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.


You’ve never seen stars like this! Yosemite’s night sky in timelapse.

I think I just added something else to my bucket list. I discovered this clip on another blog today. It’s unbelievably amazing just to watch this on your pc, let alone to experience this in person at Yosemite, I imagine. To quote my Pinterest friends: “I’m so doing this.” Isn’t it almost tragic how much time we spend indside these days? Kids are being raised almost exclusively indoors. And I get it, we need to keep our children safe. But wow, what we’re missing. Newsweek’s Tony Dokoupil’s recent article “Is the Internet Making us Crazy?” looks at some of the current trends and poses some great questions. I just discovered a new book called “Your Brain on Nature.” A scientific look at nature’s impact on our brains. I suspect that as I read it this week I”ll find what many of us in Youth Dynamics and YD Adventures know anecdotally, that nature is the antidote to tech. Obviously, I’m more than just a fan of tech, seriously, I know this. But getting outside helps keep my life in balance. It de-stresses and unwinds me where tech tends to add stress and winds me up. We’re finding this in our working with teenagers as well. We haven’t done any hard studies yet, but many of the 5,000 teenagers we work with each year have not been outside much at all. My staff know that being out in God’s creation gives you a fantastic platform to discuss the deeper issues of life. People relax when they are surrounded by nature. It’s significantly easier to believe in a Creator God when you’re watching a sunset, or looking up at the stars, or sitting on top of a mountain. In fact, I have a friend who as a teenager, was a complete atheist, who did not believe God could exist, until he experienced Him during a thunderstorm high up on a mountain while on an adventure trip. He is now a Christ-follower and is interning with us. We’ve been doing Adventure ministry for over 30 years here in the Northwest, and I feel like what we’re doing is more relevant, more necessary than ever. How many significant conversations have you had around a campfire late at night?If you’re a parent or a youth worker, do you kids a favor and get them outside!

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