How to parent a teenager…that’s the 60 million dollar question most parents are asking these days. Oh, and how to not freak out while you’re doing it because parenting is not an easy gig!
In a way, parenting is like trying to nail down jello or herd cats. Just when you think you’ve got the whole parenting thing down, the teen years throw you for a curveball. Furthermore, what works for one child, may not work for another child. But that’s okay because each kid is uniquely gifted with certain talents and bents from God.
While I can’t give you a recipe for perfect parenting (like that exists!), I can give you some basic principles to help guide you toward loving your teenager through some of the most challenging years of his or her life. So check out these 15 tips on how to parent a teenager and not freak out!
How to Parent a Teenager (and Not Freak Out)
As a teacher (who taught jr. high) and a mom who has raised two kids, I can give you some great tips on how to parent a teenager. Over the years, I have learned these tips work for most teenagers and parents no matter the differences in parenting styles or quirks we may all have.
And, hey, you get the benefit of some of my mistakes because I didn’t always get it right the first time. No parent does…
1. Don’t take rejection personally-your teenager is in the process of finding his own identity by exercising his independence through separation. Sometimes that means totally rejecting who you are as a person for a time. You may even feel like you are failing as a parent of a teenager. Be patient.
Keep pouring God’s word into your kids; it will not return void (Isaiah 55:10-11).
Bonus tip: It’s okay to admit to yourself that rejection hurts. In the meantime, know who you are as a child of God and keep telling your teenager that he is loved and a precious child of God too. I recommend getting into a Bible study; it will help you reinforce the truth.
2. Love never fails– what your teenager needs from you is love. She needs your constant love and support through thick and thin. That doesn’t mean you approve of all the behaviors, just unconditional love that no matter what, you will always be there.
In fact, if you want to know how to parent a teenager, remember love is the most important thing you can do as a parent (1 Cor. 13:8)!
Bonus tip: Your teenager is testing you to see if your love is unconditional. This is one test you need to pass every time when parenting!
3. Listen– your teenager needs you to listen to him. It is better to have an open door than have no idea what is going on in his life.
Bonus tip: Don’t overreact (freak out) when he tells you something you don’t like or don’t want to hear. If you do, he will think twice about ever telling you anything else again because he doesn’t feel he can trust you. If you want to know how to parent a teenager–talk. Talk a lot!
RELATED: Check out the Crazy Cool Family podcast if you are failing as a parent of a teenager or you just need encouragement.
4. Communicate clear expectations-set boundaries with your teenager. She needs to understand what is expected with grades, curfew, friends, morals, etc. This is a hard balance to maintain because being too strict is just as harmful as having no rules at all.
Bonus tip: You won’t always get the balance right when raising a teenager. Give yourself grace. You’re gonna need it when learning how to set guidelines that are both reasonable and maintain biblical standards.
Proverbs 22: 6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”(ESV).
5. Pray for wisdom-prayer is the most important thing you can do as a parent. If you seek God, He will show you how to be a better mom to a teenager.
Bonus tip: Prayer is your lifeline as a parent when raising a teenager. Pray for God to give you wisdom on how to protect your teenager’s mind because this is the gateway to anxiety, harassment from kids or teachers, graphic material, social media, etc.
James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV).
6. Manage the phone/computer and social media- make sure you have the passwords to all your teenager’s accounts and keep an eye on what is posted. Put blocks on the phone/computer/tv and don’t allow it overnight in your teen’s room. In the meantime, keep a running dialogue about how to handle all digital devices and social media.
FYI: You can’t catch everything. Ultimately, your teenager has to take ownership of how to manage technology. ( We did allow our teenagers to keep their phones at all times during their senior year. It’s a good trial run for college.)
Bonus tip: Ignore any protests about digital privacy (you are paying for the phone!). Your teenagers are not fully mature, nor do they have a full grasp of what kind of evil is on the other side of their digital devices. (You can download my FREE cell phone contract which is full of positive parenting strategies for the teenage years.)
If you want to know how to parent teenagers, limit social media! It is destructive in so many ways.
Get your FREE printable CELL PHONE CONTRACT PDF for you and your teen!
7. Be a parent and a friend– your teenager needs you to be a parent first, but also a friend. The object is to maintain a great relationship that is loving, open, and respectful both ways. If you are not approachable, judgemental, or not willing to listen, your teenager will talk to someone else.
Bonus tip: God has commanded you to train up your child in the way of the Lord (Prov. 22:6), so you are going to have to pull the parent card when decisions need to be made. Following Christ is not easy, or popular. Your teenager may not like some of your decisions, but hopefully, one day he or she will understand your heart and responsibility to God.
Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (ESV).
8. Work on yourself- the best thing you can do as a parent raising a teenager is to work on yourself. Be aware of unhealthy behaviors you may be passing down to the next generation. You may think you can hide your junk, but you can’t. (This is a hard concept when learning how to parent a teenager.)
Bonus tip: It is important to say you are sorry when you have done something wrong. This sets a good example for your kids and lets them know you struggle with sin too.
Titus 2:7 says, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity” (ESV).
9. Go to church/ youth group-make sure your family attends church and your teenager is involved in a youth group or Bible study so he is plugged in with other Christian teenagers and adults who love God.
Bonus tip: making Christian friends is one of the best things your teenagers can do. It is easier to make good choices when they are surrounded by other teenagers who are also making good choices.
1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character'”(NIV).
10. Reward-reward your teenager for good choices. Give extra privileges, extra time out, later bedtime, money, or whatever reward is important to her. Let her know that you see all the good things she does.
Bonus tip: bribery is promising a reward “if she does something.” Rewarding is giving something after good behavior is chosen. Bribes work some, but they are not sustainable. You want to move into internal motivation as quickly as possible.
11. Give consequences-it is better for you to give consequences at home before your teenager grows up. Otherwise, he will think he is the center of the universe and doesn’t have to follow the rules.
Bonus tip: When you call out bad behavior, you let your teenager know he is sinful and needs a Savior. Otherwise, he will be stuck in pride and never be aware of himself. Your goal is to lead your child to a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Joel 1:3 says, “Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation” (ESV).
12. Give chores-it is important to help around the house. Doing dishes, cleaning up, and doing laundry are good ways to train her before she goes to college.
Bonus tip: You are not the maid; it is okay to ask for help. Your teenager needs to know it takes the whole family working together as a team to get the job done. This also helps your teen know that they are part of your family.
13. Be consistent-when learning how to parent a teenager, you need to clearly think through what consequences you are going to give for poor choices and then stick to it. Additionally, you need to be firm but loving when following through with the consequences.
Bonus tip: Stay strong when your teenager protests or even throw a tantrum. Don’t let your teen talk you out of the consequence set beforehand. It is not easy being the bad guy, but it is part of the job.
Proverbs 29:17 says, “Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire” (NIV).
14. Say “yes”- try to make as many of your answers be a positive “yes.” For instance, “Yes, you can go to your friend’s house after you do your homework.” Or, “Yes, you can stay out twenty minutes longer as long as you will still get up for church tomorrow.”
Bonus tip: when learning how to parent a teenager remember your three biggest “no’s” need to be anything related to drugs, sex, and alcohol. Most of this centers around friends, so encourage good, godly relationships.
Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (NIV).
15. Give choices- Give choices for two acceptable things so your teenager feels in control. There is nothing worse than a teenager feeling powerless. No one likes to feel powerless!
Bonus tip: Strong-willed kids want to be in control of everything. Remember this when you are learning how to parent a teenager. Choose your battles wisely. There are some hills not worth dying on and there are some hills you must die on to keep them safe. Know the difference.
Are Teenage Years the Hardest For Parents?
I would say yes, teenage parenting is hard! Although, some of you may have had colicky babies and not slept for two years; that’s hard too. In particular, I would say the junior high and early high school years are the hardest years for parents. (I taught junior high). Many sites agreed with me. They said 14 was the hardest age.
This doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same for you as a parent, but it’s good to keep this in the back of your mind as you walk this journey with your teen. Truthfully, parenting teen boys and parenting teen girls are both wonderful and hard at the same time.
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How Parents Should Deal with a Teenager?
Teenage problems with parents are pretty normal. It comes with the territory. Teach your teenagers how to express their feelings appropriately. Remember, they are learning conflict resolution skills that they will take into life.
Decide what you will and will not tolerate. Disrespect is one of the hardest things to uproot once it has started, so be vigilant about keeping it at bay.
Raising a teenager is especially hard right now because our culture has given them too many choices that do not reflect God’s way. If you want to know how to parent a teenager, keep the communication open and don’t overreact when they tell you the next weird thing that happened at school. (If it keeps happening, you might consider homeschooling or a Christian private school.)
A lot of strange things have been introduced to their generation. It is up to you to guide your teenager lovingly back to God and not freak out. It’s time to trust God with your parenting and let Him guide you in your next steps.
What tips do you have on how to parent a teenager? Comment below.
Got Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!
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This book not only talks about my seven-year estrangement (and reconciliation) from my Christian family but also gives solid tips to help you with your family problems. Break free from your pain. Allow God to heal you no matter what has happened in your family of origin. There is hope when your family falls apart.
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