When your kids are young, they think you’re infallible! They flock to you with arms wide open, and treasure every moment of attention.
As they get older, they don’t need your love any less, but it’s not always as obvious how to love your child. The more they start to realize our faults and fight for their own freedom, the easier it is to just pull away. But, I don’t need to tell you that’s a bad idea.
During their teenage years, they’re going through extreme amounts of change, and they’re forming into the person they’re going to become. The choices they make during these years put them on the path of who they will be when they’re an adult. They need your love, guidance, correction, and affirmation. They need you to be their biggest champion in their success, and a perfect example of unconditional love in their greatest failures.
Here are four ways to show your teenager UNCONDITIONAL LOVE:
#1 – Have Fun Frequently
Fun is the glue in most healthy relationships!
Just think about it; your friends are your friends because you enjoy them and have fun together. How do you first relate to someone? You find a commonality which you enjoy. When we share a moment of fun and enjoyment, a bond is formed.
As your kids get older, sometimes it’s harder to know how to have fun together. However, it may be more important than ever to fight for fun. While they fight for freedom, it’s easy for you slip solely into the role of the disciplinarian. While it’s vital that you set boundaries and expectations for your children (we will talk about that shortly), discipline without fun communicates conditional love.
When your relationship is based only on expectations, it appears that your love is based on a checklist:
- How are your grades?
- Do you have a job?
- Have you done your chores?
- Have you written your college essays?
- Why were you out late?
- What did you learn at church?
You absolutely should ask all of those questions when appropriate, but your relationship with your kids CAN’T be based around just those questions. A checklist-based relationship communicates performance-based love. Fun communicates something totally different.
- Fun communicates you actually enjoy them!
- Fun communicates I accept you!
- Fun communicates you love them without condition!
Fun earns you the relational credibility to ask the hard questions!
#2 – Offer Time Generously
Time is possibly the most precious resource you have. You can’t get any back, and you can’t add any to the future. You get each moment, each day, exactly once.
What are you doing with the time that you have?
When your child is first born, you have roughly 1,000 weeks until they graduate high school and launch into adulthood. That may seem like a lot until you realize just how fast that time goes. By the time they enter high school, you’re down to a little over 20o weeks. You’ve gone through essentially 75% of the amount of time you have with them before they become an adult. YIKES!
If you want a physical reminder of how little time you have with your child, count the number of weeks you have until they graduate. Then put that many marbles in a jar. Each week take one marble out!
In those pivotal teenage years, offer them your time generously. They need to know that you prioritize them. When it comes to life, we live in a world with so many good options that it’s easy to miss the most important opportunities.
Time with your children is an opportunity you can’t miss!
They need to learn from you. They need to know you want to spend time with them, and they will never be this age again.
This is your one opportunity to invest in them during their teenage years. Make the most of it!
#3 – Discipline Consistently
Parenting is a series of decisions to offer more freedom. Each time you expand their borders, your role is to help guide them to respond to that freedom responsibly. As they demonstrate they can responsibly function within your set boundaries, you slowly expand their boundaries. Likewise, sometimes they demonstrate that they are not able to responsibly behave with the freedom you have given them. Therefore, you must shrink the borders of their freedom.
Disciplining your child properly is one of the most loving things you can do. Discipline is an essential tool to helping children mature into an adult and as a disciple of Christ.
However, discipling your child poorly is one of the most confusing things you can do. When expectations, boundaries, and consequences are unclear and inconsistent, children can’t learn from discipline. Any discipline which doesn’t help a child mature, isn’t really discipline, it’s just punishment.
Good discipline requires:
- Clear boundaries | They need to know exactly what is NOT permitted.
- Clear expectations | They need to know exactly what you DO expect them to do.
- Clear consequences | They need to know in advance what will happen if they violate a boundary or fail to meet an expectation.
- Clear reasons | They need to know the purpose of each boundary and expectation in order to prepare them for life. In the long run you don’t want them to live a certain way merely out of fear of consequences. You want them to live a certain way because it’s a better way to live. Proper discipline with clear reasons prepares students to be great adults.
- Consistent follow through | Consistency enables students to predict the outcome of their decisions. It provides an area of stability.
By providing clarity you provide your child the opportunity to make good and bad decisions, and a framework for understanding why each choice was good or bad. By giving clarity, you provide them the opportunity to EARN MORE FREEDOM. Likewise, in their failures and success you are provided a teaching moment.
It’s also very important that you distinguish between sinful rebellion and childish behavior. Both rebellion and childish behavior require correction, but that correction will look very differently. Children shouldn’t be punished for being children, but their childishness will require correction. Sinful rebellion, however, is a choice to misbehave. Both the behavior and the attitude require correction.
#4 – Affirm Daily
21 The tongue has the power of life and death
The older I get the more I am convinced of the power of words. Growing up we all heard the rhyme:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Who were the liars that taught all of us that rhyme? I can’t seem to find a single high schooler who doesn’t have some sort of emotional scar from words said to them in middle school.
- Sticks and stones may break your bones, but broken bones usually heal.
- The wrong words said at the wrong time can leave emotional scars that last a life time.
- A foolish word questioning someones weight, appearance, or intelligence can cause a life long insecurity.
Parents, use your words for life!
I’ve read that on average students hear seven words of criticism for every positive word. If that’s true, you’re already fighting an uphill battle. Use your words intentionally!
- The words you say can kill their soul!
- The words you say can call out their potential!
- The words you don’t say may save them decades of pain.
- The words you don’t say may cause them decades of pain.
Choose to affirm your child with your words daily. Let them know that they are loved and valuable every single day. Whether a day of great success or terrible failure, let them know that they are loved and they are treasured.