Raising kids is probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. Whenever it seems like I’m figuring things out, my kids enter a new phase of life. Facing a newborn was much more difficult than showing extra care for my pregnant wife. Dealing with a teething infant was much harder than those first few weeks with a newborn. This process has continued through the toddler years, childhood, and up into the most confusing challenge yet: raising a teenager.We need to be firm with our teens as we shape their character; we must also ensure we care for their hearts.
Any parent raising a teenager seems to deal with the same conflict. Our teens want to be treated like adults, but we see the ways in which they aren’t ready for that. Although we need to be firm with our teens as we shape their character, we must also ensure we care for their hearts. One of the simplest ways to do this is by consistently repeating certain things to our teenage kids. Here are 7 things every teenager needs to hear.
1. I’m listening.
There will be days when we know what our teens need (or that they are wrong), but we need to listen to them anyway. One of the clearest ways we can show others we care for them is by taking the time to hear what they have to say. When we are willing to look our teenage kids in the eyes and hear them out, we validate both the issues that they are bringing to us and our teens as people with genuine cares and concerns.
2. Tell me how I can help.
Often, when our teenagers share a crisis with us, they want us to do more than listen. Many dads are immediately ready to share our wisdom or do what we can to fix things. At times, it can be far more helpful to pause and ask what a teen wants or needs from us. When we hold off on our instinct to rush to their rescue, we both show our kids we are listening to them, and that we respect them enough to let them ask for the help they really need.
3. I forgive you.
There are times all of us mess things up. When our teens mess up, their lack of life experience means they can sometimes fixate on these failures. While certain bad decisions mean we need to give out consequences to our kids, we always need to let them know they are more than their failures and weaknesses. When we forgive our teens, they will see that we can move past whatever they’ve done. This will help them more easily move on as well.
4. I was wrong.
Teenagers know their parents aren’t perfect. They are often ready and willing to tell us all the ways we’ve messed things up for ourselves and for them. When our shortcomings impact our teens, our willingness to admit as much and apologize to them can make a huge difference in their lives. When we are vulnerable and admit we were wrong, we teach our kids how to handle a moment of failure and how to move forward from it afterward.
5. Teach me how to do that.
For most of their lives, we’ve taught our kids things like reading, writing, riding a bike, and how to handle a fishing rod. As they become teenagers, they will pick up abilities we don’t have. While we see this most clearly in their familiarity with technology we’ve never used, it can be other things too. When we look at our teenagers and ask them to teach us something, we’re affirming that they have something to offer us and others.
6. Well done.
When kids are little, we celebrate many things they do—learning to walk, learning to talk, and school projects that we hang on the refrigerator door. With a teenager, the opportunities to affirm them may become less obvious, but their need to hear our encouragement is just as important. When we look for ways to celebrate our teenagers for their accomplishments and good choices, we are building a positive connection with them.
7. I love you.
Saying “I love you” seems to come naturally when you’re holding a newborn or when a small child throws his or her arms around your neck. Despite whatever else may be going on, it is important that you say those three little words to your teen. When we tell our teens we love them out loud and often, our love will become a touchstone they can come back to no matter where they go or what happens.
Sound off: What are some other things every teenager needs to hear?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you wish I told you more often?”