I am convinced that spending time with teenagers can help me better parent my little ones!
This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to spend three entire weeks with a teenage girl from our church. Although Becca was only 14 years old at the time, she flew out all by herself to join us for three weeks in Costa Rica.
At 20 years her senior, I’m technically old enough to be her mother. While in Costa Rica, my husband and I considered Becca our fourth daughter. With dark red hair, blue eyes (like me!), and fair skin, she fit right into our family!
I now see Becca as part-daughter, part-sister, and part-friend. After the trip, we decided to continue a mentor/mentee relationship.
Our family absolutely loves her, and while I am seeking to disciple and mentor her, my three girls–age 7, almost 5, and 3–look up to Becca as their own role model.
Spending time with Becca is giving me a glimpse into what the teen years might look like with my girls, and it’s not as scary as I thought!
There are many things Becca taught me during the three weeks she lived with us this summer, and I truly feel that having her in my life is changing the way I parent my three little girls NOW.
Here are 5 things that I learned about parenting from Becca:
1. Being present with your kids–and not just physically present–is vitally important.
I asked Becca why she thinks she and her older brother have turned out to be such great kids, and one thing she mentioned was that her parents have always been very present in their lives.
Although her mom has been a stay-at-home mom for much of her childhood, she wasn’t just referring to being physically present.
One thing the Lord convicted me about through this was that I need to be more emotionally and mentally present for my young children. Most moms of littles will empathize with the “mom zone-out” that can happen after days on end with no real-life adult interaction.
I’ve been guilty of being more present on my iPhone than with my little girls, and this is something I’m working really hard to change.
I don’t want to wait until it’s too late to start paying attention to them.
2. While boundaries are needed; legalism pushes kids away.
I’ve heard it again and again, and Becca confirmed it. Kids need boundaries. They want parents to set some rules for them.
But legalism can do more harm that good.
One thing Becca believes her parents have done right is to give her and her siblings limited freedoms from an early age. She has had less temptation to rebel because she’s seen how her parents have trusted her.
3. Kids need us to really listen to them.
Even as parents of little ones, it can be easier to give “lip service” than to really listen to our children talking.
Sadly, I cannot count the number of times my girls have asked me something and I’ve been so tuned out that I mindlessly nodded my head and said “ah huh” without even listening the to question! They are starting to call me out on it now!
From a young age, we teach our children whether we are really listening and understanding them. If we do not listen to them now, they will stop wanting to tell us things when they are teenagers.
4. Relationship-building with our kids starts NOW–not when they are teenagers.
I want to have a good relationship with my girls when they are teenagers. And, eventually, I want them to see me as a friend–the same way I see my mom as a friend now.
But good relationship building doesn’t have to wait until they are old enough to carry on adult-like conversations with me.
In fact, after spending time with Becca, I realize that solid relationship building with my girls starts now–while they are just 7, 5, and 3!
5. Things are different today than when we were teenagers–a lot different.
While the temptations that have been around since sin entered the Garden are the same, the pressures are intensified by one major invention since I was a teenager: social media.
While most teenagers in my generation (I was a teenager in the 1990s) faced drinking, drugs, and sex, none of our decisions were documented–sometimes for all time–on social media.
We didn’t have texting, FaceTime, Snapchat, etc. We didn’t have pornography at our fingertips via the strike of a keyboard or slide of the mouse.
Now, within a matter of seconds, kids can send naked pictures of themselves to each other, and those images will stick with them for forever. Kids can become addicted to pornography right from their phones.
These temptations are not isolated to kids in public school, Becca told me. These are pressures that teenagers everywhere are facing.
What’s more, teenagers are being told by the media, their peers, and even some of their teachers that these behaviors are OK. When, in fact, the choices they make today will affect them for the rest of their lives.
The teenagers in our churches are under a spiritual battle!
Hearing about these pressures have challenged me to:
1. Spend more time with teenagers from my church.
Several young moms in our church are starting a group for teenage girls, and I want to continue investing in Becca’s life. I recently read an article that talked about a huge factor in those teenagers who don’t leave the church is having adults from the church–who aren’t their parents–invest in their lives.
2. Spend more time with teenagers for my daughters.
Spending time with Becca has made me realize that hanging out with teenage girls might be one of the best ways for me to prepare to be the mom of teenage girls.
It might still be six years before my oldest turns 13, but those years will be here in a blink.
Spending time with teenagers can be incredibly rewarding. I’m so thankful for what Becca has taught me already, and I look forward to what I can continue to learn from her (and I hope she will learn from me, too). I have no doubts that spending time with kids in a season ahead of my little ones will help me be better prepared to parent them.
Have you ever spent much time with teenagers? Do you feel that spending time with older kids can help you parent your little ones?