As our children grow older parents need to change their understanding of what it means to be a parent.  Our children need different things at different ages – and we need to adapt.  One of those big shifts happen as our teens move through the teen years, and then into early adult years.  We need to shift from parenting to mentoring.  So let’s talk about that today.

Supporting your Teen and Young Adult children as a Mentor more than a Parent

We live in a society where we expect parents grow up children, and other people to mentor them once they become teenagers or young adults.  This is particularly strong in some christian circles.  Though I have nothing against others speaking into the life of my older children I don’t believe that that parents need to let go and leave it to other people.  Parents need to be mentoring their teens and older children.  

As our children grow older we need to change our goals  and their strategies for our parenting.  Seeing our role as mentor is one framework that helps this to happen.

Mentoring – regardless of who you are mentoring – is about walking together towards maturity.  It is about helping a person  take charge of their life – their relationships, responsibilities and purpose.   It is about helping a person understand themselves – their strengths and their weaknesses. And to offer unconditional love and be there to support them through the hard patches, and rejoice with them in the successes.

This also defines what parenting older teens and young adults looks like.  By this stage, parents need to step back from telling their older teens what to do, and instead encourage them to think and make choices and decisions based on what has been taught and established in earlier years.  Parents need to be there to support their teens through unwise choices, or unexpected circumstances.  We need to offer unconditional love as our teens navigate the waters of growing up and maturing.

Parenting young children is all about introducing them to God, teaching them values and habits of good character, and establishing life skills.  As our children grow older we start to expect them to live these things out by making wise choices.  We start to see that they understand why these things are important and they start to choose these things for themselves (or not).  It is this aspect of choosing which values they are going to live their life by that is the growing up process – they are starting to understand themselves, what values they want to live by, their passions and their purpose; establishing their place in the world.

When our children are young we are the parent and we understand this in a traditional sense – we are older and wiser, we are the boss, we give directions, and instructions, we teach, and we expect respect and obedience.  As our children grow older though this changes – we are still their parent but how that is lived out, how it is expressed has to change.  Our kids are growing in moral maturity, they are taking responsibility to live their life and our role has to change to reflect this growth.  Even if our children aren’t as morally mature as we would like, we still have to give them space to make their own choices, and in these situations they may well grow in their maturity by processing the consequences of their choices.

Our older children will no longer be swayed by the comment:  Because I’m the mum, that’s why!  Instead, they will be influenced by the people they have relationships with.  This is why it is imperative that we build relationship with our kids.  Having a relationship, where we know their inner heart, and they know ours, where there is trust and honesty, where there is a history of living life together, this will be what opens the doors to influencing (encouraging, helping, supporting) our older teens and young adults – not just because we are the parent but because we have a relationship together.  They know us, we know them – they value us as a person in their life, and we value them as a person in our life.

Mentoring our children is much like mentoring another person – an adult – whether you are mentoring them as a new Christian, or as a support person in any sphere of life – mentoring another adult is about helping them reach their goals, about being supportive, honest and yet not pushy or demanding.  It’s about being there for them.  This is exactly the same for our teens and young adults.  We need to let go of the parenting practices we had before the teen years; those practices were right for that season, but we have to change, we have to step up and be a mentor, a guide, a coach – someone who stands beside and supports.

My goal for my teen/young adult was for them to continue to grow and have what they needed to be contributors to their society.  I wanted to help them take responsibility for their life.  It isn’t my life – it is theirs – they need to be guided, prompted and encouraged to step into it with confidence, purpose, and faith.  

Just as when we were teaching and training younger children, we need to remember all areas of life for when we are mentoring our teens and young adults:

  • Spiritual and Moral
  • Emotional health
  • Relationships
  • Responsibilities
  • Their talents, passions, interests

 

As we walk along side a our teen they grow – they mature in their heart attitudes, their understandings, they change what they value, and how they make choices. It is a process – it takes time – it is a growth process – and we need to be patient, we need to value their growing up journey.

Top Tips to Mentor Teens and Young Adults

Tips to think about as you consciously mentor your older kids:, as you consciously make that switch from parenting being directive to mentoring being encouraging and supportive.

-1- Learn to ask your teens questions – prompting questions not interrogation questions! You want to get them to think about the circumstance or issue rather than you telling them what to do or what to think.  Accept their answers as a start – or ask them another probing question so they think deeper about their initial answer.

-2- Have conversations about their heart. Ask them what areas they want to grow in, what they want to learn, what they are praying about, or thinking about. Ask them about their beliefs,  values, character – don’t give up asking about heart issues.   Then ask how you can help them achieve the things they want to grow in.

-3- Let your teen know that you are there for them, you are on their side, and you want to help them reach their goals.  Let them know you are on their team.

-4- Be real – if you are having a bad day – let them in on it – they already know!  So be relational and let them know what is going on in your life. Let them help you.  They will learn not only to give to someone else, but they will learn how to handle bad days themselves.

-5- Bring Jesus into the discussions. Ask them ‘What is God saying to you?’  This isn’t a time to sprout your wisdom, but to point them to Jesus.  There will be plenty of time to encourage them from your understanding and wisdom, but first and foremost we must point them to Jesus and encourage them in their own relationship with Him.

-6- Don’t make it all about talking, teaching, and learning – have fun together. Having fun encourages relationships. Do things with your teens that they enjoy – this may stretch you, but it shows commitment to who they are, it shows them that you see them and are interested in them as a person with their own likes and dislikes.  It might be things completely different than you’ve done before – but this is a person who is growing into who they are – have fun together, and get to know them.

-7- Offer unconditional love – let them know that if they think differently, believe differently and act differently than you would you will still love them. You will still open your heart, your arms, your home for them.  You may need to think this one through – how do you love a child who is different than you? Different at the core?  This will look different in different circumstances, and in different families – but we are commanded to love and we are commanded to love as Jesus has loved us.

-8- Focus on growth and solutions, not on where they are weak or failing. We all need to accept our weaknesses, so we may need to help them acknowledge and accept their weaknesses for what they are but help them find ways to grow.  Don’t settle – this is a big one for where there is typically a label given for these things our kids find hard.  Yes, understanding is good – but if it isn’t healthy, and you can do something about it – help your teen to have a growth mindset about how they function in the world. 

-9- Spend one to one time together – be intentional, make it happen. By this season of life both you and your teen are busy so you really do need to make this happen.  This doesn’t have to be a full afternoon/evening ‘date’ – but rather know that you are catching up with each of your children in a safe space where they can talk heart stuff; where they can talk about where they are at, what they are doing, where they are struggling, and where they are doing well – do this regularly.

-10- Share your stories – not so much as a teaching point, but in life, share your stories. Let them know what you have been through, how you handled the ups and downs of life. Share the stories that have made you you.

-11- Be prepared to be challenged and grow yourself.  Ask yourself – What am I doing to contribute to the health of our relationship; what am i doing to help our relationship grow and change?  Or maybe,   What am I doing that is causing friction in our relationship?  When we take responsibility for our part in our relationship with our teen it shows them that we are committed to the relationship and being real with them.

-12- Know that there will be times to say nothing – they don’t need to be fixed – they need to have a sounding board, a support base, and someone to talk to.  Sometimes your job is to just listen.  Of course whenever we just listen we are learning more about them and where they are at.  So be actively listening.

-13- Be open to others speaking into your kids’ life. This doesn’t reduce the value of your input, it is the beginning of your teen’s world opening up and them learning to go to older, wiser people for support and input.

People have often asked me which season of parenting is the toughest – toddlers or teenagers.  Reality is each demand our attention and energy.  For toddlers it is very physically demanding time – you have to be there with them.  For teenagers and young adults you also have to be there with them but it is much more relationally and emotionally demanding – but oh so worth it!

Heart-focused Action Step

So if you have teenagers the heart-focused action step is to take stock on three things:

  1. Are you still giving instructions, and expecting obedience with your teenager?  Maybe that needs to change.
  2. Are you doing things with your teenager that they enjoy or are you only doing things you enjoy, or for the the younger kids?
  3. Do you know one goal your teen has that they really want to work on this year? If you don’t, then that is a good first step to connect and engage with them, right where they are at.

 

If you don’t have teens and yet listened through to the end then my encouragement to you would be to make sure you are building relationship with your kids – because by the time they get to teens, it is your relationship that will put you in a good place, ready to mentor them through the next season of their life.

Do you have Questions?

I know there are a lot of you who are anxious about the teen years and I really want to be able to encourage you both at a heart level to say that it doesn’t have to be horrible but also at a practical level to say there are parenting strategies and practices that you can learn that will help you.  So if you have teens, or even tweens, and you have questions – please email me – I will answer you back via email – but it also will help me understand what are the best topics to teach here on the podcast. 

Make a Shift to Mentor Guide

If we don’t understand mentoring though we won’t make the shift in parenting our teens.

Reflect on each of these five aspects of mentoring and consider if you are doing those things as you parent your teenager or young adult?

What do you think about the idea of being a mentor? Is it something you’ve thought about before?

What do you believe?

💥 Controversial Point: The belief that all teens are rebellious is a stereotype that overlooks their ability to respond to God, their individual personality and the impact of heart-focused parenting.⁠

🤔 Challenge the myth and discover the truth! Understand that effective parenting during the teen years requires you to change your approach, foster trust, and embrace open conversations. ⁠

What you believe about your teenager will impact how you respond to your teenager.⁠

Together, let’s break free from stereotypes and empower our teens to thrive!⁠

👉🏼 Share your thoughts below: Do you think it’s fair to label all teens as rebellious?

Skills Parents need to Mentor/Guide their Teens

As parents, our role moves from instructing to guiding as our teenagers start to take responsibility for different aspects of their life.⁠

When we Guide instead of Direct we give them opportunity to make their own choices, we walk beside them, helping if they need it, but letting them do it on their own if they can. ✨ This means letting them walk through struggles and mistakes – they are still learning and they still need us, but they need to also be doing it to some degree on their own.⁠

It is a hard thing to shift. 💪We still want the best for them, we want them to have a good life – and yet we can’t do it for them. ⁠

This acronym GUIDE 🌻 offers some helpful reminders to step back and see where they are at, and think about what they really need from us instead of just telling them what we want them to know or do.⁠

Further Reading:

Intentional Heart Conversations Touches what your Child Believes and Values: Conversations build relationships and then they also communicate beliefs and values.  For us to touch our children’s hearts – first of all, we need a relationship and then we need to be able to communicate our beliefs and values – which is why communication is one of the biggest tools we have at our disposal.

3 Little Changes that will Make a Big Difference in your Family Life:  Not all our parenting has to be a big push or hard work.  Sometimes when things aren’t going well in our home we can make little tweaks and find big returns – or big changes happening.  Today I’m sharing 3 things that you can tweak that will make a big impact on how your family functions.  

Building a Relationship with your Child will Lead to Friendship Later:  Friendship is something that we can look forward to – but we blur lines, which is not helpful to our children growing up, if we make them our spiritual, moral, emotional, social or intellectual equal.  So let’s look at the difference between relationship and friendship with our kids and how that affects our parenting.

How to Help Adult Children Living at Home with Screen Time Habits:  Answering a listeners question about helping her young adults living at home with their screen time use (or addiction). 

 

 

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