Over the past several weeks, I’ve written about what we can do now to prepare for the super-crucial teen years (Click here to find Part 1 or Part 2). I’m sure we all agree, how we raise our kids now, will very much impact who they are later — which means there are important battles we should already be fighting!
Part 2 talked about church attendance, clothing, following rules, technology, and open communication… and here are the final 5 battles (plus one bonus):
Our children should go into their teen years having already learned self-control. Who knows what kind of physical temptation will allure your 16-year-old, but you can bet they’ll have more strength to say “no” if they’ve already been taught the discipline of controlling their bodies.
Recognize the teaching moment when your child can’t sit still. Remember what’s at stake when your toddler throws a tantrum, or your 4-year-old hits their sibling. (The training opportunities are probably more abundant than we’d prefer!)
No one masters self-control overnight, especially no toddler — but start the process now. Help them walk into the way-more-serious teenage temptations with the will-power to choose what’s right even when they don’t feel like it.
7. Attitude and Tone of Voice
As a mom of girls, I dread the sassiness that characterizes many teenage girls. When we hear “sass,” we need to picture our future teenagers. If we allow it to be a pattern now, it probably won’t disappear when they hit 14!
Along the same lines, we parents put up with far too many “bad attitudes.” Young kids have a bad attitude when they are “bored,” when they have chores, when they don’t like their meal, or for no reason at all! And soon enough they won’t be little kids with pouty faces; they will be teenagers with bad attitudes!
If we don’t want sassy, complaining, grumpy teens, we need to train them now. They need to learn to communicate respectfully, and they need to learn to wisely deal with life’s disappointments.
8. Following the Crowd
Anyone who knows teens, knows the intense desire to “fit in.” The struggle is real!
But you want your teen to do what’s right, not what’s “cool.” So, teach your children that it’s okay to be different. By the time they are teens, it should seem normal that:
- Some people may buy certain things that we won’t buy.
- Some people may watch certain movies that we don’t watch.
- Some people may wear certain things that we won’t wear.
Being weird is not the goal! But likely your family does things, even things unrelated to morality, different from others around you. Capitalize on those opportunities. Remind your kids it’s okay to be different.[Side note: If our children become Christians they will surely learn to stand out and do the right thing even when it means they don’t “fit in.” Putting Jesus above peers is basic Christianity. But there may be several teen years preceding their conversion in which you will want them to choose what’s right, even if no one else does.]
Children should learn to obey authority without questioning it. However, there is a place for asking questions and seeking to understand the wisdom (or lack of wisdom) displayed in the authority figures in their life.
Once our children are trained to obey well (even if they don’t understand the rules), we should teach them to ask questions in the right way, at the right time. Give them the tools to communicate effectively, so when they start thinking more for themselves, they know how to navigate their questions in a respectful manner (your future self will thank you, as will their teachers!).
10. Media’s Influence
Though we all know “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33), we can unknowingly invite bad company into our home for hours at a time. This, of course, happens in the form of TV shows, movies, books, or any other type of media. What are you allowing to influence your child? What messages are they hearing? What words, attitude, or worldview are they picking up on?
Our children are sponges; they are picking up on more than we know! So be thoughtful about what you put in front of their eyes. You may seem over-the-top when even a Disney show doesn’t make the cut, but being considered “extreme” is worth it, if it positively impacts who your children become.
One more note on this: there will likely be times when your kids will watch something that isn’t up to your standard. But this doesn’t have to be detrimental (and likely one movie won’t be!) — simply use it as a teaching moment by later discussing the movie’s strengths and weaknesses.
Bonus Battle Tip: Fight Your Child’s “Sin of Choice” Now!
It’s funny how we sometimes know what our children will struggle with by the time they hit two years old! Some kids are set on getting attention, some have tempers, some love to bother their siblings, others are just plain stubborn!
If you picture your future teen displaying their current weakness, will you wish you spent more time training them in that specific area? Try to pinpoint each kid’s “sin of choice” and give individual attention to that kid regarding that temptation.
These weaknesses may display themselves in different forms in the coming years, but we can give them the tools to fight their sin now.
Make each child’s weakness a matter of regular prayer. I like to set reminders in my PrayerMate app to pray specifically for each child and their typical (or current) weakness. This alone helps me be more intentional in training each child in the unique way they need it.
Why Fight These Battles NOW?
Now truly is the best time to train our children! The younger your children are, the more moldable and teachable they are. Young kids, by and large, want to please their parents and are receptive to training. Furthermore, the stakes of disobedience are far lower, and the ease of administering discipline is far less complicated.
Moms, now is the time to throw yourself into training your children! Let’s fight all the battles we can fight now! Surely many of these battles will resurface, but you will be way better off if the foundation is already laid.
And last, but certainly not least, let’s pray that these lessons will come back to them in their teens years the way muscle memory does to a well-trained athlete.
Let’s fight now, for the sake of our future teens.