How to Reclaim Your Relationship with Your High Schooler
It’s no secret that the high school, or teenage, years are some of the most mythical, ominous, and dreaded years of any parent’s life. The stories—the carnage—we hear about are enough to make us wonder if we should somehow throw in the towel and slowly back away from the fire-breathing beast that used to be our sweet and smiling little boy or girl.
Truthfully, our culture doesn’t make it any easier. How many different landmines are out there just waiting to detonate as our “babies” step into more and more adulthood?
Drugs. (This one comes with a constantly growing list of specifics)
Driving for the first time.
Parties with bad friends.
Bad friends. Period.
Cruddy and cheesy Christian music.
Not enough clothes.
I think you get the point. We have our work cut out for us. And no, packing up and moving to far-northern Canada where no one can get to our kids is not a valid option.
The truth is, Mom and Dad, you have the honor and privilege of standing your ground and fighting. And until now, I’m sure that “fighting” mostly looks like you fighting with your kids as you try desperately to keep them somewhere in the realm of following Jesus.
You know that he’s the answer. He has been for you. You know that he will carry your child…if they would just freaking let him already.
Or maybe, they do know and follow Jesus. Maybe they aren’t on the verge of walking off the face of the earth into some dark abyss…and yet…you guys still fight as if you’re on opposite sides of the battlefield.
“But wait! We both know and love Jesus! Why the heck don’t we connect anymore?! Isn’t He supposed to help us love each other? Aren’t we supposed to have the power of the Holy Spirit bringing harmony to our family? What gives?!”
Either way…whether you’re the deeply worried parent who can’t figure out why your son or daughter is off on the wrong track, or you’re the confused parent who sees that your kid is on the “right” track but still frequently—or constantly—butting heads with you…you would love a change.
You’d love to have a real, sincere conversation with your teen without pressure from either of you.
You’d love for them to come home and WANT to sit for a minute and just talk.
You’d love to be able to know that whatever is going on their day, they’ll probably end up telling you about it willingly.
And of course, you’d love to stop fighting about college and grades and SATs all the time.
Take the pressure off
Let me tell you a little about my own experience. I ran my own private tutoring business for about 8 years. Now, a little full disclosure here…I’m not yet a parent of teens.
And I hear it now: Well then how can you even understand what I’m going through? No one can until you’ve been through it yourself.
I get it.
But bear with me.
In my tutoring business, I’ve interacted with who knows how many parents, and I’ve then also had the sneaky advantage of spending a lot of quality time with their teens. So I’ve seen both camps. I’ve heard both sides of the story and listened to complaints, concerns, and deep deep heart issues from parents and teens alike.
And every time I would earnestly ask Jesus to use me to bring healing, empowerment, and peace to both parent and child in any way they need it.
So I’ve learned some very valuable lessons.
And yes, you have to take the pressure off.
High schoolers shut down so incredibly quickly as soon as they sense that you, a teacher, a tutor…whoever…has too much of a personal vested interest in how well they perform at whatever task.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had parents tell me that their kid just isn’t motivated. Then, when I begin meeting with them, I see the very same kid call me to schedule next sessions, show up with their school work done or ready to get done, work hard to bring grades up, etc.
I didn’t put pressure on them.
But it’s so very easy for Mom and Dad to—with EXCELLENT intentions—put a lot of pressure on their children. It’s understandable! It’s natural. But I’d argue that it’s not SUPERnatural. It’s not reflective of God’s heart. It’s not relating with your child the way that Jesus would have you do. It’s not consistent with your own Kingdom identity.
When I used to meet with students, I sincerely told them that I know that school can be boring. I know it can be a major bummer. And I know you’d probably rather not be here meeting with me. I get it. And I’m not trying to force you to pretend that you’re excited about me.
BUT—since you’re here, and since you were designed by God himself to be a diligent, responsible, driven, on-fire son or daughter of God…then I suggest you put forth some effort even right now.
Realign your vested interest
You see, parents. All that pressure you unknowingly—or knowingly—put on your kids comes from the fact that they are so close to you. They are your flesh and blood. You’ve cared for them, provided for them, taken them to the ER, gone to their awards banquets and ceremonies, coached their Little League teams, for fifteen years!
You’d better believe that you have a vested interest in them! Of course you want to see them succeed. Of course it frustrates you when they don’t live up to their full potential even after all you’ve poured into them. Of course you hold them to a higher standard of performance in life even if that means haranguing them over and over again to get their work done…to study for that SAT in a month…to write a dang college essay.
But is this right? And is this how Jesus leads us into relating with anyone, whether they’re our kids or not?
Because Corinthians says that love—real love—does not consider its own. Real love doesn’t think about, “After all I’ve poured in…”
Real love isn’t looking for a return on investment. Real love is its own reward.
Jesus didn’t pull himself down from the cross and say, “You know what?! Fine! Do you see all I’ve done? Do you even know all I gave up to come down here and live in your low-ness, your sickness, your sin and grunge? And for what?! For this rejection?! Forget it. I’m done.”
Or the other version of too much pressure: “Okay, I’m healing your sicknesses. I’m raising dead people. I’m loving you even if you’re a sinner. And I’m dying for you. Now, will you all please just love me back? Will you please give me a little something…anything to show me that you like me? To show me this is working? To show me that you want to be with me too? Cause I want to be with you! I want us to be close.”
Either version sounds ridiculous coming from Jesus. But we parents can do the exact same thing. We can either get offended because all of our “love” isn’t sinking in. Or we can get needy and grabby and clingy hoping that we’re winning our kids over.
Neither is good. Neither is healthy. Neither will stop your fighting and heal your relationship.
Find your own security
My challenge to you, then, is to stop finding your own identity, fulfillment and purpose in how your kid turns out. I know that sounds harsh. It sounds crazy. And it may even sound like bad parenting. But I’m telling you, when I watched moms and dads back off because now help was here, and the tutor was going to help in the area that they only fought in, the student would flourish. Relationships would get better. And mom and dad would have peace of mind.
But I have a secret for you. It doesn’t have to take a tutor. It starts with you…right now…plugging in to Jesus in a way that maybe you haven’t before.
You have to start finding your confidence and your security and your identity—the essence of who you are and why you are valuable in this world—in Jesus and what he has already said about you. What he thinks and what he says about you as a person—even you as a mom or a dad—has nothing to do with the results that you produce. It has nothing to do with how good your kid turns out. Nothing to do with the college they go to, the GPA they end up with, the SAT score they get, or the scholarships they win. That all means jack to him. And if he doesn’t care so much about those results…why do you?
He thinks that you are amazing. He thinks that you are an excellent parent. He just wants to know if you’ll believe him. Right now…before all the chips are in.
Because if you can get to a point where you are comfortable in your own skin and you don’t have a vested interest anymore in your child’s success, because you are emotionally independent from their path, then you can start loving them from a place of strength and not need. From a place of power and not weakness. And they will start to respect you for it. They will start to respect you when they can’t rattle you. They will start to want your approval rather than spit at it.
How to become a Calm, Confident, Powerful Parent (like you know you can be)
Start with truth.
Flood your mind with truth from Jesus. Stop scrambling around the internet (like you did to find me 😉 ) looking for how to get your kid on the right track, or how to get them motivated, or how to get them into college.
Open his word and douse your brain with his life-giving statements about who you are…and who your child is.
I recommend grabbing this free PDF report I’ve made for you. It’s got a ton of what I consider to be the most powerful and life-changing truths for anyone, especially parents in your shoes.
It’s also got exercises and an action plan for you to follow so that you can start reclaiming your identity and healing your relationship with your teen.
Jesus, bless these parents. Fill them with your truth and the power of your Holy Spirit so that they can finally experience the peace and the joy that they’ve known should fill their homes. I pray that you’d give them a fresh vision of their own destiny, apart from those of their children. That you’d flood them with new vision and intimacy from you.
Until next time…you are awesome. Jesus proved it when he rescued you.