This is the SECOND part of this little lesson.  Find the FIRST PART here.

Disclaimer: I am NOT a perfect parent.  I do not have all the answers.  And I stumble all the time and make mistakes too.  My goal is to always learn from those mistakes and do better.  I am human.

So there you go….there’s my disclaimer.

Parenting tips I’ve learned working in the Youth department Part II:

5.)  Give them their voice—I thought this was common sense, but surprisingly, NOT!  Teenagers have to have the freedom to have their own thoughts, feelings, and opinions.  They deserve to have their own voice and a means to express themselves.  If they are not taught how to express themselves, they will use inappropriate ways of dealing with their pent up emotions:  cutting, depression, suicide, inappropriate s e x, disconnecting, extreme aggression, etc.

My rule here at my house:  you can tell me you’re angry with me, you can tell me you are upset with me, I’m not fair, etc, but you will be respectful.  I have given them a SAFE place to express their thoughts and emotions and still maintain respect.  (Does it always work?  Not always.  Sometimes the respect is lost in the expressing, but it is always still there, because we talk through it.)

Give them ways of expressing their emotions.  God gave me the idea one day with Austin to toss eggs.  Austin was going through a difficult period with anger and I knew he had to have a constructive way of letting it out.  So I saved my expired eggs and one day when he started his aggressive fit throwing, I took him outside in the front yard and handed him a carton of eggs.  He was expecting a lecture and punishment, but instead he was handed eggs, and NOT in anger.  I told him I wanted them all gone and I wanted them all to land in the field across the street.  I got the look of “Mom, you’ve officially lost your mind”, but it worked.  By the time the last egg was thrown full force into the field across the street, we were both laughing, and we sat on the front porch and talked through his problem.

With Chandler, when he gets angry, he kicks stuff around the house.  For him, we take him outside to kick around the football or soccer ball, whichever we have on hand.  It’s not in the form of punishment.  I don’t take them outside and tell them Drill sergeant-style to kick this ball until I say STOP!  I use it as a way of #1) spending time with them, that’s what they need, and #2) showing them constructive ways of expressing their emotions.

IF YOU DO NOT GIVE THEM A VOICE, THEY MAY START PHYSICALLY HURTING THEMSELVES!  ie:  cutting themselves…..or worse.  Yes, they do this, and you’d be shocked at the ones doing it.  Give them the tools to express themselves APPROPRIATELY!

Even if we don’t like what they have to say. {Gulp}

6.)  See your child—I know this sounds completely insane, you “see” your kids everyday!  But I’m talking about honestly SEEING your teenager as a person in and of themselves.  They are not extensions of us.  They are not our “mini” me’s.  And they are not our “Do Overs” with our lives.  They are a person and they deserve to have thoughts and feelings and opinions separate and apart from us.

Yes, I said that.

I did Senior portraits one time for a new client and the mom said the photos were up to her child, whatever he wanted.  So, I had a BLAST with this client, I listened to some of the style ideas he liked, and asked him about things that he particularly liked (music, clothes, etc) and we went off and did his Senior pictures.  They were FANTASTIC photos!  However, when his mom saw the photos she was less than pleased!  She saw her son as this clean cut preppy jock, and in reality, he didn’t like that at all!  He enjoyed the edgier stuff….the urban grunge scene!  She was his mother, but she had put her own labels on him and didn’t actually “SEE” her son for who he really was.  In the end, they didn’t order any because it wasn’t what the mother wanted.  It was what the son wanted, but he had no voice.

They deserve to be seen as an individual apart from you.

7.)  Don’t label your child—Just because your teenager has ADD/ADHD/ODD/RAD/and every other initial out there, your teenager is MORE than that diagnosis.  Your teenager is still a person.  Treat them with the same dignity and respect you would anyone else.  Seek the help they need to live productive lives, but don’t box them into this label.

8.)  Praise your teenagers–I thought this went without saying, but again….I’m always surprised.  They need encouraging words FROM YOU.  They need to know that you notice when they do well and not only when they mess up.  If the only time you talk to your child is when they mess up, you’ve messed up. Plain and simple.  Because if YOU don’t praise them, they WILL go to inappropriate lengths to gain the attention and praise from someone else.  And you will NOT like it.

Praise your child TO THEM, and TO OTHERS in front of them.  They need to know that you see them and you are proud of them.  Teenagers are killing themselves everyday for lack of attention and praise.  Give it to them.  Just GIVE IT TO THEM!

We are to praise our children and teenagers 10 TIMES MORE than we correct them.  Try that today.  Try honestly praising them 10 times before you correct them once.   I dare you.   I DOUBLE DOG DARE you.  What I see more often………correction 10 times more than they are ever praised.  If they are praised at all.

8.)  PRAY WITH, AND FOR YOUR TEENAGER—I cannot stress that enough.  Pray with them.  Individually, pray with them.  Find out what they are struggling with and PRAY with your teenager.  They need to see the example of a praying parent.

Pray FOR your teenager….EVERY day.  They have burdens and stress we cannot even imagine and they need the supernatural strength that only God can give them.  I pray for my kids every day, personally, and by name and need.  I pray every day for the youth girls as well.  As I’m getting closer and closer to them I’m seeing some serious issues and serious needs that they have and I am genuinely concerned for them.  I pray every day for them.  They need it.  And while I’m at it, I go out of my way to spend time with them as often as I can….whether it’s personally, on Facebook, or even just texting.  They need some love, praise, and encouragement, and I can do that.  I’m trying to figure out what I can brush off my over-full plate so I can spend more time with them.

Pray for your teenager.

I want to reiterate that I am NOT in any way shape or form a perfect parent.  I make mistakes and I have to apologize to them for my mistakes.  I’m tired and overworked and stressed a lot and that makes me grumpy.  I am human and I’m trying so hard to be everything for everyone, and sometimes I fail.

I do NOT have all the answers and I don’t pretend to, but I see a lot of hurting children and teenagers and I’m learning a lot from them.  These are just a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Be kind.

DSC_0296 copy

(Yes, my son went hunting for the first time and got his first doe.  Yes I find it sad and quite a bit gross, but he was BEYOND proud of himself and I am beyond proud of HIM.  I may not love what he loves, but I love him and I am encouraging him to be his OWN person and I am not forcing him into my likes and desires.  I’m learning.  Please no hateful anti-hunting comments, it’s not welcome.)