I often run into parents of kids ages 9 and up who are asking that age old question, “What happened to my sweet little 8-year-old?”
And I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but the truth is: they’re gone forever (sorry!).
Hey, if they weren’t growing and changing, something would be wrong.
Rejoice in their changes and their progress! Enjoy these years while you can – they will end soon enough.
Now, I happened to raise my sons through their teenage years as a single parent, since my husband died when they were 12 and 13. But I’m telling you, with God all things are possible! We had great teenage years, and both my sons are serving God to this day.
One important thing for you to know: your teenager is trying to grow up…not trying to drive you crazy! The problem is, they don’t know how to grow up, so they’re practicing! Some days they make great decisions and choices, and some days they don’t. Our goal during the teenage years is to help them learn to make their own right decisions and choices.
Let’s look at a couple things about the seasons of parenting. Our role as a parent changes as our children get older.
- When they’re a baby, you’re the caretaker – you do everything.
- When their 3-8, you’re the teacher – these are crucial years of learning obedience. YOU TALK TO THEM IN COMMANDS. This is the stage where “because I said so” works – and it should.
- But once they turn about 9 or 10, they are changing into a different stage of life, and as a parent, you need to make the change with them! Now your role changes to being a guide.
In this pre-teen and teenage stage, “because I said so” doesn’t work anymore. Now they have to have reasons, because they are trying to learn to reason for themselves. If you continue to talk to them in commands, you’re going to have rebellion on your hands.
Keep in mind that everything is changing in their lives, their world, their friends, their bodies….it’s a time of CHANGE, and it can be scary. YOU have been there before – that’s why you’re the GUIDE.
At this stage, your teenager needs ENCOURAGEMENT more than ever. They are in uncharted territory. Don’t expect them to act like adults yet – their brains aren’t even fully developed! But be their biggest cheerleader. Respect them (surprisingly, they want your respect more than anything at this stage). Let them know they’re always loved, even if everything else is changing, and even if they blow it.
Remember too, they still need a parent! Don't be afraid to keep the boundaries as they are learning and growing -- just be willing to explain the boundaries, and always remind your teen that the boundary is in place because you LOVE THEM. And relax some of the boundaries -- give them a little room to prove they can be responsible. Help them earn your trust.
DISCUSS your reasons and policies with them, and as much as possible, get their input. For example, if they miss curfew, instead of just bringing the hammer down on them, say, "Ok, you were late - what should we do?" You may be surprised by their answers - they may be harder on themselves than you would. Instead of being the police, help guide them to their own right choices.
During the teenage years, it's crucial that you LISTEN TO THEM. Be a safe place to talk. Never show shock when they tell you something. It's okay to say, "I don't know -- let's find out more about that together."
The teenage years are not “us against them”….be on their side! You’re their guide to a life of serving God.
To find out more about the seasons and roles of parenting, check out Parenting With a Purpose (DVDs or CDs) in the bookstore at karenjensen.org.