Parenting teens is not easy. Homeschooling them? Well, it’s just like parenting them…only even harder! But while it’s easy to focus on the challenges that come with parenting and homeschooling our teens, it’s also important to remember the beauties and grace that are an intrinsic part of the process. We see God at work in the lives of our children as He grows them into the young men and women He has designed them to be, and it’s pretty awesome to get to be a part of that process!
Last fall I had the privilege of being a guest on the “Motherhood from Scratch” podcast, hosted by Stephanie Sims and Jessica Parks. On this episode, Stephanie had some questions for me about “Parenting Beyond the Little Years,” and we hit some of the most Frequently Asked Questions that come up on the topic of parenting teens. The “Motherhood from Scratch” ladies so graciously are allowing me to share a sneak peek into our conversation here in this post. For the full chat, see the podcast episode player below or just search “Motherhood from Scratch” wherever you get your podcasts!
If you are a mom looking for encouragement and support as you navigate the teen years, these most asked questions and answers are for you!
What is the difference between discipline in the younger years and showing grace in the older years?
Let me answer with an illustrative example.
When someone is joining our church, the elders come and interview you. When one of my daughters was being interviewed for a membership, she shared her profession of faith with the elders. Then, one commitment she was asked to make was to submit to the church’s discipline.
Our pastor at the time talked to my daughter and asked her what she thought about that. What do you think that means? What is discipline? He brought up the point that in the church, a lot of people think church discipline is for when you’ve gotten in trouble. Something bad has happened, you’ve done something wrong, and now you’re in trouble and you get punished. He said, “I want you to know that you are under church discipline every time you come to church. Every time you were in worship, you were hearing the word of God. You were being reminded of who you are and who God is and what he calls you to be, that that is part of discipline.”
It has been the same with my teens in my home. The discipline that I give to my children primarily comes from me reminding them of who they are and whose they are. They don’t get to come up with their identity. They don’t decide that. They’re God’s. He has put His name on them and that comes with responsibility. They are called to obey their Creator. I think the most important part of discipline, whether it’s with our toddlers or our teens, is this understanding of who they are and reminding them of that truth.
I think that sometimes when it comes to discipline, we tend to think, “When they do something wrong, what do we do? How do we handle the problems?” I think it’s best when we come at it with this more positive, big picture approach – do they know who God is and do they know the joy of that and what that calls them to be?
Hormones and Attitude Shifts In the Teen Years: How Do We Handle With Grace and Care?
First off, my own hormones are nothing to sneeze at. I need my family to be gracious towards me with my hormones! Yes, it is a real thing. It is hard.
In my mind, there’s two parts to handling this with care.
Begin The Conversation Early
I have talked to my children starting very early, way before actual puberty starts. We begin with the biology of what’s going on in their bodies, very frankly. It’s very important in my family that we talk about things frankly and clearly. We have a vocabulary that we can use to talk about these things. I think it’s really helpful because if you just have always talked about these topics, and it’s not a scary thing or I don’t know if I can talk to mom and dad about this, it eliminates a lot of the barriers our kids can feel when it comes to involving us in their lives.
It is awkward. It’s awkward for me as someone in my 30s sometimes to come to my friend or my husband and say, “I’m having these feelings and they don’t seem rational, but I just feel them. I need you to listen to me.” That’s hard for me. It’s unreasonable for me to expect my kids, who have never gone through it before, to just have it all figured out and be mature somehow at 12 or 13.
Talking about it early and in a manner that is frank and as comfortable as possible helps.
We All Have Tough Days
Second, it helps me to remember that I have difficult days, too, when I am hormonal and out of sorts. When my teens might be having a hard time, I want them to know that I have had those hard times as well. I don’t want to look at them and think, “Well, why can’t you just get your stuff together?”
Preparing with strong communication, having legitimate and realistic expectations that they aren’t just going to have it all together, and then also reminding them that even when we’re having hormonal fluctuations and things are hard, God still calls us to love and obedience.
Our role is to walk with our teens graciously through that and remind them there are times when it’s really hard to love other people.
Then work to talk to them through it. Loving them as brothers and sisters in Christ, reminding them of what we’re called to do, to obey the Lord in love, and also being gracious and patient because sometimes it’s hard. I would never want to have to go through puberty ever again!
What Matters Less As Our Children Become Teenagers?
My first thought is, when will they get potty trained. (Kidding…a little.)
When our children are younger, there are so many things that we compare with other parents and kids, including certain milestones. Here is what I have learned.
One, it all evens out eventually and, two, you start realizing there are things that are so much more important. Looking back, I wish that I had focused more on things that were of more lasting value relationally, and less on all the small details. I think many of those tiny details can feel really big at the moment. I would never want to minimize those for someone. However, I would ask yourself, in 10 years, in 20 years, is that thing still going to matter?
Looking Back, What Would I Do Differently?
I have had to let go of my identity being an achievement and let go of my identity being in my children. I think what I would do differently is I would be quicker to repent.
I would be slower to be angry or have expectations of myself or my children, not in the sense of lowering a moral standard but in the sense of remembering that we are but dust, that we need Jesus, and that we are relying on the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know that I could be at the place where I am now apart from the difficult experiences I’ve had in parenting. Some things have been really hard, but the Lord has used those to, again and again, remind me that I can’t earn His pleasure. His pleasure and His love for me is in Christ and so I’m thankful for that.
I’m thankful that He loves me enough to keep me from sinfully striving to find my identity in my children or in myself.
It’s not about parenting perfectly all through the years. God is still going to use my mistakes and those bad days to make me into a better mother to please Him still at the end of the day.
What Can You Look Forward To As Your Children Become Teens?
Let me share one example. In our family, we love to end the day with family devotions. My husband always leads us, and not every night. Our first family devotion was our wedding night, so we’ve been doing this for a long time.
Last night, we all gathered in the living room and my husband just nonchalantly said, “Oh, Joshua is going to be doing family devotions tonight.” That’s my 17-year-old. I burst out crying.
The beautiful thing about his leading us was that he was following the pattern his father had set. He did the same pattern. He didn’t have to come up with something completely new on his own. He was following the pattern.
I thought to myself, “This is what we have prayed for. This is what we have prayed for when I was pregnant, when this little baby was born and I looked at him and I said, “You are the Lord’s, you are not mine.”
There have been hard days. I have prayed more because of my parenting than anything else. I see God at work. I see his faithfulness. What we do is we repent, we come back to Jesus, and I see him being faithful. I see him answering those prayers. It’s what really matters.
That’s what you have to look forward to. You have God and his goodness to look forward to. You will see that in your children.
Honestly, there’s also the practical things like, they can all wipe their own bottoms and buckle themselves. You can say “Hey guys, I have to run up to Walmart, I’ll be back in a few minutes,” and you just leave them at home.
My youngest is seven now, it is a whole new age. I am loving this stage of parenting.
Don’t Lose Heart
Let’s not grow weary. In due season, you will reap if you do not lose heart. Not because you’ve pushed the right buttons and done all the right things. Half of my parenting has been doing the wrong things and having to repent and apologize to my kids.
It’s all of us as a family, having a heart turned towards Christ, and having our hope in the gospel. That’s the only comfort that we have, whether it’s parents or teens or little people.