In this week’s Monday Minute, Muriel shares with us 5 keys to parenting teenagers as God showed her the importance of shifting from disiplining to discipling.
How to Shift from Disciplining to Discipling
by Muriel Gregory
“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:11 (ESV)
Truth be told, 10 years ago I was not looking forward to parenting teenagers. Between movies, TV shows, and horror stories from other parents, I was terrified of the teenage angst, hormones, and rebellion. Potty training seemed like a breeze comparatively.
My daughter turned 13, and I officially became the mom of a teenager. A well-meaning friend had warned me the relationship I had would change and that my daughter would become distant. The thought saddened me, and I braced myself for it. 18 months later, my son turned 13 as well. A chapter had closed.
So I prayed. A lot.
I prayed for God to give me the wisdom to be able to keep a proper balance. How would I let them spread their wings but still be their mom? How would I help them be successful as they moved towards more independence?
“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (ESV)
God’s truth kept me grounded.
My kids’ budding independence prompted me to rethink my parenting. A shift needed to happen. My disciplining would morph into discipling. They were still my kids, however, I started looking at them like disciples.
Mistakes were made. Poor choices led to hurts and disappointments. As a mom, it was excruciating to watch my kids struggle. When a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, it struggles tremendously. However, if we help the butterfly emerge from the cocoon, we sentence it to death. The butterfly needs the struggle to strengthen its wings and face the world.
The same is true with our teenagers. It is hard to watch them hustle. The temptation is always present to remove the hurt and solve all their problems. This labor of love, though is necessary for them to grow into beautiful butterflies.
5 Keys to Parenting Teenagers
- Be Present. Teenagers, more than anything else, need our engagement. Shine the light of Jesus and tell your kids you see them. Stay truly connected in an overconnected world. Use every opportunity to talk and listen. Allow them to vent all the emotions they wrestle with. Without judgment. As they start talking, take notice and ask them to tell you more.
- Meet them where they are. One way to create an environment best-suited for communication is to meet them where they are. What does your teenager like to do? What makes them feel safe? Loved? My daughter and I would have tea together. My older son loved video games. I would sit with him in his room, and we would talk about the game he was playing. My youngest loves board games. Some of our best conversations have happened at the game table.
- Engage around the dinner table. Sit down as a family. Talk about the day and share everyday life. Listen to them with your ears and your heart. Teenagers need a safe place. Military kids, more than other kids, struggle with identity. Where am I from? Who are my friends? How will I fit in at this new school? Will I make the soccer team? Conversation at the dinner table allows them to talk about those fears. The safe place you create, the love you pour, and your genuine engagement are the foundation for a sound identity.
- Trust them. Your teens will make mistakes, and they will hurt you, yet they need to know you trust them. Confusion is synonymous with teenage years. They are confused about themselves and the world around them. Chaos rules their mind. Be their anchor and trust them.
- Pray for them. Let your kids know you pray for them. Pray that the Word of God you speak over them will not return void (Isaiah 55:11) and that God will finish the good work he started in them (Philippians 1:6). Pray that God will shepherd them as he shepherds us (Psalm 23:1). Tell them God knows what they need (Matthew 6:32). Reassure them of how much God cares for them (1 Peter 5:7). Encourage them to seek God for answers (Luke 11:9-13).
I have made plenty of mistakes as a parent. The greatest lesson I learned is that my kids growing up did not mean we were growing apart but growing with. Parenting teenagers will look different over the years, nevertheless, I will always be their mom. God, our father in heaven, gives us all the tools, guidance, and wisdom we need to ride the teenage years.
Father, thank you for the perfect example you have set for us. Thank you for granting us the wisdom we need as we grow up with our kids. Thank you for the gift of parenting that sharpens our faith. Amen.