What Teens Wish Their Parents Knew

by Larry Greider Estimated reading time: 4 minutes. Posted on 6-Feb-2000
Parents, did you know your teens often want you to say no?

Parents, did you know your teens often want you to say no?

Teens live in a fascinating world that few adults born before computers, video games and cable television can understand. Kids are stuck on fast forward. They want everything, and they understand little of the world around them.

But, even if you don’t understand the latest styles or have never heard of the songs or artists on your teen’s latest CDs, you have much to offer. The role of a parent is that of a coach, mentor and friend. Often, slowing down the pace and halting your teen’s hectic life is the best way to prepare him for the challenges of life.

A recent Newsweek article summarizes the challenge many parents face: “... To parents and teachers, they [‘tweens,’ or children ages 10-12] can also be a nightmare, aping the hair, clothes and makeup of celebrities twice their age while still throwing tantrums worthy of a 2-year-old. Psychologists worry that in their rush to act like grown-ups, these kids will never really learn to be grown-up, confusing the appearance of maturity with the real thing” (“The Truth About Tweens,” Oct. 18, 1999, pp. 64-65).

Help to do what is right

Recently a young teenager feeling pressure from his neighborhood peers pleaded with his parents to tell him he couldn’t go out on school nights. He mentioned to his mother and father, “You must help me do what is right.” Shockingly—for many parents who feel guilty about spending too much time at work and too little time supervising their children—kids want guidance.

Mary (not her real name) was often at home alone. Raising her alone, her mother worked nights as a cocktail waitress. When Mary’s mother was home, she was often sleeping. Mary’s friends were experimenting with drugs and sex, and Mary found it difficult to avoid the pressure of doing what she knew was wrong.

Her excuse to stay away from the pressure was to spend more time in her room watching TV and E-mailing friends from camp. When asked if she could hang out with her friends, her answer was that she wasn’t allowed out on school nights. Mary told me this was her own rule, but she wished her mother had established it.

Children left to raise themselves often feel isolated and alone and are vulnerable to making decision to do what it takes to find acceptance and support from other teens. What many teens need is precious in our hectic, frenetic life: focused time as a family.

Paul advised parents not to “provoke” their children “to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). To train means to establish a pattern or procedure and require compliance. Offering a consistent approach to your family is like having visible, clear boundaries around your property.

Teens would rather see a sermon than hear one. If you live by values in your own life, it is far more reasonable to expect your teens to imitate you. Telling your son or daughter not to smoke while lighting up can be transparently hypocritical. Values such as honesty, controlling your anger and showing respect for others are not as obvious, but are valuable in coaching young minds.

Teens need responsibility

Help your children by defining their roles in the family and including a sense of responsibility. It wasn’t too many years ago that many families lived on family farms. Chores and others responsibilities were a way of life.

Today’s teens often don’t feel needed or vital to the welfare of the family. Parents do well to include responsibilities and chores in the daily lives of their children. Teens need discretionary money, perhaps in the form of an allowance. However, chores should be considered a necessary part of working together as a family. This helps knit the family as a team.

Other ways of developing needed structure are to have meals together and create some family rituals. At our house the Friday-evening meal is a popular tradition that includes a special candlelight meal, peaceful mood music and a fire in the fireplace (yes, often even in the summer). My oldest daughters, although no longer living at home, often reminisce about these special family times. Many a discussion on Friday evening opened windows of opportunity for my wife and me to teach and serve as mentors.

Teens want parents to know they need them; they want them to act like parents. The book of Proverbs mentions that parents should “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”(Proverbs 22:6). Too many moms and dads become absentee parents while fantasizing that the outward poise and brashness of their teens means they want to be left alone. Teens need and want their parents’ love and guidance. Be there for them and don’t be afraid to sometimes say no. GN

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