Teaching Parents to Parent

Will Penner

When I was a kid, I didn’t always like what my parents said, but I assumed it was law. As I grew older, I rebelled against some of the rules but still thought of my parents as lawgivers. Once I became a parent, I realized that parents make up a lot of the rules as they go along. Most of us have very little idea what we’re doing.

Don’t get me wrong. We do the best we can with the information we have—which is where you come in. Teenagers who keep their parents informed about what’s going on in their lives—key decisions, important relationships, emotional highs and lows—will find their parents much more interested in negotiating boundaries.

Studies show that parents and kids of all ages communicate less than they did when your parents and grandparents were growing up. On top of that, parent-child communication decreases as children become teenagers and again as teenagers become young adults.

God does not want a communication void between parents and children. One of the Ten Commandments is “Honor your father and your mother.” God wants children to honor their parents. Even though I’m a grown man with five children of my own (one of whom is old enough to have kids of his own), God still expects me to honor my parents.

devozine stk150071rkeYou can help reverse the trend toward non-communication in your family. Parents distance themselves from teenage children either because they sense their kids don’t want them around or because they feel unqualified to deal with a teenager’s issues. You can help by avoiding actions, words, and attitudes that suggest you don’t want them around. Your parents are only human, and they can only take so much attitude before they start distancing themselves from you—if not physically, at least emotionally.

You can also reduce their feelings of parental inadequacy by inviting them into some of your decision-making. The truth is that most parents want to be involved in their kids’ lives. When you ask them to help you make better decisions, you honor them. They won’t have all the answers you need, and part of your job as an adolescent is to begin to find additional counsel. But the mistake most young people make is to seek advice only from friends (who are also trying to navigate adolescent waters, which makes most of them bad advice-givers) rather than from trusted adults and, yes, even parents.

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Actually, teenagers have way more power in their relationships with parents than they might think. Most parents want to have quality relationships with their teenage children. When teenagers make an effort to keep lines of communication open and when they ask for advice (and not only for money, car keys, or a later curfew), their parents are delighted to walk alongside them through the turbulent years of adolescence. Besides that, parents who feel connected to their teenage kids are more likely to lighten up on the rules and to allow more freedom.



Make a list. What do you wish your parents would do differently? Make a second list. What do your parents wish you would do differently? Take the first list and put it in a sealed envelope. Then pray every morning and night, asking God to help you become the person described on the second list. After sixty days, pull out the first list. In most cases, the degree to which your parents have changed or are willing to change will be directly proportional to how much you have been willing to change.

Will Penner lives in Fairview, Tennessee, and has kids in preschool, elementary school, intermediate school, high school, and college.

–from devozine (May/June 2012). Copyright © 2012 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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