The parenting road isn’t actually a road; it’s more like an ATV trail.
An ATV trail in the mountains.
An ATV trail in the mountains after a heavy rain.
You get the picture—it’s a mess, and there’s the potential for a wreck around every corner.
Parenting is not for the meek. I occasionally have conversations with parents of adolescent children. These parents often have a far-away look in their eyes. They’re bewildered. They feel lost. The rules of the parenting road that had been working reasonably well for 11 or 12 years just stopped working. And now they’re looking for a new rulebook.
Parenting adolescents can feel exponentially more difficult than parenting small children. Parenting small children is labor-intensive and exhausting. Parenting adolescents is emotionally-intensive and exhausting.
Offering specific parenting advice to address very difficult situations can be tricky because that requires a fairly intimate knowledge of each parent, each child, and the family dynamics. That’s probably best handled by a licensed marriage and family therapist. But there is general parenting advice that can be helpful.
What is arguably the most important rule of the parenting road, especially in your child’s adolescent years, is to love your child the way God loves you.
Here’s what that looks like:
- God loves you deeply and He continually reminds you of that through His word. Love your children deeply and continually remind them of that through your words. Don’t be casual with your “I love you.” Sit them down, make eye contact, and go on and on about how much you love them. 1 John 3:1 says “See what great love the Father has lavished on us.” Lavish love on your children. Don’t skimp.
- God loves you unconditionally. Love your children unconditionally. As children get bigger, they make bigger mistakes. When they screw up, that’s a prime opportunity to let them know that you don’t approve of what they did, but you love them. Separate what they did from who they are. Let them know you love them to the moon and back, and there’s nothing they can do that will cause you to love them any less.
- God lets us experience the consequences of our actions. Let your children experience the consequences of their actions. These can be painful (but valuable) learning experiences.
- God forgives. Forgive your children. Don’t hold grudges. Don’t recriminate. Let them know how much you love them. And then tell them again.
The parenting road can be scary. Don’t go it alone. Surround yourself with other parents, pray, and love your children like God loves you.