As loving parents, we all want to see our kids thrive, succeed, and reach their best potential. As Christian parents, we want to see them doing seeking and depending on God to lead them on their best path, so their lives will make the greatest impact for His Kingdom. Giving our teens our best as parents means more than teaching them life skills and correcting them when they are out of line. We must also seize opportunities to inspire them. Here are six ways we can do just that.
1. Share your own stories of success and failure with your teen. As long as you aren’t constantly hitting them with a barrage of your own stories, your teens are eager to hear how you have succeeded and failed in life – especially the failures. Just be sure you emphasis isn’t on telling your kids to be more like you. Use your life experience to share how you can actually related to them, and how you learned some of your own valuable lessons. Give them permission to ask questions about the details of what happened and how you responded. It’s a great way to inspire them while building a solid relationship that will be there in their own times of struggle and triumph.
2. Be compassionate when your teen fails. There are times for bringing an arrogant youngster down a few pegs, for sure. But when your teen is discouraged, hurting, or ashamed from failure, this is the time to reach out with genuine loving compassion. Don’t relish the moment of your son or daughter paying a price for foolishness or whatever led to the downfall. Even if you know it was a much-needed lesson. Fine. Let the failure make its own point. You be there with compassion and care to lift up her/his head, speak words of life, or simply offer a much-needed silent embrace. This kind of parental response offers much in the way of inspiration. It says you know this low point isn’t the final chapter, or even the defining moment. It says you believe and you care.
3. Regularly invite your teen to share his/her life-dream with you. If you don’t believe in your son’s or daughter’s Big Dream, then who will? Listen. Encourage. Offer constructive feedback and guidance. Even if your teen has a dream that seems far beyond realistic, spend more effort showing you believe in who they are, rather than trying to convince them what they can’t do. Being a true supporter, cheerleader, and coach on your teen’s journey toward the Big Dream is not about you believing in the dream. It’s about you believing in the dreamer.
4. Ask questions of genuine curiosity about your teen’s daily life and interests. Sure, the music or YouTuber or games or fashion or Instagram star may seem weird or even just plain obnoxious. Some of her friends may totally rub you the wrong way. The stuff your son is hanging on his bedroom walls these days may genuinely scare the bajeebers out of you. If you want to truly inspire your teen to rise about the current whatever this is and reach her/his full potential, don’t lead with criticism. Lead with curiosity. Find out what is so appealing about these mysterious elements of your adolescent’s daily life. Get past the unpleasant surface appearance or sound. Find out the meaning beneath it. And don’t just hold you nose and try to survive the conversation. Take mental notes. Write down some actual notes after conversations, if it helps. Then you can blow your daughter’s or son’s mind at a later date when you actually remember and understand something important to them, no matter how weird it may seem to you. This kind of energy and attention communicates importance and significance, which are great foundations for inspiration.
5. Be honest about your own shortcomings, and be quick to apologize to your teen when you are wrong. WHAT?!? Yes, that’s right. Having the humility and integrity to openly acknowledge and correct our wrongs and shortcomings is an incredible way to earn our kids’ respect and inspire them to live a virtuous life. It also makes it much more likely your teen will listen to you when the time comes for correction, because you have earned the right to be heard – so to speak. While it wasn’t really something I had done wrong to him, I will never forget the day my son and I went to go watch the first Andrew Garfield Spidey flick. My son is reasonably knowledgeable about comic book lore, while most of my experience comes through the many comic-based feature films that have been produced in the last couple of decades or so. Long story, short – I very arrogantly and curtly dismissed his argument on the way to the theater that Spidey uses “gadgets” to shoot his webs. Thanks a lot, Tobey Maguire! My son ate up every word of my meek apology, and the two of us still laugh about that one.
6. Reward superior attitude and effort in your teen’s life. Medals are great and trophies are wonderful. They certainly represent moments and seasons to be celebrated and cherished. But if you want to inspire the most in your teen, always be ready and eager to recognize a winning attitude and champion effort – regardless of whether there are any bleachers or auditorium seats nearby. Not only will you offer great encouragement to keep walking along the right path, but you will also be a living example of God’s love for your teen and His ready celebration of every moment of victory, even those moments never recognized by another soul.