Is it too late to train up your teen?
One thing that we've been doing in our home lately is training our new dog, Toby, a one year old golden retriever. I knew this process was going to require a sacrifice of time, but honestly, I was in denial about how MUCH time. My infatuation with this golden-face mush truly distracted me from doing any research about adopting a young dog, until I faced the challenge of training my toddler-with-fur-and-big-paws!
In this puppy training season, I’m also remembering those early motherhood days when I wanted to just give up on teaching, disciplining, and loving on our four young children. But we pressed on, focusing intensely on heart obedience and character development, with the hope of long term benefits. We didn’t do it perfectly, by any means, but we are experiencing the reward now, and are grateful that God’s grace minimizes our mistakes.
But what if we didn’t realize that temper-tantrum throwing toddler was going to turn into a teen with a temper problem?
What do we do with a rebellious, disenchanted teen, when we lost our steam back in the difficult toddler days?
How do we suddenly step in and train our teens now?
Even if we miss-stepped those early training years, it isn’t too late to invest in parenting our teens today.
I say that as a woman who has lived with teenagers at a college prep boarding school since 1997. I can promise you that kids are not like dogs! They can rise to newly established expectations set forth by parents (and mentors) dedicated to training up their heart, mind, and soul from this point forward (Deuteronomy 6:1 – 5).
But where do you start?
With three simple words, “I am sorry.”
Humility, transparency, and forgiveness are pillars of every relationship. They open up the communication avenues and allow God the space to do His transforming work in His way and His timing. I know because I’ve made my fair share of mistakes in my parenting and mentoring teens. I’ve had to say “I’m sorry.” I’ve had to walk the forgiveness road, both ways. I’ve had to wait on God to heal, restore, and redeemed what was once lost. He is faithful, even when we may not clearly see His work.
As we own our mistakes, we model for our teens how to do so as well.
Transparency earns our right to speak into their lives while also giving them permission to be imperfect, too. It is amazing how this process naturally reveals our mutual need for a Savior. From that place of truth, we can illustrate for our teens the example set before us in the Scriptures. When we have sinned, or gone astray, God wipes our slate clean in response to our confession (Psalm 51), and because of Christ’s work on the cross. As we approach the Lord humbly, confessing our sin, God forgives us and offers us a fresh start. That is the process we need to demonstrate for our teens, along with communicating to them a renewed passion to parent more intentionally.
Those next steps happen when:
- We get our life right before God.
- We walk in humility before God and our children.
- We think intentionally about our parenting.
- We set realistic, prayed-about goals, for our parenting and our teens.
- We make our expectations clearly known.
- We strive for consistency.
- We listen to our teens and respond to their heart.
- We pray for our teens while we serve them with the love of Christ.
It is never too late to train up a teen!
They still need our whole-hearted parenting investment. We may not be able to force our teens to behave a certain way. We may not be able to undo the past. But we can be intentional about our parenting in the years we have left, seeking to glorify God while trusting our teens into His providential hand. It’s never too late!
"…do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)