by Marlene Evans
Founder of the Christian Womanhood Magazine
If I could begin again, I would like to think that I would be a better friend to teens—my own and every teen with whom I come in contact.
Even now in 2001 at 67 years of age, I want to embed some principles in my mind so that I can help teens. Teens surely do make me feel special when I reach out to them in a parenting or nurturing way. No age group makes me feel better than teens who are being well loved.
These are some principles I am trying to grasp more tightly.
- Most successful teen parenting appears to boil down to a lot of listening. It requires shutting my mouth, opening my ears, and focusing my eyes.
- If I give long times of undivided attention, many teens will tell me nearly everything they know, think, and feel.
- Often teens are just using me as a sounding board when they throw out their thoughts. At the end of their uninterrupted talk, they sometimes make their own wise decisions.
- I need to be unshockable and unshakable with teens. The best way I know how to explain this point is with an illustration. For example, “You say you don’t think it is too bad that your unmarried teen friend is going to have a baby? Tell me your thinking.”
Often, you’ll find the girl is really asking for help in understanding what happened.
- I need to correct by praising and then reinforcing everything I can find that I do like about a teen. For example, say, “I like the way your arms hang from your shoulders.” (Slight exaggeration!)
- I need to leave bombs in the closet to pull out as I have to in order to keep the teen on a path that leads to a lifetime of happiness. Before using one of those bombs, I need to ask myself, “Is this a situation which will keep this teen from a lifetime of happiness?”
- I need to give directions as sparingly and as carefully as I give directions to an adult friend. For example, “What’s your schedule today? Can you add this extra chore to your list?”
We say, “She wants me to treat her as an adult, but she acts like a child.” That is true, but sometimes we don’t know ourselves which way we want them to be. Sometimes I act pretty childish myself, but I still want to be treated as an adult.
8. I need to, once in a great while, step out of the parenting-type role and shock them. The best tools for doing this are time and energy. A little extra money is a second or third best, but very effective.
∙ “Here’s $10. Go blow it just for once.”
∙ “When we stop at McDonald’s, you can get what you want there, and we can stop someplace else for a dessert.”
∙ “When you come home from school today, you’re not going to do your chores. You’ve been working really hard. Plan something you want to do—enjoy the whole afternoon and evening.”
I want to be a friend to teens. They will accept me if I accept them and am not scared to death of them. They don’t care how I look, how I feel, or how old I am if I don’t care how they look, act, or talk.
By the way, the only way I will see them change is to accept them.