been out of work for 18 months…..friends asked us to join them out to dinner after service last night, couldn’t afford to, so she offered to pay and did. Love her!!!
Friend Comment: I had surgery at the beginning of the week. Hannah had such a servant heart – she took on a lot of extra duties around the house to ensure everything was taken care of. She’s a joy and blessing!
Friend Comment: She got a towel and dried dishes for me while I washed, without being asked. Love that!
Friend Comment: While sitting in a restaurant my wife was cold and my 14 yr. old son offered his coat to his mom.
Friend Comment: My daughter graduated from Heartlight in 2007, got a job, went to school to be a graphic designer finishing in 2009 and now has a good job as a graphic designer. We are proud of her and know she learned so much from being at Heartlight.
Friend Comment: Told us how grateful he was to have two wonderful parents! WOW!!! Now that felt good.
Friend Comment: She was off from school for a little over a week. She cleaned her room, washed the dishes, washed the kitchen floor and had dinner ready for me when I got home for work. WHAT a WONDERFUL DAUGHTER!
Friend Comment: My 17 year old daughter saw that I was feeling down on Sunday, so she came to me and asks what was wrong and then gave me a kiss and a hug, Talk about making your day!!! That lifted my spirits.
“If you are sarcastic with your child, then your child is likely to be sarcastic with you.” – Mark
Friend Comment: This is so true and we should not get mad at our kids when they do this cuz they learned it from us….we sometimes need to change how we are saying things to them.
Friend Comment: If we want our son to have good behavior, then we have to be models of good behavior. It’s not always easy to do this, and I have to remind myself of this regularly.
“Perception is truth to the one who perceives it.” – Mark
Friend Comment: And working through conflict with another person requires each of us to HEAR the other person’s perception. It takes communication and understanding… and then you may have to agree to disagree. But at least it’s aired out.
Friend Comment: So he would perceive things differently, I used to rank cars according to grades… I would say, “Do you like that car? That is an ‘A’ car.” Or, “Oh look at the ‘F’ car… what a clunker.” My son pulled his grades up. He is 22 today and is married to a beautiful woman and has a great job.
Friend Comment: Talking about perceptions, we showed our son salary information based on education levels and asked him to tell us what kind of life he would like to lead (what he wants to be, etc) and where he thought he would have to fall on that list to achieve that. Then we showed him how much it would really cost to be what he wants (since most kids think even the low end is a lot of money in comparison to what they have now).
“Create a home where your teen finds rest….not more ridicule and challenge.” – Mark
Friend Comment: Agreed–why would they want to be home if they’re always nagged? Home should be a place of rest and peace for all. If we’re having a not-so-peaceful evening, sometimes it’s good to get a change of scenery, or go for a walk together.
Friend Comment: I grew up with parents whose expectations were impossible to meet. It is impossible to be perfect or even almost perfect. Even God knows that. It’s called grace. The most loving thing we can do is not over-react to mistakes. I had to learn that the hard way. We do have to stay balanced, and not under-react either. As parents, we can learn a better and healthier way to respond. Eventually our children grow up, leave home with many lessons learned. Even from the mistakes. They will learn to trust and respect us for it. They will want to have a real relationship, with someone who is loving and gives grace. They won’t have to be afraid they can never measure up to our expectations. They will share their true selves with us, without wearing a pretend mask.
“Quit doing everything for your teenagers….it keeps them from developing responsibility and self-reliance.” – Mark
Friend Comment: Ohhhh it works! Been doing that for years now! What a burden off of me.
Friend Comment: Agree! How will they learn to fail and recover if we can’t teach them, by letting them. When they are in our homes we can guide them back up and console them, when they are out of the house, they just get lonely and crawl back home. We all fail, but it is how we recover that makes us a quality individual. How do you recover? Has your teen see you fail, do you talk them through your recovery and what you have learned from your mistake?? They are watching you.
“Have you had a one-to-one outing with your teen this week?” – Mark
Friend Comment: Yep… Was STUNNED when I asked him to go to dinner with me Monday night and he said SURE…. whoo hoo!!!
Friend Comment: You have to make the time, just like you would schedule an appointment with a doctor or dentist. I try to focus on what my children like for example, my daughter loves doing her nails, so I try to give her a pedicure while we chat. I am taking her out for her first real one next week. My son loves hot chocolate, so I will take him to our local coffee shop for some and then chat about movies or books (his favorites). You need to choose the best option, not the better option. If it means changing schedules and limiting outside activities, do it. You only have these moments while they are young and at home for a short time, compare that to eternity.
Friend Comment: I agree it is very hard! We do try and give them each a few minutes each day and we do try monthly for the alone time Mark is talking about. We also have family time and date night, as well as family meetings. I honestly would be surprised if my teenage boys would spend that much time anyway. We do take advantage of time in the car or helping with dishes or things like that.
Friend Comment: I feel VERY fortunate that I am able to take my younger son out for luch or to the bookstore- I know that my husband sees this as “frivolous”, but I remind him that every time I take our son out, I am keeping him from doing the bad things. I wish every one could be able to do this – my prayers for those that aren’t able to
Friend Comment: This is when the kids seem to let the conversation flow. The fast food bill is worth every penny to have some positive time.
“If you believe that a teen should be able to make choices, then you should be prepared for them to make some poor ones.” – Mark
Friend Comment: Choices come with consequences, both good & bad ones. We need to commend for the good choices & subsequent good consequences. We need to explain the differences between good choices & not, & let the consequences of not, have its intended effect. As parents we have several things our kidos do not, experience & perspective, & hopefully wisdom gained from the prior two.
Friend Comment: They need to learn to make choices and some of those choices we need to help them make. At times we will need to help redirect their choices to better ones and teach them about consequences. Unfortunately in the teen years ‘til even about the early 20’s they make choices on what “feels good” at the moment….not thinking ahead to the consequences of those choices.
Friend Comment: We remind our 15 year old that he has choices and that they DO affect the rest of his life. We encourage but don’t beg. When the teachers call begging us to get him to do his work, we remind them that we can encourage them and remind them of the consequences but we are not going to beg them to do anything. The teachers don’t like me!
“I often see parents who raise their kids to live in the safety of a zoo rather than preparing them to survive in a jungle.” – Mark
Friend Comment: And caged animals in a zoo never thrive as they would if they were in the wild…which means we do as much of a disservice to our kids as we do animals.
Friend Comment: They HAVE to be prepared to function in the real world – as ugly as that may be – they will still have to be able to work with others in the job market so they can provide for the family they have someday!
Friend Comment: Totally agree…parents who ”over protect” are setting their kids up for a false expectation of what it takes to live and thrive as an adult. The entitlement syndrome has effects we know nothing of yet.
“I’ve truly never met a bad kid. Have you?” – Mark
Friend Comment: I was a bad kid… but God saved me in spite of my selfish self-centered self ~ *Smile*
Friend Comment: Never. My grandma used to say there is no such thing as a bad kid…only bad parenting. She had 14 children…one marriage.
Friend Comment: No bad kids – just simply bad choices. Hate the sin, love the sinner. I grew up identifying myself with my bad choices… it took a very long time – well into my 30’s for me to realize that” I was NOT WHAT I did”… I’ve tried very hard to see the story behind everyone I meet. We carry way too much baggage that Christ never intended for us to carry. He took it all to the cross for me, for you and for every child who still makes bad choices. Thank you Jesus that You continue to take it from us, when we choose to let it go!
Friend Comment: I work in a high school and unfortunately there are MANY kids making bad choices. My heart breaks for them. I know they are not bad…God didn’t create ”bad kids” but they are making horrible choices and in fact being labeled as ”bad kids”. So sad.
Friend Comment: I think that I am just oversensitive to the “bad parent” thing. I wanted these kids since I was just a tiny one myself, and I was going to be a WAY better parent than my parents ever were. I was going to do it ”by the book” and better than the book. I didn’t even consider that Satan would be waiting for an opportunity to get his foot in the door. I pray way more than I ever have- is that possible?-I couldn’t really have let God down by missing an element that would take my child down, could I?
Friend Comment: God knows what it will take to bring your child(ren) to Himself. Continue to love them unconditionally – and know that God loves them even more than you ever could. Smile – He loves you, too and He knows your heart.
“God uses people in your life, and just as iron sharpens iron, He could be using your teen to sharpen you.” – Mark
Friend Comment: Like I told my sister when she said “Why me?”, maybe God gave you this child because He knew that you would be the best parent to handle the job of raising this child.
Friend Comment: What a great perspective to keep and very true! When I think about it, my children have definitely challenged me to become a better mom, wife, and woman…and it’s not the easy, fun, or loving times that have done the most shaping!
Friend Comment: Wow. What awesome insight. I am in a daily struggle trying to keep my 3 teen girls from seeking worldly things. Wearing out my knees.
“Ignoring bad behavior in your teen today only means that you’re going to have to deal with a bigger problem later.” – Mark
Friend Comment: It’s amazing how God speaks to us and guides us in so many ways, your daily advice is one of the ways that He comes through and it’s amazing how it is exactly what I need to guide and help me in parenting and puts things right in front of me every time. Today’s advice is just another example. Thank you for your daily advice, this one hit the nail on the head…again!
Friend Comment: In my life I have found that what I thought was “mercy” usually ended up hurting my teen. When I followed through with something that was painful for my teen, there was change. In other words, “No pain, No change”…that doesn’t mean physical pain for a teen…perhaps confiscating a piece of property or a perceived “right” will do well. The hard part has been holding the line (not bowing to guilt) when they beg you and plead or treat you like dirt. Also, there are others (even adults) who treat you like you are some kind of monster because you deny your child certain things — until they do their part and become more responsible. You have to get to the point where you don’t care what your teen or others think of you…and you know in your heart you are doing it because you love them…and are looking toward a better future for them. My father always said, “God has not called you to be your child’s friend, you are called to be their parent.” If you parent them well…you will be their friend when they are an adult…. As Paul said, “I have not attained it yet…but I press on..” I am growing just as my teen(s) is/are.
“Every responsibility you assume for your teen is one less responsibility he will have to accept and learn from.” – Mark
Friend Comment: The truth is painful…but can wake us up and cause us to change…thanks for this bit of truth!
Friend Comment: Wish I would have thought about this more a few years ago!
“Your teenager will do as you do, not as you say. So set a good example.” – Mark
Friend Comment: I do believe in caught more than taught. But I will not feel like a failure because I am not always the perfect example. I have done the best that I can. There is a point when a teen makes decisions that hurt them and a parent’s job, at that point, is to allow the natural consequences. A parent that just feels guilt about what they ‘did’ or how they ‘acted’ that caused their teen to make such a decision has set themselves up to excuse bad behaviors.
Friend Comment: I think they will do as we do if we are real, consistent, and work hard on relationship with them. Generally, they will do what we do way more than just what we say. This can be a negative when our own actions and lives don’t line up with what we say. Be consistent people, and practice what you preach.
“Say ‘I’m sorry’ to your teen when you’re wrong. It teaches them to do the same.” – Mark
Friend Comment: AMEN, I am so thankful that God has blessed me with humility to be able to apologize to them….I always do, however sometimes it is not always immediately. They are always awesome kids to love me and forgive me and moreover they definitely appreciate it!!
Friend Comment: This is very true, I had major issues apologizing even when I did something I recognized was wrong and a lot of it came from the fact that my mother not only never apologized but rejected me as a child if I would go apologize…Not a good thing at all. But God is so awesome he has helped me to work it out. So I do my best to talk to my kids and apologize if I’m wrong and it helps.
“Don’t allow grace before dinner to be the only time you pray with your teen. Model to them how they can communicate with their Maker.” – Mark
Friend Comment: So hard to do…seriously. Am I the only person that struggles with this? I pray continually, and can pray easily with other children, but praying with my own two seems so hard. Maybe it’s the ”whatever” attitude I get in return.
Friend Comment: Don’t give up! If you absolutely can’t pray with them then get on your knees and pray for them. Also let them see you praying and reading your Bible…it’s more caught than taught. God bless you!!
Friend Comment: We always pray with our teen every night before bed and he is now so used to it that when he is ready for bed he will come tell us “ready”, which is our cue to up upstairs and do our family prayer! I think this is so important and I am so blessed that our teen doesn’t give us a hard time about praying! I agree with Lori…don’t give up and pray for your kids…they will come around!
“It’s Thursday. Have you hugged your teen this week?” – Mark
Friend Comment: She hates it when I hug her, but good idea, I’ll go do it now!
Friend Comment: Yes, everyday several times a day!!! Every now and again he will surprise me by hugging me first!
Friend Comment: Every chance he’ll let me — and even sometimes when he’d prefer I didn’t!!!
“In a Prodigal’s ”heart of hearts,” they know right and wrong. The seeds sown are still there, still growing, and waiting to be nourished.” – Mark
Friend Comment: I have seen this first hand. It is true they do know right from wrong and all that you think they are NOT listening to THEY ARE. They hear you and they will come around. I thank God for bringing our son back to us. Faith and patience!!! (Thank you Mark Gregston for your conferences and words of wisdom that parents can hang on to while they wait.)
Friend Comment: We adopted a Mark Gregston suggestion. It was to tell our children that “There is nothing you can do to make us love you more and there is nothing you can do to make us love you less”. Even in the worst of times this phrase was such a comfort to say and I’m sure a comfort for our son to hear. And so true!
Friend Comment: From experience I could say that we must put ALL our faith in our mighty God. Through him is that ALL things are possible…even when what you see shows NO signs of change. As for me…God answered my prayers!! My prodigal son returned home just as the word says. Thank you Lord for your great and mighty ways. So don’t give up hope; put your trust in our Lord and at HIS time, you will have your miracle.
Friend Comment: God’s word does not return void, and prodigals who have been taught The Word as youngsters still have those seeds in their hearts…somewhere! Keep praying.
“Have you given permission to your friends to also keep an eye on your teen and let you know if they see any problems? It’s not a bad idea.” – Mark
Friend Comment: Heck, that’s how I found out about most of her mis-doings! The neighbors noticing things when I was out of town, her walking along a busy street (not allowed) etc. Thank goodness for them.
Friend Comment: I’ve enlisted an army.
Friend Comment: We spell it accountability. I also pray that if my kids are doing anything wrong that they will be caught before they cause any harm. God’s eyes are all around.
Friend Comment: I wrote an email to my son’s friends parents recently informing them that our kids had been “hanging out” at our house after my husband and I had gone to bed. I have no reason to think they are getting into trouble. This group is a good bunch of kids. I just wanted the parents to know that if it was their policy that a parent must be present at the host’s home then I hoped their teen would not come in. 95% of the responses were thank you for telling us. One mom took great offense, saying that she totally trusted her daughter. I trust my son too, but they do stupid, dangerous stuff sometimes.
Friend Comment: I always worry about the kids of parents who “totally trust” their son or daughter.