This post: 10 Secrets to Raising Confident, Capable Teenagers
As a mom of three on the backside of the teen years with my kids, I’ve had so many conversations with parents who are looking for answers, advice, or even a few nuggets of wisdom to help them navigate these crazy and tumultuous (and completely wonderful) years with their teens.
I wish I had answers for them… but when you’re raising teenagers the answers just don’t come easy.
Still, with more than a few years of parenting teens under my belt, I have learned a thing or two about what teens really need as well as a few things we can do to help them emerge from our tender care as confident and capable young adults.
I learned these secrets to raising awesome teenagers through trial and error in the trenches of motherhood. I learned them by making mistakes along the way, having candid (sometimes hard) conversations with my kids (who, by the way, taught me far more than I ever taught them), and by opening my heart to learning and growing right alongside my kids.
When we’re raising our teens, there aren’t any cut-and-dry answers. Every child is different. Every parent and child relationship is unique and special. Still, as parents, we all stand on common ground with the same humble desire – to raise awesome kids. Here are a few secrets to raising teenagers that I picked up on my motherhood journey.
10 Secrets to Raising Confident, Capable Teenagers
Start by Showing Up
Show up for their games, their recitals, their tournaments, and performances. Show up on their good days, their bad days, and every day in between. Show up when they need you and even when they don’t. Show up when they’re moody and don’t want you around. Show up when it’s easy. Show up when it’s hard. Show up so they can see you. Show up so they can count on you. Show up so they know that, no matter what, you’ll always be by their side cheering them on.
Give Them a Voice, Then Listen
The older our kids get, the more they want their voice to be heard. They want to weigh in on their curfew, the family schedule, vacations, when they clean their bedroom, when they complete chores, and whether they wear a coat on a freezing cold day.
Give them a voice. Really listen to what they have to say (even if you disagree) and fight only the battles that will matter in the long run. Over time, move to the passenger seat where you still have a clear view of their road and they can still rely on you for directions should they need it, but they’re in control of the wheel.
Be the Calm in Their Chaos
Teenagers have a lot going on behind the scenes. Their brains and bodies are under massive construction, hormones are raging and they’re caught in the chasm between childhood and adulthood. Add in the everyday pressure of “teenagering” and there’s often far more chaos going on behind the façade of an “I’ve totally got this,” teen than we realize. Remind yourself of this often.
Sometimes, the chaos is loud. Other times it’s quiet and obscure. Be the calm in their storm and remember, sometimes storms have a way of brewing behind what appears to be sunny blue skies. Speak with softness. React with compassion and understanding. Be their soft and comforting place to land when life gets hard.
Look Beyond the “Offish” Behavior
When they retreat to their bedroom, put headphones on for hours, and shut out the world, don’t take it personally. They still need you. They still want you in their life. Give them the space they crave, but don’t willingly succumb to their “offish” behavior and chalk it up as a “byproduct of puberty.”
Stay connected. Stay involved in their lives. Keep checking on them. Keep asking for their time. Let them know, unequivocally, that you’re there, that you want them with you, and that they can always come to you – no matter what.
When Letting Go, Pay Attention to Their Cues
Letting go has been, by far, the most difficult part of preparing my kids for adulthood. What’s challenging is there isn’t a right or wrong answer and we can’t find any set-in-stone answers in a book. Rather than struggling alone with this, I rely on cues from my kids to guide me. Cues that signal to me that they’re ready for more autonomy. Cues that they’re becoming more capable and that I can trust them to be responsible and make good decisions.
Sure, they mess up occasionally (sometimes royally), but those mistakes turn into lessons. The best way to gauge when and how much to let go is to let your teen’s slow and steady rise in maturity mirror the slow and steady fall of your control.
Meet Them Where They’re At
One of the hardest parts about raising teenagers is trying to figure out where you fit into their lives as they gently tug on the rope of independence. They need us, but not as much. They want us in their lives but on their terms.
Meet them where they’re at. Whether it’s a 15-minute chat before school, a late-night conversation when they plop themselves on your bed, or running a few errands together on a Saturday afternoon. Whatever you do, don’t take their growing need for independence personally. When they lean in ready to talk, drop everything and listen. Focus on the quality of time you spend together, not the quantity.
Hold Your Ground
Teenagers need boundaries. They need to know what’s okay, what isn’t, and what the consequences will be when they break the rules. Talk to your teen. Openly discuss your rules and give them a chance to weigh in and voice their opinion.
When they do push boundaries or break the rules, always hold your ground. Nothing speaks louder to a teenager than a parent who’s a constant pushover.
Give Them a Strong Foundation to Stand On
Little more can prepare and give our kids the strength, fortitude, and resolve they need to face this world on their own than a solid foundation. When the world tears them down, build them up. When the world questions their abilities, tell them they can. When they’re tired, give them a place to rest. When life is chaotic, make their home a sanctuary. When they’re short on friends, surround them with a loving family.
As a famous quote states, “They need the rock of their past under their feet in order to spring forward into their future.”
Show Them How It’s Done
Our kids are always watching. How we react when life goes awry, how we manage stress, what we do in our spare time, how we respond to challenges, and, more importantly, what we do in the face of failure. They’re watching and they’re learning.
Our words matter, but our actions will always matter more. Be their role model. Set an example. Show them how to adult. Show them how to be responsible, dedicated, motivated, and honest. They’ll learn from who you are.
Let Them Know in a Million Different Ways “I Love You”
Let them know (often) that they matter. Show it through physical touch like hugs and high fives, backrubs, and fist bumps. Send them “I’m thinking of you” texts. Buy them small surprises. Do small favors for them or run an errand for them to make life easier. Go out of your way. Light up when they enter a room. Put your phone down and give them your undivided attention. Stay up late when they’re in the mood to talk. Take interest in what interests them. Welcome their friends into your home. Spend time with them. Fill the fridge with their favorite food. Make them their favorite snack.
Love them – even when they’re not quite so loveable. Love their silly awkward ways, their lanky arms, their pimpled cheeks, and their big smelly feet. Just love them. Let them hear it often… “I love you.”
Raising teenagers isn’t for the faint of heart. I’ve learned through experience that there will be plenty of rough days and more than a few days when you’re convinced you’re failing.
But I’ve also learned that teenagers are awfully resilient and (thankfully) forgiving of our missteps and mistakes. We’re not perfect. We will make a few parenting blunders along the way. And, God-willing, if we love them hard and pray even harder, we’ll be blessed with awesome, confident capable teenagers who love and respect us and who stand ready to take on this world without us by their side.
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