As parents who love our kids, our aim is to raise them to become fully capable and responsible adults who will strive to make a positive impact on the world around them. Right? And that sort of theoretical statement sounds all great and wonderful when our kids are little. But once they hit their teen years, we all start finding out how much we really mean this kind of “mission statement.” Because in adolescence, the line between childhood and adulthood gets really blurry. That’s just the way it is. And our teens need us to stay on the adult side of the line, even as they desperately long to reach grown up status for themselves. Here are three fundamental ways we can help them get closer to becoming strong healthy adults:
1. Let them fail. Yep. That’s what I said, and I meant what I said. If we go about rescuing our teens every time we see them on the verge of blowing it, how do we expect them to be able to handle the tough parts of life when they are adults? Or do we plan on continuing to bail them out through their adult years? YIKES! Equip them? Yes, absolutely! Coach them along the way? You betcha! Step in to redirect of save them whenever we can see they are about to fail? Hold up. I will follow up and expand on this point soon, but we must be able to tolerate seeing our teens fail if we are going to give them our very best as their parents.
2. Admit our own failings and shortcomings to them (in an appropriate way). If we want our teens to arrive at a healthy adulthood for themselves, we need to be willing to paint a realistic picture for them of what that is. Allowing our kids to see our own process of making mistakes, facing them, and doing the work of cleaning up our messes helps them see that adulthood isn’t about attaining some sort of perfection. But it is about humbly admitting our mistakes and doing our best to make things right as we move forward by God’s grace. Just ask my teenager about the bad words he heard me say the other night about half an hour before our family devotional reading from James 3 about taming the tongue. Let your teens know you are still a work in progress. But be sure you share with them how that process of progress works in your life.
3. Share more of our decision-making thought process with them as they mature through their teen years. The older our teens get, the more we should take time to consider their input and the more we should explain to them our own process of making decisions. This doesn’t mean we hand over our parental authority to them while they are still growing through their teen years. But they will be far better equipped to make mature adult decisions if they have seen and heard how their own parents weighed out possibilities, costs, benefits, and consequences, rather than always just giving them rulings from on high, so to speak.
I will expound on each of these points in the coming weeks, but I hope these simple concepts help you gain better clarity in living out your role as parent to the kids in your home who are transforming into emerging adults faster than we ever imagined possible. I mean, it only feels like about three or four years between the images below…