Tips for Parenting Teens from a Veteran Youthworker


For the last time… Do your homework!

As a youth worker, I’ve always kinda avoided speaking about Parenting. I didn’t want to jinx it. But now that we’re almost empty-nesters, there are some things that we’ve learned from raising our own teenagers and through having a front row seat to the literally thousands of teenagers and their parents over the past 27 yrs of youth ministry. I spoke on Parenting this weekend and here are a few things regarding parenting & discipline I thought I’d pass along.

1. Don’t Freak out about the wrong things  – Be more concerned about your kids character than their behavior.

Too many parents freak out about stuff that really doesn’t matter in the long run. Dirty dishes left in the sink, unfinished homework, unapproved hair color. I’m type A, I get it. I understand that things belong in their place, but save your real freak outs for character stuff: Lying, Stealing, Immorality; those kinds of things. Parents who go from zero to lit in 2.3 seconds for every infraction, leave no room to ratchet up for the big stuff. You’re response should fit the crime.

2. Discipline should be consistent – A foul is a foul.

Be as consistent as possible. In sports, it really doesn’t matter whether the ref wants to call the game tight or loose; good players find a way to win regardless. But when a ref is inconsistent with how they call fouls, it’s impossible to figure out a way to navigate successfully. It’s the same way with kids. Parents need to be consistent with what they call a foul. Unpredictability just frustrates everyone and drives them out of relationship with you.

Be consistent, but parent each child differently.  This sounds hypocritical as first glance, but it’s not. Each teenager is different. Each teenager is wired differently. What motivates one kid, doesn’t motivate his sibling. Learn what motivates your teenager and use it to get the behavior you are looking for.

3. Don’t make idle threats  – Always follow through on what you promise

Some parents of teens make the mistake of making their punishment over the top and nearly impossible to enforce. “You’re on restriction for life or until further notice! No TV for a Year! You can’t leave the house all summer!” Teenagers cannot see very far down the road, they plan and live for today. Discipline that goes too far risks breaking the relationship. It can push a teenager away and at times over the edge. Most parents don’t have the fortitude to see long punishments through either. So, try to make discipline short, and for sure NO LONGER than YOU can endure!

4. Make your home a safe place.  – Physically, emotionally and every other way.

Encourage your teenager. Speak life to them. Everywhere else in the world teens have to be on their guard. The world can be such a hard place. Make your home the one place where it’s safe, and both your teenager and their friends will want to hang around you and your house long after they get a driver’s license.

5.  Make time for them now  – don’t wait for later.

As a youth pastor I can remember many times when I had parents come into my office with their teen and say something like: “You fix them!” I wanted to tell them, “You weren’t around when they were little and you feel them slipping away and now they don’t want anything to do with you. You should have hung out with them when they were 4, 5, and 6 yrs old.”

If this is you… there’s nothing you can do about the past except apologize and attempt to move forward from there. Whatever age your kids are, don’t put off connecting with their heart till tomorrow. Start now.

I heard Josh McDowell tell the story one time of his basketball star son greeting him during halftime of a homecoming game at his college in front of a packed house with a hug and a kiss. A mom in the stands approached him later and asked, “How in the world did you get that kind of relationship with your son?” He replied:

“If you spend time with your kids when you don’t have to,     they will spend time with you when they don’t have to.”

Josh McDowell

Don’t wait. If you want a good relationship with your teenager, spend time with them now. It’s hard, I get it. But it is possible. And as a dad who has a great relationship with his teenage sons. Do it.

It’s worth the effort.


About markmoder

One Response to Tips for Parenting Teens from a Veteran Youthworker

  1. Alon says:

    Thanks Mark. This struck a cord with me as we are parenting our 12 year-old.


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