As a first-time expectant mother, my biggest concerns weren’t with sleeping or diapers or language development…although all those things intimidated me. For some reason (read: the Holy Spirit), I started thinking about that fateful future time when this as-yet-unborn baby would be a teenager. Yes, I worry in advance, obviously—way in advance. My big question was this: How can I raise a child that doesn’t turn into the typical teenager? At the time, I didn’t know of any books to address this topic. (Here’s a list of really great parenting books I’ve discovered since then, by the way.)
My husband and I decided the best thing we could do is ask someone. We didn’t want opinions or observations. We wanted proven results. So we began to look around our community and church family for some atypical (in a good way) teenagers. There was a set in our church: a respectful, friendly, thoughtful, Jesus-loving brother and sister who seemed very genuine and even liked each other. We watched them for a while as we very intentionally got to know their parents. Finally, we felt comfortable enough with them to “pop the question” although, by that time, the answer was fairly obvious.
Okay, that was fourteen years ago, so I don’t remember their exact answer. We asked how they came to have such amazing teenagers (which any parent would love to hear—flattery gets you everywhere!). Their answer boiled down to this: They always talked, and always had. They said they talked to their children about everything, from the time they were very little. It was clear, also, that they showed love easily and they respected their children as real people, uniquely created by God. Because they were authentic Christ-followers themselves, I’m sure their talks included issues of faith and God’s will in their lives.
The world has changed in the last fourteen years—more than I thought possible in such a short amount of time. But their advice continues to prove true in our family. By consistently investing in our children’s lives through conversation, we seem to be raising thoughtful, Jesus-loving teenagers who are becoming agents of the Kingdom even before they reach adulthood.
I honestly don’t believe we could have received any better advice, but that’s not really the point of my post today. If you are a new(ish) parent, or if you think you’re missing something in parenting, find some kids or teenagers that act like you want your kids to act. Then track down the parents of those children and sit at their feet for a while. Prayerfully model your parenting on theirs and see what happens.
I’ll be praying for you. So will they.
What’s the best teen parenting advice you ever received? How has it affected your parenting? I’d love to hear about it. Please share in the comments!
For more on talking with your children—including some actionable guidelines—check out my previous post, Wait, Wait, Don’t TELL Me. And if you would like to read further on my overall approach to parenting, especially continuing the conversations through the middle grades, click over to Where My Kids At? You might also appreciate this recent guest post, Parenting Advice from the Other Side by Kim Wilbanks and/or Wisdom for Parenting Teenagers, my review of Paul Tripp’s book, Age of Opportunity.