The Upside Down Way of Mothering Teens

Dear Moms of Tweens & Teens,

I’ve been thinking of this letter for months now, wondering what exactly I would say to encourage you while you’re in the very deep trenches of parenting tweens and teens. See, I know from being right there with you, that what I say may seem rather shallow since I’ve not walked the road and ended up on the other side of it yet.

But I’m hoping that my words will meet you right where you are, as one who knows it’s challenges and rewards.

So here’s what I do know . . .


Upside Down Way

I know that by the time our children turn 12, we’re just plain worn out. Yes, it is a new season according to their age, but for us, we’re still dealing with some of the same heart issues that marked their lives when they were two. My years serving as a dorm mom to teen girls taught me that the only difference between a tot and teen is the words they use for their fits — their hearts and flesh demand the same thing:  “I want it my way.”

[Tweet “As moms, we want long to make our kids happy, but giving them what they want isn’t the way to win their hearts for the Lord.”]

Our bigger goal must be to see them learn how to receive a “NO” with humility and grace, encouraging them to trust us for their best.  And if we want them to really trust us, then we need to be consistent in our expectations while constantly leaning on the Lord for wisdom as to what is realistic for each of our children. Oh my! What a cycle!  By God’s grace, we know that this process isn’t about them trusting us in the long run, but rather learning how to walk in this humility and surrender to the Lord as they launch into adulthood. The real stink of it is that this is so hard of a principle to teach to our tweens and teens when we have such trouble living it out ourselves!

Being a mom is a sanctifying journey, challenging us to grow in our own faith and character with each passing age and stage.

As we beckon our tweens and teens towards obedience, integrity, purity, and the pursuit of God wholly, we have to be living it out that way before them. And yet, we’re equally sinners. We equally fail. We equally need God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness.

I wonder, do we sometimes not want to call our tweens and teens into account because we fear being a hypocrite?

But imagine if instead of living in fear, we lived transparently with them?

Imagine if the times in which we fail were the opportunities we use to show them the process of godly sorrow?

Imagine if we gave them a pattern for confession, by confessing our own sin before them?

Imagine if we demonstrated repentance and the process of resisting temptation, by living out a changed life right before their very eyes?

Of course, the real problem is that we personalize their sin, thinking we’ve failed. 

Maybe we have failed. Maybe we didn’t do what we ought to have done. Maybe we weren’t consistent in our training. Maybe we were distracted by our passions or weighed down by the trials hitting us in the face. Maybe we are, in part, to blame for their prodigal choices.  Maybe. Or maybe we’re not to blame for their wayward choices, no matter how small or large we’d like to categorize their sin.

[Tweet “We need to seek His wisdom for how to walk side-by-side with our child in grace & truth.”]

The worst thing we can do as moms of tweens and teens is give up on being their mom. . .on being in their court . . . cheering for them.

Whether they are on the straight and narrow road or dipped off to the wide one nearby, they need us willing to listen to the secrets of their hearts — even when those secrets are hard to share and hear.

That means they need our time.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from being in the trenches with my own tweens and teens, after years of mentoring others, this age and stage requires more time talking then any other. And that means, as moms, we’ll have less time to ourselves then ever before.

It is the upside down of what we thought our lives would be once our tots grew up..

We need to make room in our schedules to connect with them side-by-side, in their world, so when they are ready to talk, we’re there to guide their next steps.

So moms, will you shut your computer lid and get off the iPad and phone?

Will you step off the ministry team, give up the evening meetings, pull back on work hours?

Will you make time to be at home, doing nothing important, so that you tweens and teens might plop down on the couch next to you and start talking?

Will you look for a show to watch together and talk about life through that lens?

Will you explore a hobby or video game that they like, even if you don’t think it’s worthy of your time?

When you slow down so that you can connect with your tween or teen, you’ll be able to show them faith in action so that they can learn how to make it their own.

Yes, we thought this stage would be easier and less tiring, when really, it’s sometimes harder and more draining! But really, we’re in the homestretch. We’re getting ready to launch little humans into the great adult world. Our investment of time is as critical now as it has ever been. It’s our last chance to leave our mark on their lives for the glory of God. So let’s make this season count.

Let’s put on hold our own agendas and pour into our tweens and teens for the sake of the legacy we want our family to carry forward to the next generation.

And yes, I’m preaching to the choir here, because I’m in the trenches with you.

Let’s press on,


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2 thoughts on “The Upside Down Way of Mothering Teens”

  1. Lisa- I am a little late in reading this post, but I want to say, “RIGHT ON!!!” As a mom of four who went from tots to teens overnight (it seemed), who then flew from the nest one-by-one, I must tell you that I agree with your assessment and advice. The teen years were harder than the “diaper days”, and took more emotional energy and time (when daily choices have real consequences!), but the result was worth it. I had the ability/blessing to stay at home during these years, and you are soo right that being available makes a world of difference-spontaneous conversations after school, or at bedtime (fake whine-“you don’t tuck me in anymore” led to a two hour discussion about life!) or while making dinner were evidently important to their developing identities and values. The inevitable outbursts (although pretty rare in our case) about boundaries and or rules were more easily smoothed over and discussed when I recognized them as declarations of frustration and emerging independence and remained calm and refused to see them as personal assaults. In all of this, I am grateful for some wise words from a few women a bit further along the path than I, and so am returning the favor. May your children be blessed by your commitment to them in this stage of their lives. Hang in there, moms-it is worth it!

    1. Thank you so much, Dia, for taking the time to comment and cheering me . . . and the other moms on. That means so, so, so much! Blessings on you!

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