1. Focus on being a healthy parent, not just on raising a healthy child.
Many parents can forget the significant impact that God has designed us to have in our kid’s lives. The primary classroom where our children learn about morals, values, ethics, a sense of how to handle difficult emotions, how to deal with conflict in mature ways and how to interact with the opposite sex is still mom and dad. Even when they become teenagers and it seems as if you have little impact the fact is that you still do. Is what our kids see in our lives different than the values modelled by society? Do our children see in us the importance of the spiritual side of life? Do we model for them the value of the Bible and prayer? While there are no guarantees do understand that, as their parents, what you model is the greatest influence in what your kids will choose.
2. Lay a relational foundation in childhood
The best predictor of how you and your teenager will relate to each other is found in the relationship you build with them as a child. Those early patterns of interaction set the stage for what your relationship will look like during adolescence. If those patterns have been healthy, you can probably expect that to continue. So if your child is still small, invest the time and energy that will pay off not only now, but also in the future. While it is never too late to begin building a warm, loving relationship, creating a solid foundation is always easier than repairing a damaged one.
3. Spend ample time with your child
It is impossible to build a strong relationship without spending quantity, not just quality, time together. As you spend time together you can learn how to win them over, rather than trying to win over them. That is a subtle but at the same time a very significant distinction. As two of our sons have moved into their teenage years, spending time with them has become more of a challenge. So make the most of your opportunities to do things together with your child while you can.
4. Trust your child
Many parents tell their adolescents that, “We’ll trust you when you prove you can be trusted.” Adolescents express bitterness and frustration that they often are made to feel guilty and have to prove their innocence. Early on Carrie and I decided early on that we would communicate a different message to our boys. We told them, “We’ll trust you until you prove you can’t be trusted, and then we’ll deal with the problem.” The statement may sound similar, but consider how different the message was to our children. Time and time again, with only a few exceptions, they have rewarded our trust with protecting it.