Lessons I’ve Learned from Parenting Teens

I have a confession. Before I had children, I didn’t think I’d like having teenagers.

This was definitely weird, because once married, I knew I wanted young children right away. I knew I loved young ones! I had been babysitting and nannying for quite a few years. I loved the cuddly babies. I loved the precocious preschoolers. I loved the young elementary kids who were just beginning to learn new things. But, after that, things seemed to get a little dicey…

Middle schoolers and high schoolers- preteens and teens- were often recalcitrant and moody. They were argumentative at best and out and out rebellious at worst. I wasn’t looking forward to having sweet babies that one day turned into…teens.

Fast forward about fifteen years, and I’m now the parent of two teenagers with two more soon to come. To my wonder and surprise, I’ve loved having teens. They are fun and good conversationalists. We discuss movies and books and t.v. shows. We can hang out and just have fun without the pressures of little kids- diapers, public bathrooms, sippy cups, and the fear that someone is going to get lost. I’ve also learned some great lessons as a mother to teens- lessons that make me a more thoughtful parent to my younger kids and lessons that make me think about my actions in general.

When I make time to listen to my teens, then a relationship is built and when important things come up, they'll be there to talk. via @lcourtneymom 

Shirley Solis, Tweet This

My words will be repeated over and over again.

I tend to be very passionate about anything I have an opinion about. And there have been many times when I’ve heard my strong opinions repeated by my teens. While I’m glad they are adopting some of my values and opinions, I have to be really careful my opinions aren’t critical and judgmental of other people or that I’m not putting other people down, because the kids pick up those passionate opinions too, and then I begin hearing my critical words coming from their mouths, yikes!

Decisions we made when the kids were younger affect the people they are becoming as teens.

I’m thankful I’ve been blessed with a forward thinking spouse. He’s encouraged me to think through the things we’ve allowed when the kids are young, because it will shape the people they are becoming as teens.

For example, many parents think it’s cute when their toddler or preschooler talks back. They are viewed as “a little diva,” “the boss.” And parents just laugh. But that view leads to older kids who think it’s cute to talk back. Things that were accepted when the child was young come back to haunt parents when the child is a preteen or teen! We’ve definitely not been perfect in this area, and there are habits our older kids have that I know were influenced by what we allowed early on. It does help me to think hard about our younger kids and what we communicate to them about what is acceptable.

Time spent listening to kids is invaluable.

My teens love to talk to me. Night finds them both in and out of my room wanting to chat after the younger crew are in bed. They share things with me- what they read on social media about their friends, a tough decision they are trying to make, what they are thinking about their future plans. And I’m so thankful they want to talk. It’s so important to encourage this even when they are young. Listening to a five year old chatter on and on about some t.v. show hero can painfully challenge your patience, but when that child realizes you care about what he is saying, he’ll continue to talk and a relationship will be built. The same is true for the teen. Am I terribly interested in every single thing they tell me about popular movies or songs or t.v. shows? No. But when I make time to listen, then a relationship is built and when important things come up, they’ll be there to talk.

We all need grace. 

It’s easy to begin viewing my teens as adults. Both of them are pretty mature, and both usually make good decisions about what to do. Both can often be trusted to complete bigger jobs. And so, sometimes I begin thinking that they’ll always do the adult thing and make the adult decision. But then a situation arises where they fight with a sibling over something trivial. Or they make an impulsive decision that has difficult consequences. And I may wonder in my head or even out loud “Why can’t you just act your age?”

But, the thing is, I don’t always make the right decisions either. I don’t always treat people the right way. Sometimes I hold on to a thing or an idea that’s pretty trivial, and I hurt someone’s feelings in the process. And I realize none of us are always good, always right. We all mess up, and we all need grace. Having teens reminds me of that.

I love my teens. I’ve enjoyed parenting teens much more than I ever expected. I learn quite a bit from them even as they learn from me. With God’s grace, I can be a good parent to my teens- a good example, a good teacher, and a loving mom.

Leah Courtney is a homeschooling mom of four. She was a school teacher in her former life and now loves homeschooling her children. Recently she began the adventure of homeschooling a high schooler. She loves reading and reviewing and blogging about life and homeschooling. You can visit her at As We Walk Along the Road.

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