Tuesday Talk: Raising our teens in an R-rated world.

Early in my marriage I was taking a walk with my mother-in-law discussing how difficult it was to raise kids in this R-rated world.  I was complaining about raising three daughters under the age of 5 in a world that offered shows like the Power Rangers.  I recall being so offended that they allowed a show like “that” on TV for little ones.  The saying “ignorance is bliss” is often fitting for parents during the early parenting stage of life. Parenting little ones is physically exhausting 24/7, but it’s not as hard as what is yet to come, we just don’t know that yet.  When were in the early parenting stage it’s easy to mix up what needs to be a “minor” concern and what truly is a “major” concern.

Compared to the teen parenting stage of life it’s a walk in the park.  When our teens get older it’s emotionally, mentally, and financially exhausting, although a little less tiring physically.  We’re not brushing their teeth, wiping their bums, cleaning their face, and picking up toys –instead we’re praying their GPA is high enough to get into college, overseeing friendships, paying for their sports, wondering why that parents allows “that”, and asking about Prom plans, etc.  I often say the reason babies are so cute when their little is because God knew we would need to fall head over heels in love with them prior to this stage -to prepare us for the “not so cute anymore” stage.  In our home we’ve often said, “I love you right now, but I don’t like you all that much.”

While my mother-in-law and I were walking and talking (ok, I was moaning and groaning) she shared a concept with me that has stuck with me for years.  She said that a defining moment in her parenting role was when she realized that one of her main jobs was to make sure her 3 sons considered their home to be a safe haven, a place of protection and refuge. I recall my mother-in-law sharing specific details about what types of changes she implemented in their home when she decided to be intentional with the safe haven plan.  This was before the social networking stage of life which hardly compares to what were up against today but she mentioned things like time out implementation, no friend days, dinner time with everyone seated at the table, no sleep overs on Saturday nights to ensure Sunday morning was not disturbed, church together as a family, occasional family nights out, family vacations without friends, etc.

I knew my in laws played a huge role in the development of my hubby -but I don’t think I knew how tiring it was.  I think all of us would agree, when we become parents, our perspective changes a little bit. My in-laws certainly weren’t perfect but they did intentionally parent with a purpose.

Raising kids in today’s culture is not easy. There’s no question that the way we parent is influenced by the world we live in. And what a world it is! We need to help our teens deal with 24/7 social media, movies that used to be rated R are now PG-13, alcohol and drugs are heavily promoted and commonly displayed, teen sex is considered a norm, etc.  As parents we’re trying to raise our kids in this R-rated culture and we want them to end up living a G-rated life.

Sounds confusing doesn’t it?  Is it even possible? Are there things we can do to help them make healthy choices in an extremely unhealthy world?

1. Instill belief in them.
The beliefs and values your children will carry into adulthood are very dependent on the examples they see parents setting at home. It’s critical to understand and believe that as a parent, your actions, values, and beliefs will have the greatest influence in the life of your maturing teen. Parental influence is a high calling. It’s part of your destiny and your enduring legacy, for better or for worse.

2. Be present and accounted for.
Parenting a teen is all about T-I-M-E. One of the major contributing factors for healthy teens points back to parents who were present in those teens’ lives. Some parents subscribe to the theory that quality time beats quantity time. These parents are simply wrong. Parents must prioritize and reorganize their schedules to be present for their teens. When they leave your house, which will happen before you know it, your teen won’t care that you worked more so they could ride in nicer cars or live in a bigger home. They will care about how much time you spent with them!

3. Make memories with them.
Our lives are a museum of memories that contribute to who we are today. That’s why it’s key to strive to create good memories for our teens. Healthy teens have good memories. This isn’t to say that our teens’ lives won’t have their share of yucky memories. But, on balance, good memories trump bad ones. So, build great family traditions at holidays, birthday celebrations, and summer vacations, just to name a few. Make memories for your family by creating new adventures for them. Solidify these memories by being sure to capture them through photos and videos. In today’s world it’s easy, we all have a camera in our hand at all times.

4. Give them encouragement.
Encouragement is food for our souls, and we all long for it. Our teens need encouragement too. Words are powerful! Words can either build confidence or they can destroy. A parent’s words have lasting effect. Learn to be an encourager. Catch your teens in the act of serving others, place them in environments that allow regular serving opportunities. In addition, be sure to go beyond encouraging for just a job well done. Kids mess up and fail all the time. Consider these types of mess ups as an opportunity to pick them up, brush them off, and take them home. Find ways to encourage your teens, despite their failures. Encouraging beyond performance means conveying that you love and value your teens even when they mess up. Cause let’s be honest, they will mess up.

5. Be positive and caring role models.
You are your teen’s role model for living life. They are watching you, they just don’t want you to know they’re watching. Give them something to talk about.  They know what you say and how you say it. They know how you treat people. They know how you respond to conflict. Teens are searching for a standard to live by. They have an internal feeling that a standard exists, but in our current culture it’s hard to figure out what the standard is.  Our teens know we aren’t perfect, and we go through stages when they remind us often, so there’s no pressure to try to act like we are.  What our teens need are parents who demonstrate what it means to be responsible, and faithful, despite our shortcomings.

6. Give them discipline and boundaries.
Providing our teens with consistent boundaries and discipline is all about guidance, not punishment. Boundaries and discipline are the result of love. Giving teens too much freedom and not holding them accountable for their actions does not demonstrate love. When disciplining, plan ahead and be sure to follow through. One of the most surprising things I’ve experienced as a mom of teens is how many teens are not disciplined. Don’t give in to “best friend” parenting or the “it won’t make a difference” philosophy. One of the reasons we have so many adults not taking responsibility for their actions is because they weren’t held accountable when they were teens. Choose differently for your teen son or daughter. Even if it’s not popular.

7. Love on them.
Emotionally healthy teens have been given lots of healthy affection. Teens who don’t get adequate affection from their parents will find it, it will just be found in all the wrong places.  There’s plenty of inappropriate affection to be found in today’s R-rated culture. Unfortunately, teens who have their needs for affection met in inappropriate ways, often become emotionally distant, not emotionally healthy. If you aren’t an affectionate parent, get over it! Learn to become one. It’s that important to the health of your teen!

8. Develop responsibility in them.
Parents want their teens to grow up into responsible, functioning adults. Unfortunately, we often unintentionally teach irresponsibility, instead. We allow teens to become apathetic by too quickly solving their problems for them. We allow teens to pass the buck by blaming others. And, we are slow to force our teens to carry their own weight. The solution comes in not rescuing our teens from their problems. Sure, there are times that we need to lend a hand and help out, but most of the time “helicopter” parenting is not about the teen, it’s for the sake of the parent.  We must let our teens wrestle with the consequences of their choices. Whenever we jump in to bail our teens out, they never learn to take responsibility for themselves. Learning from mistakes is a great path to responsibility and wisdom.

9. Be fun.
You’ve heard the saying “Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often”. One of the necessities in life is laughter.  If you want to fully understand life, if you want to fully live abundantly, meaningfully, joyfully –there needs to be some laughing going on. This is not easy during the teen parenting stage of life.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of noise and emotion in the home, but I wouldn’t always define it as laughter.  This generation of teens is totally stressed out in one way and totally entitled and free spirited in another way. It’s confusing for us, let along them.  So, when teens see their parents injecting fun and laughter into life, it helps relieve some of the anxieties they feel. So, lighten up the mood in your home. Have some fun with the life and family you have been blessed with.

10. Provide a safe haven.
Your teens don’t need a perfect home, but to thrive, they need a safe one, a peaceful one. Teens in today’s world rarely get a break.  The social networking world they’ve grown up in is an oasis for a 24/7 battle.  They’re battling an R-rated culture, the lack of values, bullies, peer pressure, body image stuff, competition for the bigger and better, etc.  In your teen’s world, there are battles going on all the time.  They need to come home to a place where they can retreat and drop their battle gear at the door and be in a shelter where they can just be themselves. Your home ought to be the one place your teen feels truly safe; where they can be loved and known and cared for.

Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking. Because I’m thinking it too. Allow me to make you feel better. Don’t read this and think you’re doing it all wrong. And, don’t read this and think you have to figure it all out right now. What if we select our top two areas that need some attention and focus on those top two for a while?

My top 2 are making memories and having fun. What are your top 2?

Tuesday Talk: Will you go with me? Circle one: yes or no Tuesday Talk: Let the Pruning Begin!
Tuesday Talk: Will you go with me? Circle one: yes or no
Tuesday Talk: Let the Pruning Begin!