Almost everyone has a perspective on what it takes to be a solid parent to teenagers.
Every parent knows that there is no harder job than being a parent. Unfortunately there are many parents who fail to parent for the long-term and often compromise in areas that will hurt the health and maturity of their teenagers.
I have two preschool children of my own. While I know it is easier to make outside observations than to be the parent in a specific situation, over the last decade of my ministry I have noticed a few mistakes most parents fall into.
Many of these mistakes come from countless conversations I have had with parents sharing their own struggles with parenting teenagers.
Here are seven mistakes I have seen parents make while parenting their teenage children.
7 Mistakes Most Parents Make With Their Teenagers
- Establishing rules but fail to develop critical thinking skills.
Every child needs boundaries. I’m a firm believer in rules, guidelines, and boundaries for children. As we all know, however, it is easier to teach rules than the understanding of what is right and what is wrong. When children are little, this is helpful. But when the stakes are higher, kids need to know how to make good choices. When your teenager leaves the house, they will be faced with making a ton of decisions — what job they should take, what type of loan they should apply for, and who to marry, to name a few. As your teenagers mature, they need to make some decisions on their own using your guidance, coaching, and encouragement.
- Allowing dating with little boundaries and no knowledge of the other person.
The majority of my counseling conversations with parents and students centers on dating, sexual sins, and sexual identity. Many parents are strict about which friends their children can hang out with but lenient on which people they can date. Parents need to establish dating boundaries. Parents need to meet and interact with their teenager’s boyfriend/girlfriend. The goal isn’t to control your child. The goal is to encourage purity and know who your child is hanging out with.
- Giving the “what” without explaining the “why.”
Most of us are great at telling our kids what they need to do. Clean their rooms. Be home before curfew. Do their homework. The list is endless. As our kids mature they need to start understanding the “why” behind the “what.” Why is it a good idea to do their homework? Why is it important that they finish out the year instead of quitting their team midway through the season? Knowing the “why” helps them to make better decisions in the future.
- Focusing on raising good teenagers instead of Godly teenagers.
The goal of parenting isn’t to raise good adults. It is to raise disciples who love Jesus. It is extremely common for parents to allow themselves to be content with kids whose grades are good, who seem to make moral decisions for the most part, and who don’t cause a lot of trouble. Parenting becomes a completely different task when the spiritual component is added, but it is of great value to parent in that way.
- Failing to own up to their own mistakes.
You are not a superhero. You are not God. No one expects you to be a perfect parent. Trust me, your teenagers see many of your mistakes. Failing to own up to your mistakes only teaches your teenagers that you are untrustworthy, and it shows them how they need to fake their way through life. Owning up to your mistakes will encourage your teenager to be transparent and honest with you as they fail.
- Failing to be a positive spiritual influence.
As the parent, you are the greatest spiritual influencer in the life of your teenager. Being a positive spiritual influencer doesn’t mean that you are a perfect Christian. It means that you are actively growing in Jesus and leading your family by having spiritual conversations with your children.
- Pushing their teenager to take every opportunity.
There are too many opportunities for your teenager, and not every opportunity is beneficial. You must guard against your teenager burning out by ensuring that they are not involved in too many activities, events, teams, or extracurriculars. Teenagers need time to grow and develop into functioning adults. If they are spread too thin they may adopt a “get by” attitude that trains them to do the bare minimum to get by.
What Have You Noticed?
These seven areas have been evident as I minister to high school students.
Like I said at the beginning, there is no such thing as a perfect parent or a full-proof plan to raising kids. Know that there are opportunities to be a positive influence even if you have made all seven of these mistakes.