Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Family Forte: 13 Ways to Love Your Teenager

by: Topher Wiles
Photo Credit: Fascinate.com
Glory Hallelujah, we’ve reached the teenage years!  I know, I know, the teenage years for many are worse than a cat’s tail stuck in the screen door.  Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way; God intended abundant life during the teenage years too.  In honor of Gabriel’s 13th birthday, here are 13 family strengthening ideas I’ve stashed away in my teenage preparation toolbox.
13. Invest Time in Your Teen – Gabriel still loves creating Legos masterpieces.  However, I’m more interested in how he’s progressed in his Microsoft Excel tutorials in school.  In my time serving as a high school math teacher and church youth minister I watched the hands of time tick down on teenagers seeking their parent’s attention and approval.  For his confidence growth, whenever he wants to share his newest Picasso artform in Lego medium, I need to invest time in listening and marveling at his passionate progress in Legos more than Excel.   
12. Say You’re Sorry – Adults, we stink at uttering the simple words, “I’m sorry.”  When I remind myself that my goal with my son is to raise an adult who loves God and the community around him, I am struck by how much he needs to see adult skills modeled in me.  That means apologizing when I’m running late, short on my temper, or selfish in my time.  Adult skills take adult examples to learn and a father is a perfect place for the learning to deepen.
Ashley's chocolate cherry 13th
birthday cake was good!
11. Have Fun – Teenagers have so much energy, so many big dreams, and a desire to shirk responsibility to play.  Why not shirk responsibility together?  Yes, my kids have frequently heard my mantra, “Work first, play later.”  They’ll probably write it on my tombstone when I’m gone.  I won’t let go of that mantra lightly, but I do make exceptions to go create some fun with my son because he needs it.  Go check out Willard Harley’s chapter on recreational companionship and a man’s need for it in “His Needs, Her Needs.”  Then go have some fun with your teen.
10. Maintain Your Authority – I am not my son’s best friend.  I am not my son’s best friend.  I am not my son’s best friend.  I am my son’s parent.  Enough said.
9. Reward Maturity with Freedom – When he gets that legendary license freedom that begins with being home by 9pm, I’ll extend his nightly curfew when he shows the maturity of being home on time.  Give more freedom when they demonstrate repeated growth with mature decisions.
8. Connect Them to God – Teens need hope more now than ever that there exists something bigger than them and their world experience.  You can connect them to God by continuing to read the Bible with them, take nature walks with them, slow down to meditate with them, serve with them, and fast with them about the decisions of life.   As you connect with God personally in your life, invite them to the same.
7. Connect Them to Other Adults – If their entire world is made up of teenage life, teenage peers, and teenage media, they are living in the confines of a very small bubble missing out on some of the great blessings a broader life has to offer.  Involve them in civic organizations, church leadership teams, or multigenerational workforces in a business.  It truly does take a village to raise a child.
6. Run at Their Pace – Sometimes I run 5k races to win and sometimes I run to help train others to win.  If I’m training others, I can’t bolt out of a starting line and leave them, expecting them to catch up later.  Slow your life down a little so you can run beside your teenager through the challenges their experience has to offer. 
Look at Gabriel smile!
5. Be Fertilizer for Ambition – Fertilizer may stink sometimes, but the nutrients it gives provides for growth.  Your progeny may want to only sit and home playing video games and may not want your pushing them on to higher goals, greater adventures, and bigger kingdoms to conquer.  Know your child enough to recognize when they need a boost and fertilize that ambition.
4. Be Soil for Deep Roots – Don’t let them chase every passing adventure in life.  The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.  Remind them when they need to stay in an area and develop deeper roots that will benefit them for years in life by providing stability and strength. 
3. Listen to their Fears – Fear of the future, failure, and loneliness are common in these years.  You may not have all the answers, but God gave you two ears and only one mouth for a reason.  Listen to your kid. 
Does time fly?
You bet it does, so
enjoy it!
2. Give Up the Lawnmower for a Weedeater – The new term, “Lawnmower Parent” describes those who cut a clear path for their kids to succeed like those parents who paid for cheating test scores so their kids could get into the ivy league schools.  We all struggle with being a lawnmower because we want to help our kids.  Think less about clearing the path in front of them and focus on just clearing some of the unwanted weeds around the edges of life. 
1. Love Them Anyway – Your teens will make mistakes, say things that hurt you, and fail to be perfect.  Love them anyway, because God loves you.

Sometimes I stink at parenting and need to follow my own advice better.  So when you see me as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, remind me of the wisdom learned in this article so I can approach these teenage years as cool as the cat who got the cream.  May you be blessed with Family Forte as you strive to bless your children with abundant life.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – Jesus in John 10:10b

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email, topherwiles@spartacoc.com, or through our website, www.spartacoc.com.