Parenting Teenagers: 7 Tips to Guiding Your Children to Adulthood
In June 2009, 2010, and again in 2011, our three eldest children graduated from high school. Each graduation event, I was filled with pride as our two daughters and one son walked the aisle with two special sashes and a gold medal around his neck signifying the hard work he put in to graduate with high honors. In light of my overwhelming pride as a parent, I am aware that this is a dangerous hub to write because the principles may seem to be mixed with a bit of arrogance. Yet, all three graduated in good standing with high quality grades and successfully navigated the strains of adolescence and peer pressure. Now, in 2013, they all continue to excel in their own ways and continue to be good citizens. No, they are not perfect. They all have some maturity issues, but none slipped into alcohol or drugs or premarital relations. I believe it is due to some important principles. With fear and trepidation, I offer these tips knowing that my children are not perfect and my wife and I are far from perfect parents and role models. Indeed, it seems our children are succeeding in spite of our numerous shortcomings.
The seven parenting tips or principles which I believe contributed most to our children's success thus far include:
- Being present in their lives.
- Believing in their potential.
- Celebrating their successes.
- Not ignoring nor overemphasizing their shortcomings.
- Guiding them into good surroundings.
- Praying every day that God will overcome your mistakes.
- Introducing them to God at an early age.
Be Present to Listen to Your Child
Be Present in Your Teens' Lives
The first tip to guide your teens to adulthood is to be present in their lives. My wife and I are far from perfect parents but one of the things we did right was to be present and involved in our children's lives. This does not mean we doted over them at every moment or that we micro-managed their activities and or actions. We were simply close by if they needed us and did not allow the school system or some group of nannies to be surrogate parents in our stead. My wife was particularly good at asking the right questions without being too invasive. Be present in your teens' lives and they are more apt to make a successful the transition to adulthood.
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Believe in Your Teen's Potential
The second tip to guiding teens to adulthood is to believe in their potential. Each young person has been gifted with their own set of inate competencies. Those competencies may not meet up with what you as a parent think or want, but they are real and present unique opportunities for your teen to succeed to your wildest expectations. Believe in them even when they don't believe in themselves and they will traverse the badlands of adolescence to become well-adjusted adults. I am into sports but my two oldest children are not athletic at all. My son is into computer-aided drawing and industrial design. On a personal level I could not really relate, but that is what my son did well. Allowing him to do his thing to the best of his ability landed him number six in the nation in technical drafting. Believe in your teen's potential and they will have confidence to wade through to adulthood.
Celebrate Your Teen's Successes
A third tip to guide your teens to adulthood is to celebrate their successes. Like many dad's I can get pre-occupied and not always be present even when I may be in the room or the house. However, when my children did something well we went out and celebrated their successes. Whether it was a hit in a baseball game or a good report card or reaching some kind of milestone, we made time to celebrate and show how proud we were at their accomplishment.
Don't Ignore or Overemphasize Your Teen's Shortcomings
A fourth tip for guiding your teen to adulthood is to not ignore or overemphasize your teen's shortcomings. Kids do not always do the right thing. They make moral mistakes and sometimes exercise poor judgment. If you ignore their mistakes then they will never learn how to be good citizens in society. If you berate or constantly hold their mistakes over them they will either rebel or simply quit. When our kids lie we attempt to show them how that behavior will affect their future lives. For instance, we might tell them that future friends or employers may not trust them if they lie or employers will fire them for being lazy and not finishing the job. However, we never withhold our love or stop believing in their potential. To successfully guide your teens to adulthood do not ignore or overemphasize their shortcomings.
Guide Your Teens into Good Surroundings
Another tip for guiding teens successfully to adulthood is to guide them into good and supportive surroundings. This means to help your teens select safe places to meet friends. The Bible says bad company corrupts good character. Teens are not always quick to share their problems with their parents, so it is wise to set up other outlets for your teens to share their hearts and get constructive feedback. In our case, we went to church regularly and our kids got involved in the youth group. In that group they drew close to other teens and other adults who shared our values and who cared about them and gave them a safe place to be themselves.
Pray Every Day That God Will Overcome Your Mistakes
No parents are perfect. We all fall short in just about every way and from time to time we make mistakes. I do not try to think that my kids are good kids entirely because of how we raised them. Long ago, I relinquished control of my kids to God and prayed often that God would be their guide and would overcome my shortcomings and mistakes as a parent. God knows that I am human and that I do not have all the right answers all the time and that often I misunderstand and say the wrong things. Yet, I know that God is bigger than my mistakes and that he has the power to guide them to live the kind of lives he created them to live. Prayer is an important tool in successfully guiding your teens to adulthood.
In my opinion, Introduce Your Teens to God at an Early Age
The seventh and most important tip is to introduce your teen(s) to God at an early age. God is the creator of all things and (as the t-shirt says) doesn't make junk. Your children are masterpieces of God's hand made to be the special people they are. God the Father in Heaven loves them and wants the very best for their lives. He is righteous and just and loving and has dictated healthy boundaries that will steer your children away from unproductive pursuits towards productive thoughts and behaviors out of faith, hope, and charity.
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