by Jennifer Dyer
Ever seen a parent who has a great relationship with their teen son or daughter? Did you wonder how they did it? From the days of my own youth, to the times I spent as youth group leaders, and during my journey as a mother, I have observed parents and their teens to understand some of this for myself. The other day on our www.momlifetoday.com Facebook party, some of the moms said they wanted more blogs dedicated to parenting teens, so I will share some of what I learned.
I want to preface this by saying that some of the greatest parents in the world can turn out a rebellious child. For the most powerful example look at God—He is a perfect parent, yet … humans manage to be pretty stubborn and rebellious, do they not? So, that being said, some children choose to rebel despite their parents. My goal as a parent is to do the best I can and live with no regrets.
One of the methods I have used to investigate parenting teens well is to ask teens themselves what they need. I cannot tell you how many girls mentioned time spent with their fathers. I know for some families Dad is absent, so perhaps another trusted male like a grandfather can help with this. Girls want to know they matter, they want to know they are special, and they want affirmation from Dad. I remember from my own childhood running to show my dad a new dress and wanting him to tell me I looked pretty. Mom was great, but Dad was … somehow tied to how I felt about myself.
So, here are some ways Dad can show he cares:
Dates with daughter. One teen I know has a family with half a dozen girls, so this is a challenge. But she remembers almost all of her dates with her dad. Part of what made it special was that he would ask ahead of time, plan it out, and pick things they both enjoyed. It didn’t sound like any of the dates were fancy or expensive, but the girl’s face lit up when she recalled different evenings. Getting hot dogs, pizza, seeing a movie, going ice skating… The options are huge, but it all boils down to time and intention. Dad’s intent was to make her feel special and to spend time getting to know her.
Family Fun Nights: This can look different, but the entire family should be present (mentally and physically) and doing something that requires interaction. Yes, movies can be fun, but try also playing games, going bowling, taking a walk, making dinner together, doing a service project together. Anything that requires intentional time interacting. The kids might whine about it, but they will probably recall those nights often as they mature. Our family often played the board game Clue. My husband is still fascinated by how seriously we take our Clue games…
Interviewing her dates: There is a good book by Dennis Rainey on this topic, so I will let him give you the finer points, but the main focus here is interest. Take an interest in her dating life. Take the time to let boys know how special she is to you, and that you take your job to protect her seriously. This even starts at a young age. The other day I saw some of our third graders playing around and one of the boys tackled my friend’s daughter. I said, “Oh, her daddy will not be happy to see you tackling her like that.” That boy moved so fast you would have thought a snake bit him. The girl had a wistful smile on her face: she knew she was treasured by Daddy. Dads are powerful and they can go a long way to protect their daughter’s purity along with her desire to respect herself.
Affirmation: Take an interest in your daughter. A girl does not need constant condemnation from Dad. She needs affirmation. I’ve heard from girls who are so hurt when Dad constantly harps on their weight or other attributes about themselves. They grow tired of trying (unsuccessfully) to please dad and give up. This may mean gaining more weight instead of losing it, letting grades slip more, and even becoming seriously involved with boys to gain male approval and love.
Moms: We’re just as important in other ways, but give Dad some props for all he does. More tomorrow…