Oct 282014 2 Responses

Expect More, Get More from Teenagers

Your teenagers will not be perfect. Most parents understand this. There are a few who are deceived into thinking they have given birth to the only exception to this rule. Living in denial, they believe their child can do no wrong despite all the evidences to the contrary.

Every child will make mistakes. And when they do, they should have parents who love them, care for them, and are willing to walk through the darkest moments with them. No matter what choices a child makes, they deserve their parent’s love (not their approval for specific decisions, but their loving support through good and bad choices). (See: How to Respond to Others When They Make Bad Choices)

While some parents still struggle to see the true nature of their children regarding their mistakes, there is a growing trend for parents to underestimate their teenager’s ability to make wise choices.

(To watch the full sermon, click Here)

Some parents believe it is inevitable that their children will make foolish decisions. Confusing an inability to be perfect with a certainty of being foolish, parents lower their expectations of their children. Sadly, teenagers almost always fulfill the lowered expectations of their parents.

As a pastor, it is fascinating to me to hear one parent say, “Well, you know kids these days, they are all going to (fill in the blank with whatever bad behavior that comes to mind).” But I know many kids who never do the things which some parents assume are inevitable.

It’s not inevitable that a teenager will:

  • get drunk
  • try drugs
  • make bad grades
  • get arrested
  • engage in pre-marital sex

It is only inevitable if a parent believes it is inevitable and parents in a way that the child understands this assumption. (See: How Parents Influence Their Children)

While any of the circumstances are possible, no matter the type of parenting a teenager receives, to believe these outcomes are inevitable is a tremendous devaluing of a teenager’s ability. 

To assume complete foolishness is to announce to our children that they either have little control over their lives or lack the cognitive ability to make wise choices.

I believe in our kids more than this.

Every kid will make mistakes. I have no doubt about it. And there is nothing on the list above that can’t be learned from and overcome. Many people have these stories in their backgrounds, and they have gone on to live very productive lives. However, to assume these poor decisions is to shackle our kids in a way that is very difficult to overcome. (See: Five Rules for Every Teenager)

Not every High School student is getting drunk every Friday night. Not every student is sexting or crossing sexual boundaries with their girlfriend. Not every kid is smoking pot or experimenting with drugs.

While no kid will be perfect, many kids are navigating their teenagers years with a tremendous amount of wisdom and insight. They are growing into competent adults without any of the baggage of dramatically poor decision-making in their formative years. They are experiencing healthier relationships, a more developed self-esteem, and finding an easier path to a meaningful life because they aren’t having to dig out of a hole of poor decisions.

It’s not everyone’s story, but it is the story of many people. (See: Three Things to Do When Parenting Goes Wrong)

If you a parent who assumes your child will consistently make bad choices, consider this: what if you are wrong? What if your child has the capability of choosing wisely, but you are sending them the message they cannot. How will that influence them? How will they feel to know the person who loves them the most doesn’t believe in them?

It’s tragic. And sadly in today’s culture it’s prevalent. Too many parents hold too low of a view of their teenagers, and their teenagers are meeting those expectations.

I’m not advocating for believing our students can be perfect. They can’t. I do not believe we need to set standards which cannot be met.

But we should set high standards. We should model good decision making for our kids and let them know our expectations that they will make wise choices as well.

Whenever they make bad choices, we should explain that everyone makes bad choices, but we should also let them experience the consequences of those choices. (See: A Parenting Lesson from Jesus)

When they fail to meet our expectations, we should walk beside them, but we should not lower our standards.

Parents should be such realists that we are never surprised by the choices of our children, but we should be optimistic enough to expect wise choices and to be disappointed when our children do not meet those standards.

As a pastor, I know a lot of good kids. And while a few of them are probably putting on an act, many of them are wiser than their parents. They make better choices and live better lives because of those choices.

I believe the next generation has tremendous possibility; I wish more parents believed the same.

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