In a moment of desperation, have you ever announced to your teenager, “That’s it! You’re grounded for life!” These words are actually a better vision of what we want for our teens than they appear to be at first glance. Teenagers need to be “grounded.” They need deep roots and a strong sense of identity that comes from nurture and structure.
In reality, your teen will become grounded. She will find a place to belong and a community to affirm her identity. Will it be your home? Or will your lose your role to a peer group? The challenge we face as parents is how to ensure that our family remains their home base.
How does this happen? What does this healthy, nurturing soil look like that is conducive to being “grounded?”
Your teen is becoming more independent, but still needs to feel like he belongs in your family, that he is an insider —never an outsider. As he naturally starts to pursue this independence, it can translate into family exclusion. Priorities drag them away from the home…Friends, activities, school and family need to be reversed so they remain in proper order (family, school, friends and activities). It’s essential to hold a healthy tension here, allowing them to grow in independence while preserving a strong emotional bond.
Celebrate and affirm your child’s uniqueness and gifting. Make sure YOU are his biggest cheerleader, not a critic or judge.
Here’s a helpful image: Let’s say you’re teaching someone to ice skate. You’re in front, but you’re moving backward with an open posture and your eyes are on them. At first you are holding their hands, but you soon let go and give them some space, encourage them to stand up and skate on their own. If they fall, that’s okay! You’re encouraging them and not shaming or berating him. They feel safe with you. Safe enough to continue to improve, until they are finally skating on their own.
It’s like this with your teen. They are learning. You can’t allow your discipline to fracture your relationship or bruise them spiritually. Discipline is discipling, teaching. What I have to constantly tell myself is to be patient with repeated failures! Keep calling them up. Never push them down.
Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love always believes the best in him.
Pray everyday for him, “Father help me to see my child the way You see him. Help me to bless him and affirm him as the man you are calling forth.”
Stay away from lectures. They can be filled with words that communicate disappointment, anger, and rejection. Instead of lecturing. try active listening, re-do’s and natural, consistent consequences.
As your teen becomes more independent an emotional connection becomes more challenging. Always be willing to be “the pursuer” of the relationship. This provides a clear picture of the way our heavenly Father pursues us.
And above all else —never withhold love. Love is not synonymous with approval. We are called to love unconditionally. Learn to make that clear separation that allows you to love and encourage while still upholding the consequences you have laid out.
A secure, consistent and loving space to fly, and occasionally fail are necessary elements to a well grounded teen.