1. Make your home “Base”. For those of you that grew up playing outside (without video games, cell phones or internet) you may remember a great game called “Kick the Can”. (at least it was great in my Tulsa, Ok neighborhood in 1977) It is like a lot of “tag” games in that the object is to avoid getting “tagged” by the person who is “IT” while at the same time trying to “kick the stationary can” that he is protecting. To add to the fun there is a designated “base”. It may be a tree, a shrub or a fence but as long as you are on “base” you cannot be “tagged” or disqualified from the game….you are safe! While “on base” you could relax, catch your breath, work on “strategy” and prepare to re-engage the game etc….
That is a perfect picture of what a home needs to be for teenagers….a “base”. Safe emotionally, physically and spiritually. A Sanctuary – I have spoken/written on this a lot. The world is putting our kids into a vice and squeezing them. Any teenager that wants to “walk with the Lord” is going to have to resist a lot of pressure. But like any of us, they cannot resist 24/7! They need a place where they can be free from pressure, undeserved criticism and sarcasm. Your home should be a “sanctuary”.
2. Win their hearts and their behavior will (usually) follow – While I know that we are our kid’s parents first and their friend 2nd, (especially when they are young), somewhere in their early teens a very cool things takes place: You get to talk to them like a real live person! A dialogue instead of monologue. Actually sharing ideas instead of solely instructing. It may happen once and then not again for a while…but then it happens again. Before you know it you are having validating, important life changing discussions with an intelligent viable teenager….almost like a friendship!
I’m not talking about getting your kids to like you….. I’m talking about respecting a teenager’s gifts, personality, bent, etc…. You are beginning to make the turn from instructor and role model to confidant and role model. (yea, ya never really lose the whole role model thing). If you never make this transition you will frustrate your teenager and (opinion) stunt their growth. You were a teenager once…
3. “Talk” when they want to “talk” – scheduling time to talk is very difficult. It can feel forced and canned etc…. but God seems to bring our kids around to a time when they want to share stuff with us. That usually means (especially in the summer) that my wife or I (usually my wife) will have to stay up with them till they go to bed. What is it about teenage girls that wants to talk after midnight? (for you control freaks I would challenge the notion that making a 17-year-old go to bed at 10pm is a good idea 🙂 )
4. Your kids will “look like you” in ways you don’t intend. They will become who your are in every area of life. Mannerisms, sarcasm, anger, humility, pride, devotion to the Lord, etc…. Jerry and Mary Royal say it best: “They will follow WHO YOU ARE before the follow WHAT YOU SAY”. Your child has a problem with authority? ….hmmmm. Your child wrestles with worry and fear….hmmmm. Your child does not walk closely with the Lord?…. well… you get it.
5. Try to get to know “their world” – Most teens in my kid’s world have cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, IMing, text messaging, Skyping, ….. blah blah blah. It is just a “hill I refuse to die on”. (Me? I had a phone… a land line…that I hated talking on…I’m a guy) Each form of communication has its own little language and etiquette. Get into what they are into and you may find that you and your teen can communicate well in the languages THEY most like to use. OMG you may find your son or daughter is your BFF! lol