Can I be honest with you about something?
The teenage years are hard. Like, really, really hard.
Harder, then I thought they would be and I often feel like I’m failing.
Mix all of the typical teenager stuff with a child who is adopted and has experienced trauma and that’s what I got. To say it’s been an interesting adventure would be an understatement.
I’ve gone to bed wondering how badly I’m going to screw my kid up (please tell me I’m not the only one). I’ve woken up at 4 am praying for my son and the day that would follow. I’ve called my mother crying not knowing how I will make it through these years. I’ve had friends who’ve raised teens encourage me by sharing what their years were like and how they and their child made it out alive.
I’ve second guessed myself. Wondered if we really do have too many rules and are too hard on our son because he sure thinks so. I’ve prayed for when my two younger boys become teens that it will be different. That they will be different. That I would have a better handle on it.
I know my experience isn’t typical. Most families don’t get thrown into the teenage years right away or parent a child that isn’t biologically theirs. Many families don’t have teenagers with a traumatic past or one who has seen things most adults haven’t.
But, at the end of the day, a teenager is a teenager and friend, these years are hard.
There’s something about parenting that shines a glaring light on your shortcomings, am I right or am I right?
This season of my life has made me realize how greatly I need to depend on the Lord for my strength on a daily basis. How my grace needs to cover mountains and my love has to be as deep as the oceans. I need to be slow to anger and quick to forgive. My confidence can only be found in the Lord to get through each day and the value of the counsel of a true friend is invaluable.
Sometimes as parents we can over complicate things. If you’re like me you can think too deep into things, play out every scenario possible, and always try to be a few steps ahead. Or, you may be so overwhelmed you feel like you’re treading water and can barely keep your head afloat.
Today, I want to share something with you.
Through prayer, I’ve landed on three “rules” James and I hold our children accountable to. These three rules have made parenting simple and less complex. It has even broken down the “why” when our teenager doesn’t understand.
And in many ways- it does the parenting for us. It tells our children why something is not OK, but it also encourages them when something is exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.
The Only Three Rules You Will Need To Parent
Rule One: Does it honor God?
John 12:26 says, “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him
Rule Two: Does it honor others?
Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
Rule Three: Does it honor yourself?
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says, “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
That’s it. I told ya they were simple
Our home is a home where no matter what we do we will honor God, others, and ourselves. If it’s not doing any of those three- then we want nothing to do with it.
The responsibility of parenting is grand. It’s your first ministry and a treasured one at that. But the “rules” side of things doesn’t have to be complex.
Hold your child accountable to work hard in school because it’s honoring to God to grow and learn. Show them how gossiping, lying, stealing, procrastination, disrespect, laziness, etc. is not honoring of others, themselves, and God. Share with them why that movie, tv show, or song has content that is not honoring their Savior and how it could affect their mind and spirit by digesting it.
Explain why that person or group of people is a bad influence on them and how their actions aren’t God-honoring. Set dating and friendship boundaries for them so they know how to have a healthy God-honoring relationship.
There’s no need to feel overwhelmed by all the rules. There’s no need to feel like a dictator in your parenting.
Friend, there’s tremendous freedom within these three rules. It covers all situations, creates consistency, and can make sense logically for a teenager (because we all know how they can be haha).
While rules tend to focus on what not to do and parenting has the added layer of consequences, teenagers also need to be encouraged on what to do.
Sign them up to serve within their local church and community. Reward them for their hard work. Lift them up when they give. Thank them when they do what’s expected of them. Share with them how you enjoy their presence, how you like the friends they’ve picked, you respect their wise choices. Tell them you’re proud of them when they go above and beyond. Teach them how those things are honoring of God, others, and themselves and encourage them to continue.
When used this way, these “rules” will no longer be “rules.” They will become guidelines and will hold your child accountable to God, you, themselves, and others.
The big step your child will take into adulthood is when they choose how they handle their new found freedom and responsibility. Ultimately, you want them to make wise choices that will honor God, others, and themselves.
But, they have to be shown how to live a life of honor and not a life that simply follows the rules.
And when they’re shown that- they won’t be perfect and they most certainly will make mistakes but they will have learned how to honor God, others, and themselves. And you will see that when they take ownership of their mistakes, learn from them, and grow.
My prayer for you today is to know your confidence comes from Christ and with that, you can confidently parent your children in a way that they will choose to live a life of honor.
This post originally appeared on HeatherMargiotta.com and was republished with permission.
Heather Margiotta is a Christian Writer and Speaker from northeast Ohio. She is a wife to a loving husband and a mother to two handsome sons. She received a bachelors degree in Theology and writes about her faith, adoption, relationships, and grief on her blog, HeatherMargiotta.com. Besides loving Jesus and her family, Heather is obsessed with coffee, local pizza joints, and nail polish. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.