Tuesday, September 24, 2013

parenting teens

I posted a blurry, grainy picture on Instagram tonight of me and my 13 year old son, Caleb. We spent the afternoon shopping together in Albany, and we finished with a date at my favorite fish & chips place.

I posted this caption underneath the photo :

On a date with Caleb, age 13. He just told me I'm his best friend, because I'm the only person he can talk to about anything. Love this kid.

Typically on IG I post pictures of better quality, but this time I didn't care- because it captured a moment.

Apparently something about this simple, grainy photo and the words underneath them resonated with people...because in just a short time there were over 400 "likes" and almost 40 comments from moms, all expressing the hope that one day their children would be teenagers who said the same thing.

So it really hit me tonight, how blessed I am. I think I just take it for granted sometimes what kind of kids we have. I know my children aren't perfect...but they are amazing kids. And I don't want to take credit for that, because really - truly - they are who they are by the grace of God.

Having said that, I do want to share just a few things that I think God has helped us with in this post... and I'd also like to open this space up for questions about parenting teens. That little Instagram post and the response it drew made me realize that there are a lot of parents out there looking for answers.

I'm sure there are untold numbers of books written on the subject of parenting teens, and I don't consider myself an expert.

But I do have some experience raising teens, and sometimes I think experience is just as good, if not better, than so-called expertise.

I'm sure you can find a lot out there about "giving teens their space" and "making sure you're not a helicopter parent." (I just read a lengthy article on this topic in one of my favorite family magazines, and I almost chucked it out the window as a result. ) I'm willing to bet there are a plethora of professionals who will tell you that teenagers are going to rebel, guaranteed, and that your job as a parent is to just ride out the storm.

If you want to believe that and embrace that, it's certainly your choice.

But as a mom who has raised three teens into adulthood, and who now has three teens in one house (along with five younger children and a 21year old daughter), I would submit to you that it is possible to ENJOY the teen years, and you don't have to dread the day your kids reach them.

I want to keep this short, so here it is in a nutshell:

Pray. Talk. Love.

Those three simple words are my "keys" to success when it comes to parenting teens. And when I say success, I don't mean raising teens who are perfect. Because aside from Mary, nobody has ever parented a perfect teen. They are going to fail. They are going to have attitudes. They are going to have problems. But don't we all ??

So here it is again ....


I have prayed long and hard for my kids since the day they were born. I don't mean a quick sentence offered up to God on my kids' behalf (i.e. God bless Jackson.) I mean hours spent on my knees, earnestly asking the Lord to give my children a heart for Him and for others.

There are times when I can't get to sleep because I'm worried about something going on with one of my children. The best remedy I've found is to take it to Jesus. Sometimes that means tip toeing into my kids' room and praying over them while they're sleeping ...sometimes that means going into my closet (where I like to pray !) and crying my prayers and worries out to God until I feel that weight lifted.

There have been times during the day when I've felt completely at a loss when I'm dealing with certain situations with my teenagers. At those times I really have to stop what I'm doing and get alone with the Lord. Because I have found that I (read that with emphasis - I !!) cannot change my kids' hearts. But Jesus can. I've seen Him do it so many times. I can be staring into the face of one of my kids and I know they are not hearing me. The walls are up, and no matter how I word something, they are in defense mode. But if I take them to God in prayer, and ask HIM to intervene and soften their heart and bring conviction, I am amazed at what results. God is so much better at getting through to my kids than I am.


I have lost count of how many midnight talk sessions I've had with my teens. I am constantly gauging their moods and making sure the lines of communication are open if I sense something is wrong.

We don't let our kids hold grudges or walk around with attitudes in our home - we get to the bottom of things immediately.

This means work. This means letting other things slide sometimes, so that we take the time we need for our kids. This means talking about hard things. But what I've found is that you just can't talk to your kids too much. I don't care what the latest article or book says about "hovering over your kids". That's what we're supposed to do. That's why God made us their parents- so we can guide them.

They need us - even if everything about their demeanor says they don't. They need someone to listen to them, to tell them that what they're going through is normal. Our kids are going to find someone to listen to them if we don't.


I can't emphasize this enough. And it sounds so obvious - I mean, of course we love our kids. But they need to hear it. They need to see it. It's so easy when our kids are little to take them on our laps and tell them we love them, or hug them good night or kiss them in the morning. But teenagers need affection too. They will find love somewhere else if they don't find it in the home.

And they really do need encouragement. More than any other time of life, the teen years are filled with insecurities and self-doubt, and our kids need constant affirmation that they are loved.

I think a really good goal for raising teens is to give twice as much encouragement a day as we do correction. Because so much of my day is spent dealing with correcting : please put your shoes away... please change your tone of voice...please be kind to your siblings... so if I'm not careful all my children hear is that they need to change. That they're not measuring up. I need to balance that out - actually I need to over compensate - with love.

Because just like prayer for your children and talking to your children - you cannot love them too much.

I have seen walls of resentment or anger torn down by a few kind words spoken into the life of my teenagers. I've seen tears of remorse shed when I put my arms around my teens and tell them that I love them so much I refuse to let them move away from me in relationship. I've watched my children flourish when the love is poured on, and although we place great emphasis here on standards and purity and excellence, we also have a lot of grace and a lot of love for our kids.

Isn't that what God does for us ?

Jonathan, age 15, and his dad :)

It's late, and I need to put a sleeping baby into his bed. So thanks for reading, and if you have any questions for the comment section, I'll do my best to answer them in the next post.

Lots of love,



cara said...

LOVE these pics Patti! Thank you for this post as I have officially entered the teen period with a 14 year old son. I love him dearly. And I am thankful for other mamas like you that have walked down this path before me that are willing to give me wisdom. I love how you put PRAYING first. God first in all things! Much love to you tonight. xoxo

EN said...

I love this, Patti! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'd like to request more parenting advice AND more Lily dancing videos!!!

Jenna said...

I'm a Mom of 3, 6 and under, and I dread the teenage years. I don't know why, because my parents are still parenting teens and they are doing ok (My dad is a Pastor, and there are 9 in our family). This post gives me hope...and it can apply to the younger years, too. Thanks so much for your wisdom!

Crystal Kupper said...

Wise words, Patti. What I am terrified of is that I will repeat my family's situation = 3 of the 4 kids made great choices and turned out well.....but 1 didn't. I am so scared that no matter what I do, 1 kid is going to break my heart like my mom's.

Rochelle said...

I think this is my new favorite post of yours.

I was just talking to Jason this morning about your thought we need to "give twice as much encouragement a day as correction" and then I come over here and read this post. Awesome.

Thank you! Glad you had a great date night with your sweet boy!

Melissa said...

Love this Patti! Thank you so much for this!! I'm interested in advice you have for moms of boys... I have 2- 4 and 3 and am struggling to find that balance of mothering and letting them be boys!

Melissa said...

Thank you so much for this Patti! I love it! I am interested in hearing advice for moms of boys... I've got 2- 4 and 3 and am struggling with mothering them enough vs letting them be boys.

Dana said...

I truly appreciate your sharing your heart and experiences. These are words of wisdom that I needed to hear, as I believe they apply to my younger children as well. Thank you for the encouragement.

Megan R. said...

Thanks for the advice! I'm approaching this stage in life a lot faster than I'd like! BTW, your children are all so gorgeous!

Amy said...

Love love love this. My children are young yet (3, 1, and 1 - nope not a typo, twins!) but I never had a good relationship with my mom (and for safety reasons now have no relationship with her) and I really just want them to know that I truly from the bottom of my heart love them. Because I have no idea if my mother ever loved me. I'd take your experience and advice over the "experts" any day as well!

Jacquelyn said...

I wish that my parents could see this. I wish my family was like this... I'm 21, and was raised in a very unstable home where basically we tried to survive every day. My dad was incredibly abusive, and my mom saved our lives by leaving him, though it meant sacrificing everything for her. She'll always be my hero. Unfortunately she now suffers from PTSD, MS and Cancer, along with a few other syndromes that developed as we reached our teens and thus she wasn't exactly available/ able to be there for us. I have 5 siblings, we were all born in 4 1/2 years (twins in there, and two who are 10 mos. apart). So my teen years were spent helping my mom and trying to be strong for her and my younger siblings and autistic older brother. As we reach our early 20's, my family is literally falling apart at the seams, and dealing with the fallout of not being raised in a stable, loving home. Half of my siblings have left home, and all of us are dealing with a ton of issues that come to the surface as we enter adulthood and have to try to construct a life out of broken pieces. We all believe in God, He has saved my life and I love having him as a father. Fortunately we were blessed to have a few families in our community who helped us and led us to Christ. But my family's situation breaks my heart. We need healing so bad- it is my constant prayer. I just wanted to thank you for this post. Thank you for being there for your kids and for raising them to know love and follow God. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I come to your blog because it is so encouraging to me. Someday when I have a family of my own, I hope to be able to break my family's cycle of brokenness and raise them in love and in the light of the Lord. I did not mean to write a sob story, but to explain why this post means something to me. Because it gives me hope, it really does. Thank you.

heather said...

I appreciate this post especially since I have 3 teenagers in my house. I’m good with the praying and talking but need to find more opportunities to show my love. It does get so much harder as they grow and don’t want the hugs and kisses and “Mom, can you lay by me tonight?” anymore. But I agree one hundred percent that they will find that love elsewhere if they don’t feel it at home. Thanks for the reminders. You have a beautiful family!

Race Bannon said...


You post had a LOT of great words. I'm going to finish reading it after breakfast. But just like, "What Does the Fox Say?" I don't know if you understand the term "helicopter" parent. I personally believe, that some parents, do not believe in planes, just kidding - but this IS a problem that has been around forever. I don't know what the long term effects on children are, quite possibly after a year on their own they are okay. But the real tragedy, is how annoying it is to other parents! There are no support groups out there for parents who are annoyed by other parents (PWAABOP) and this is tragic. Just the other day...well, I'm sure I'm annoying somebody with this, so I will call you.

Jessica said...

Great post and pictures!! I come from a family that functions much the same. Now I soon get the joy of parenting this way! We are adopting a 13 yo! Yay!

In other news, where is there good fish and chips in Albany or C? I have long wondered.

mrsodie2.com said...

My heart was pounding at the beginning of your comment. I'm glad it didn't go the way I feared it was going. I am quite an expert on the adolescent mind. I have taught 14-19 year olds for 14 years. Right now, I have 170 sixteen year olds. The only things I'd add is get in their business. Monitor their social media. Last week I saw a girl ruin her life. Parents have to stick their noses in. Have to. And meet the teachers! I ha almost no one at Back to School Night. What message does that send?

paige said...

I love your heart... & mostly, I love the fruit that is coming from a faithful, humble mama who is sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Three teens in this house this year (all girls so far - the boys are still little) - & I appreciate your example (& these 3 tips) so much.

Sonya said...

I meant to write this earlier, but since your last post I got more encouragement! After raising boys and girls with the barrage of pornography in our culture (I'm talking check out counter, what people wear, etc., not limited to rated R movies or magazines), any advice? My sons are really good at avoiding this but it is not beyond them to be tempted. Give us good advice on how you've handled these things. We talk to them about it but want to make sure we're covering all the bases so the devil doesn't lead them astray.

Patti said...

Sonya- funny you should mention this- I have an upcoming post on this very topic.

Amy said...

I look forward to teen years too!! But I'm still enjoying the ones we are in now. ;)

Liz said...

Loved this post. You're an inspiration and thank you so much for sharing!