Have you ever noticed there are more parenting articles and blogs and books written by parents of young children than older ones? One would hope there would be an increase in wisdom as years build experience, but somehow, it’s easier to talk about training toddlers than teens. As birthday candles increase in number, we gain perspective, but we often lose confidence as well.
Here’s how I think it goes: Younger children, though messy and exhausting, are more apt to throw their chubby arms around our necks. They jump up and down at our suggestion of going out for ice cream. And best of all, time with Mommy and Daddy is a happy thing. We know they need us, and they know it too. Parenthood is hard yet gratifying when we read a little pajama-clad person to sleep. The sober but joyous responsibility before us motivates our effort and initiative. We buy the Bible storybooks, talk to our children about God’s ways, and try our best to train their hearts.
Don’t get me wrong. Older children and teens are a delight as well. Watching God’s plans for them unfold is a privilege, but they may go through some prickly years. They might shrug off the suggestion of ice cream. Kisses goodnight become more about our needs than theirs. Time with Mom and Dad can be okay if friends aren’t available, but sometimes it is clearly something to be endured. If we take our communication cues from our kids or crave their affirmation, these can be tough times for our fragile hearts. We miss feeling needed, and to top it off, we’re getting older, less trendy, and more tired. Our efforts to train and talk with our kids begin to wane, and nobody seems to notice, including us.
These tendencies remind us that we can’t base our lives on feelings, but rather on the eternally true Word of God, which tells us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:5–7). This list of times to disciple our kids is not creative or Pinterest-worthy. Sitting, walking, lying down, and rising compile a pretty uncreative schedule, and yet it’s inspired by God himself.
If it’s been a while since you’ve talked meaningfully with your older child:
- Pray and ask the Lord for wisdom. Remember that you have the privilege of demonstrating God’s steadfast, pursuing love to them.
- Find ways to bless. Take your child out for a fun drink or snack and simply encourage them. Draw them out; no lecturing allowed. If they don’t want to go out with you, bring them the drink and let them know how much you love them.
- Mention regularly what God is showing you as you read his Word. You may receive a nod or grunt in return, but God can use your faithful example in their lives. Don’t be too affected by responses.
- Find out what they like to do, and do it with them. Conversations flow from shared experiences “as you walk by the way” together. If you enjoy running, and they like concerts, invite them on the run, but take them to the concert.
- If your teen will meet regularly with you, set up a weekly or monthly time to talk purposefully with them. Don’t wait for their initiative: You are the parent and you get to pursue them. Though every talk won’t be amazing, you are sowing truth and trusting God to reap the harvest.
- Text an older child and tell them what you’re praying for them. Ask them if there is anything else you can pray about.
- Use a tool. You’re busy, and you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Though the Bible is all the truth we need, thoughtful, creative books abound to disciple kids of all ages. Use them.
- Be humble. No child will be vulnerable with a proud, controlling parent. Confess your weaknesses (which they already see) and ask for their input. By God’s grace, they may do the same.
- Absorb their immaturity. Remember those difficult years in your own life, and don’t take things too personally. Laugh with them as often as you can, even about yourself.
- Take the long view. Parenting older kids may not provide immediate gratification, and that’s okay. Plant your flag in the solid ground of Scripture and relax in the grace of God.
Tired parent, don’t give up. Though your child may not engage, though your efforts may seem futile, we obey a God who does “far more abundantly than all we can ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep pursuing. We bank all our efforts on him, knowing that “in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Between Us Girls: Walks and Talks for Moms and Daughters
Between Us Girls teaches mothers and daughters a new way to communicate and starts them on a wonderful, lifelong journey of getting to know one another better and learning to love their Savior more.