This is the second part of a two-part series on mistakes to avoid in parenting teens. Read Part 1 here.

6. Not Giving Our Kids the Right to Fail

It’s natural for many parents to try to protect our kids from failure, as we want them to succeed as far as possible. So we may try to shield them from defeat and adversity.

But if our children do not go through setbacks and disappointments, they may grow up to lack resilience, or the ability to bounce back. Or, they may become insecure, as they are afraid of disappointing us.

Every failure can be used by God to teach them about bouncing back and starting again.

Our children need to know that they have the “right”, or freedom, to fail. Instead of sending the message that it’s the end of the world when they fail, we can embrace them and remind them that we love them no matter what.

Our children need to know that we love them for who they are, and not what they do.

Jesus never judged people for failing in their weakness, even His own disciples. Instead, He was always ready to forgive and restore them. When Peter betrayed Him, for instance, Jesus forgave him and renewed his mission (John 21:15–19).

In some ways, our reaction to our children’s failure reflects our own sense of security.

When my son got his report card in Secondary 1, he wanted to avoid me because he had failed literature. When my wife called to tell me about it, I was very angry. Back then, I was an extremely controlling father.

But I prayed on my way home, and when I arrived, a deep sense of peace came upon me. My son avoided eye contact as he handed me the report card—and, surprising even myself, I hugged and kissed him. He was shocked. I asked, “Did you try your best?” He said he did. And I signed it.

My son eventually went on to pass literature at his O levels; today, he teaches literature in a university!

I realised that the Lord had answered my prayer as an anxious and insecure father.

Our children need to know that we love them for who they are, and not what they do. Accepting their failure enables us to share our own appreciation of God’s grace and unconditional love—for He looks only at who we are in Christ.

 

Give Us This Day 10

Get our latest family devotional!

Our latest resource, Give Us This Day 10, is now available.
Get a copy

 

7. Not Discussing Sensitive or Uncomfortable Issues

Every family has its own sensitive points and issues. They could be interpersonal (between people, such as squabbles between spouses or with in-laws), or intrapersonal (within themselves, like anger or lust).

Our teens will notice these sensitive issues—and how we respond when they bring them up. Do we stay mum, try to change the topic, or give honest answers to honest questions?

Our willingness to engage them is more important than the answer itself.

When our kids raise difficult issues, it signals that they want to engage us. They’re not trying to make life difficult for us, but are really wanting to find out what we think.

If we can capitalise on these moments, they can become teachable moments that they will remember and carry with them. Our willingness to engage them is more important than the answer itself.

 Again, we can learn from Jesus’ example. With all His disciples and listeners, He never dismissed difficult or sensitive questions, and always addressed them gently but honestly. When the Samaritan woman at the well questioned His identity and authority, He didn’t get offended, but took the chance to engage her even more (John 4:7–26).

It’s okay if we don’t have the perfect answer. But we can be sincere in engaging them and showing that we are ready to share about tricky topics.

8. Not Accepting Our Children’s Friends

We are often quick to assess whether our children’s friends are a good influence or not. And because of our protective instincts, we may have a tendency to criticise those whom we think might be a bad influence on them. But this can backfire.

I once met a mum who was very frustrated and worried over her 16-year-old daughter. The teenager used to be a well-behaved girl in primary school, but after she began mixing with a group of girls in secondary school, she picked up drinking and smoking.

Her mum tried her best to dissuade her from hanging out with these friends by criticising them. Unfortunately, this had the opposite effect: her daughter grew closer to her friends, while her relationship with her mum soured.

Instead of criticising them, we can try to ask non-judgmental questions to stimulate thinking and soul-searching.

So her mum changed tactics: she learnt to accept her daughter’s friends, and even invited them to her home to get to know them better.

Some months later, her daughter confided in her mother what she really thought of her friends. Without judging them, her mum took time to hear her daughter out, and eventually, the girl later chose to leave this clique on her own.

Friends represent a significant part of our teenagers’ lives and identity. When we criticise these friends, they may see it as a personal attack on them.

So what can we do when we’re concerned about our children’s choice of friends? Instead of criticising them, we can try to ask non-judgmental questions to stimulate thinking and soul-searching. For example, What do you think of your friend? How do you feel about them? Would you follow his or her conduct?

As the mother’s example shows, engaging our teens with godly wisdom and sensitivity has far more impact than nagging or criticising them. Proverbs 16:23, along with many other proverbs describing wisdom, stresses the importance of using wise and judicious words that build up instead of tearing down: “The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction.”

9. Not Giving Our Kids Time

We live in a society that values speed and efficiency. But hurry is the greatest enemy of relationship-building.

Some years ago, I counselled a man with a teenage daughter who had depression. She had confided in her friends that she wanted to commit suicide, and they immediately called her father.

It took him six hours to return home, after he was done with work. Although she didn’t commit suicide, the busy father didn’t seem to take her seriously, and it made things worse.

When our children pick up our signal that we don’t have time for them, they won’t want to engage us.

Unfortunately, for many of us, it’s when our children are in their teenage years that we also tend to be busiest in our careers. But they have the right to our time. When our children pick up our signal that we don’t have time for them, they won’t want to engage us.

And while “quality time” is important, I believe we first need to spend a quantity of time before we can truly enjoy a quality of time with our children.

Love means having time for someone. No matter how busy Jesus was in His ministry on earth, or how tired He was, He always stopped to spend time with the people who needed Him (Mark 6:34) and those who wanted to engage Him or learn from Him (John 16:12).

Let us seize this time with our teenagers, because it won’t last forever.

10. Not Loving Our Children Unconditionally

As a counsellor with Singapore Youth for Christ, I have worked with teenagers who joined gangs and been arrested. I remember one particular boy who was about to be sentenced by the juvenile court. He had a poor relationship with his parents, but he asked for both of them to be present for his court sentencing.

His father, however, refused to turn up. He told me: “This son of mine is gone and beyond hope.” Of course, his son was extremely hurt by his father’s absence.

It’s a heartbreaking story of a failure to love our children unconditionally.

When our children are always breaking our hearts, what’s called for is unconditional love—love which is humanly impossible, but possible with God alone.

When our children are always breaking our hearts, what’s called for is unconditional love—love which is humanly impossible, but possible with God alone.

Romans 5:8—“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”—is one of the many verses in the Bible that stresses that God’s love is not based on how we perform, but comes from His grace alone.

Just as God loves us unconditionally, we love our children with the same love. Our teenagers’ behaviour may hurt us, and we can and should reject their wrong behaviour where needed. But they are still our children, and we never give up on them. We love them for who they are to us, not for what they do.

To Raise Godly Children, We Must Be Godly Parents

Many of us may have made mistakes in our parenting journey, despite our sincere and dedicated efforts to do what’s best for our children. But with Christ in the picture, there is hope for us.

At the end of the day, the key to raising godly children is to be godly parents ourselves: the kind of man or woman God wants us to be. As we grow in our relationship with God and model His love to our children, we can set an example for our children “in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

 

Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing us with teenage children.
As parents, we confess that we have made mistakes along the way,
though we may have good intentions.
Please help us to learn from our mistakes,
and to grow in godliness as parents.
As an act of faith, we dedicate our parenting roles to You.
May You be glorified in our homes and families.
In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

 

Read Part 1 of this two-part series on mistakes to avoid in parenting teens here.

 

Gn Chiang Tat is a counsellor at Singapore Youth for Christ.
Share This Article