Parenting: Raising Young Teens
At around 13, your children likely will begin asserting their own personalities. You’ll likely find spending time with mom and dad may begin to take second place to spending time with friends. Little by little, you’ll find your time with them diminished. Driving them to school or party may become your best time to talk with them alone.
Letting go is never easy. But the good news is: You still should have a few more years. You still are in charge. You will want to begin giving your children more freedom gradually though, when you think they can handle it.
When they are adults, you may have to teach by example. Now, you can still discipline. It’s still your house, your car, and your time. You set the standard.
Here’s some advice on how to make the most of it, from someone who has been there...
Setting the Right Tone
You may hear their friends are all allowed to ... go to the party (where there will be alcohol), date, or ... you fill in the blank. You may want to be a fun, modern parent. You may not want to stifle them, be harsh, or just breed rebellion. But you can’t let them call the shots.
To them, reaching that 18th birthday (when they’ll legally be able to sign contracts as an adult), may seem distant. Time may be dragging. They may not want to wait. Yet the age of adulthood is set at 18 for a reason. It will come, soon enough.
In the meantime, it is your responsibility to keep your child out of trouble. And teach them as much as you can. You really don’t want to be the adult who was in charge when a teen got drunk and got behind the wheel. You don’t really want to be the parent whose child is arrested. So it’s up to you, as long as they are minors, to teach them there are consequences for their actions. You need to teach them to be responsible for their own choices – and not to expect mom and dad to bail them out, literally or figuratively.
Hopefully, by the early teen years you are well on your way towards accomplishing that goal. If not, there still is time. As you give them more freedom, and they blow it, don’t repeatedly come in and fix things. You should counsel them beforehand about the consequences, and help them initially, but not repeatedly to the point where it enables them to continue to make wrong choices.
Keeping the Lines of Communication Open
Differences will surface as they develop their own personalities. You may disagree with them on a few things, maybe a few important things. That could erupt into a few heated conversations, or downright arguments that may end badly.
You will do well to let them be their own person with things like a passion for the environment, a benign hobby or past-time. While you may consider it a waste of time to spend your whole Saturday picking up trash, there are a whole lot worse things they could be doing. Cheerfully give them your support, while tactfully expressing your viewpoint – if you must.
Whatever they think, and you think, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Try not to be judgmental, unless it’s an important issue like skipping school, breaking the law, or becoming involved in risky behavior. You still have to say “no” when it is important. But don’t be a total downer, open your ears and listen to them. You may swell with pride when you hear about how they want to do their part to protect the Earth. You may see long-term good can come from picking up trash on Saturdays. If you quench that youthful exhuberance... if you discourage them from experimenting with various career paths ... if you crush the person they believe they are ... you risk losing them. And the opportunity to do good for them.
As a parent, always seek to nurture and encourage. Give them opportunities to explore new things within safe boundaries – all the while teaching them they should choose the good. The productive, the helpful, the loving. Instead of the inherently evil, that which leads to destruction, misery, or jail. You are the voice of wisdom in their lives. Be proactive. Don’t cave in. Stand strong, but choose your battles.
Later you’ll have to teach through example, or by invitation. Now, cultivate that relationship. Encourage them to share their hearts with you from a place of safety. Let them know you love them and are there to help. That kind of relationship will open doors for you to teach them now, and later.
A Word about Church
One of the areas where children may begin to assert themselves involves religion, or the practice of religion. More specifically, you may find they no longer want to attend church.
For many, church is a relatively small commitment, maybe an hour or two a week. Maybe double that if they attend services in the middle of the week. You may not think it’s a big deal if they skip. I think it is.
If you do not attend church regularly yourselves, or if your home is split along religious lines, it may be more difficult to enforce a church attendance rule. Granted. But if your family attends church regularly as a family, I recommend you make church attendance mandatory.
The church will reinforce the values you’ve taught your children. It will give you something to do together as a family. Maybe you can combine it with brunch or dinner out? And, more importantly, they should recognize the value of a commitment to God. Church is one of those outward signs that we recognize our maker as supreme in our lives.
Don’t allow them to chuck all you’ve taught them – not while they’re under 18 and under your roof. If you value church attendance, I believe you should require it. Yes, when they have to freedom to choose later, they may ditch church, and God. But you would have done your part. You would have given them extra time under the tutelage of a pastor in the church of God. HE can do a lot with that time. They must learn to be accountable for their actions. They must learn they are not free to choose evil, without paying a price. A church can help you get that message across. It must be taught in more than words. They will test those boundaries. That message is taught in church, through the Bible, by God throughout our lives – and hopefully, by YOU.
About the Author
The youngest in a family of four, Cheryl Rogers learned about parenting in a trenches with her own family. When their first child arrived, she had no experience with experience with babies -- only a little babysitting experience in college. That experience wasn't always good, either.
A crash course in infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation helped boost her confidence level before the first baby, a girl, arrived. But ultimately the experience of her older and wiser parents were the godsend.
She is the mother of a girl and boy and the stepmom of a second girl.
A freelancer writer and self publishing assistant, Cheryl has written a number of Christian ebooks, including her Bible Camp Mystery series for preteens and teens. The series revolves around a former New York City gang leader, Chet Harrigan, who takes a group of 10- to 16-year-old boys to the Central Florida backwoods. He tries to prepare, but things never go as planned. A 13-year-old disappears in the middle of the night, a hurricane threatens, then there's an outbreak of food poisoning. And that's just in the first book, Lost in the Woods: A Bible Camp Mystery. The second book, Alone in the Woods, is about a woman who make her home far off the beaten trail. The third book in the series is slated for release this November.
Learn more about Cheryl at her website.
© 2014 Cheryl Rogers