In November, my two teen daughters and I attended Girls of Grace, an event put on by speakers and musicians who have a heart for teen girls. I’ve worn the title of mommy, mama, mom — it differs depending on the child who speaks it and the mood they’re in — for twenty-seven years, and as much as my girls needed a good word spoken, I needed support and encouragement in this work of motherhood, too.
We’ve raised newborns, toddlers, terrible two-year-olds, preschoolers, school-aged kids, and pre-teens in our family — and those were challenging years (aren’t they all?) — but I’ll take the physical demands of a colicky newborn, sleep deprivation, and childproofing a house/houseproofing a child over the emotionally demanding work of parenting a teen.
Some children demand more attention than others, but they all need it. The saying, “Still waters run deep,” is true; don’t neglect the ones that don’t seem to need you as much. And although there are times when one requires more of your energy, my mother always reminded me I can’t devote all my time to one child.
During the afternoon breakout session at Girls of Grace, the moms met separately with the ladies from the group Point of Grace, who hosted the conference, and Trudy Cathy White, daughter of Truett Cathy. They shared wisdom from their own experiences and conversations they’d had with a group of at-risk teen girls.
Here’s what those girls shared:
1. Listen when we talk.
Just as a mother learns the importance of establishing eye contact with a young child when she instructs him, looking your child in the eye shows that you are listening attentively.
2. Ask the hard questions.
Some answers are difficult to hear, but our children need us to ask. Then, we can help.
3. Ask the hard questions again — we may not tell the truth the first time.
Truth is painful to divulge sometimes. Fear of causing disappointment, being judged, or punishment may cause a teen to be less than truthful. Ask again and have tough conversations in person.
Some of the most powerful words I heard that day were “pray that your children get caught when they do wrong.” It’s hard to watch our children pay for their mistakes, but bad habits unchecked not only wound your child and others but they multiply.
I’ve made mistakes where I was caught and ones where I wasn’t, and for me, the shame and pain of sins uncovered served as a powerful deterrent. You probably remember examples from your own life.
4. Show and tell your faith.
Live your faith, but be sure to speak it, too. Your children may not understand your heart as clearly as you think. This might be difficult for you if faith wasn’t spoken of openly in your home as a child, but it’s important.
We are our children’s prayer warriors. I’ve prayed prayers that would never have been uttered if I didn’t believe God loves my children even more than I do:
Lord, build a hedge around him.
Lord, don’t break him but hinder him when he does wrong.
Lord, let her feel the weight of her words and how deeply they cut others.
Lord, let him grow to hate his sin.
We cannot protect them from everything, but we can pray to a God who loves them and who will guide them in truth.
Our culture wants our daughters to believe that looks determine their value. Age-appropriate behavior and clothing have become hopelessly skewed. Tell them they’re loved by you and by God and that their worth is in Him as daughters of the King. They’re not only their daddy’s princess, they’re God’s, too.
For our sons, society wants them to believe that males and females are alike and behaving like a gentleman is offensive. Once my boys were old enough, I gave them opportunities to open doors for me and thanked them when they did. I’m affectionate with them, too. Tough and tender can go hand in hand.
Just this evening, while I was working on the computer, my twelve-year-old son stopped what he was doing and fixed my tea when he heard the timer go off, brought me a bowl of peanut M&Ms to snack on, and warmed a heating pad for my shoulders. I pray he’ll treat females with respect and make a considerate husband one day.
Your teen daughters might resist gentlemanly behavior from your sons and other males — our culture preaches a different message — but they’ll grow to appreciate it. Remember the ideas you had at that age? I do. They changed with time.
Mamas, don’t be afraid to raise your children counter-culturally. We need a rising generation whose faith and principles are strong. Truth is powerful.
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Roman 8:31 (NIV)
What are your greatest parenting challenges, and what have you
learned on the journey?
We are our children's prayer warriors. We cannot protect them from everything, but we can pray that God guides them in truth. - @DawnMHSH: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
My biggest parenting surprise has been the multi-tiered challenge of parenting teens while loving adult children and THEIR children. There just doesn’t seem to be enough of me to go around sometimes.
Thank you, Dawn, for strong swimming lessons here as we paddle upstream in a culture that’s sending some very unhelpful messages to our kids.
Dawn Camp says
Michele, I’m dealing with the same thing you are: kids in the home at the same time as adult children with children of their own. We just have to make the most of it and know that our older kids understand the demands we have at home. That day will come when the nest will be empty; I don’t want to rush it.
Maie Parker says
I am a 71 year-old grandmom with a 21 year-old college granddaughter. Her maternal grandmom, her mom, and I brought her up in the church. I’ve answered her questions about Christianity when she’s asked why other religions aren’t okay to follow. In January she informed us she no longer believes in God, that she “is” a spirit, that her maternal grandmom (a committed Christian) who died last year is neither in heaven nor hell, but floating around in the universe. Her mom, my son(her dad), and I have gone through the emotions of hurt, anger, and disappointment. Please share what I should do and can do.
Elsa Seidel says
Dear Maie – Pray for your granddaughter, pray, pray and pray. No arguments, just love and acceptance. Her background and the influence of family and church are still “in” her. While our daughter didn’t become involved in your granddaughter’s behavior, she was sexually involved, had a child at 20 and then continued to live with another man for several months. Only God could have orchestrated how that child was adopted; her new family is part of ours, meaning we connect occasionally and pray for each other. Our daughter returned to the Lord, did mission work in Ethiopia, is now involved with a homeless ministry in her church . God is good and He is in control; Ephesians 3:20.
Beth Williams says
Raising children has always been difficult. Living here in the messy middle between two Edens it is more difficult. The culture has so many deceptions that allure them away from their upbringing. God has blessed you moms with an inheritance don’t waste it. Proverbs 22:6 says: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. It is your responsibility to teach & educate your children both worldly & spiritually. This world is so skewed in its views today that young people can get confused & pulled astray from their faith. I’ve heard stories of good parents raise Godly children & when they hit the world they follow its allurements. They forget their training & don’t cling to faith. That is why prayer is so important in raising teens & young people.
Dawn Camp says
Amen, sister! My youngest daughter and her friend were puzzled this week because they heard the phrase “train” a child and were surprised by it. I guess they thought it sounded like they were the family pet. 😉 I explained to them that it’s what the Bible tells us as parents to do, and that yes, they do need training. My (in) post last month was titled To Train Up a Child!
As the momma of 16 year old son. I needed this this. Thank You
Dawn Camp says
I’m so glad, Mary. Thanks for letting me know. 🙂
Thank you for the reminder to pay just as much attention to the child who doesn’t appear to need as much.
Dawn Camp says
I learned that one the hard way, Kim! Glad I could help.
Emily B. says
Oooh, yeah, definitely!
Thank you Dawn for this article. It is very difficult raising two boys ages 10 and 13 in this society. I am thankful that they are recognizing the skewed world. Just for example the kids choice awards on television had a rapper perform in front of all the kids. The rapper was apparently swearing in his song because the tv was bleeping out some of the lyrics. My boys were surprised and very disappointed how bad judgement on the producers of the show in allowing a performing to be swearing in front of the children. I continue to pray for them daily and I ask God to help me to be a better Mom. I know He is the one who loves them the most and I trust Him to protect and guide my sons. I also pray if they make bad choices that they would get caught quickly. The hormones are the toughest thing to deal with these days. I pray for God to help me love them even with the outbursts from both sides.
Dawn Camp says
The one day a week school program we attend (my kids are in classes and I help teach them) has a yearly social event for high schoolers: cultural event, dinner at a nice restaurant, dance. This year they have assigned escorts in boy/girl pairs. They don’t have to spend the evening together, but the girls should let the boys get doors for them and their chair at dinner. I told the girls in my class not to give the boys grief, that it was important to learn to do these things and for them to be able to receive it. I think it helped. Blessings to you and your boys!
I have heard several people mention Girls of Grace and the link doesn’t work and I couldn’t find anything anywhere that they are still doing this. Sounds like a great opportunity that I would love to take my daughters too. I don’t think we can immerse them enough in Christian events, surrounded especially by other women and teens modeling Christlike behavior.
Dawn Camp says
Christy, you’re right. This is from my archives here from a few years ago. I found their Facebook page and they are referring people to Sadie Robertson’s Live Original event, which I’ve taken my kids to the last two years. They loved it. Sadie has some good things to say and kids listen to her.
I am a single mother of a young daughter. It’s so important for me to know that she is loved and protected by God and me. I know that not being in a relationship with her father was the right thing because he was abusive and I don’t want that modeled for her, but I worry about how she will be affected later in life.
Dawn Camp says
Elizabeth, it sounds like you made a wise decision to protect your daughter. Pray for other males in her life, like a grandfather or family friend, who will show her she’s valued for who she is, but never underestimate the power of your words. When she’s older she will better understand the choice you made on her behalf.
Jenny K says
Praying for you Elizabeth as you raise your young daughter, grateful she will not grow up in a home with abuse, and while that means not having a Dad, praying that God will use godly men to influence her life as she grows.
I am a mother to two teens, a preteen and a preschooler. And I just can’t seem to get a break, we’ve been having all the high school and jr high troubles. If it’s not one kid rebeling it’s the other. I’ve had many heart to heart conversations with my children especially my daughter but I feel that everything I say goes in through one ear and comes out the other. I feel emotionally and mentally exhausted from all this but I will continue to be their prayer warrior. I know that God is in control and He loves my children more than I do.
Emily B. says
We do listen, even if we don’t pay attention until years later. Thank you for persevering, Fabi, because you really are having a HUGE impact on your kids’ lives. They archive those heart-to-hearts, and they secretly love you, even if they’ll only tell you when you give them food, or maybe not ever. You’re so right: God is in control and He loves your children more than you do, infinitely more. Sending hugs and prayers.
Emily B. says
Yep, that all sounds about right. I’m weird; I like things designed for parents, but I’m a teenager myself. We want to be listened to, and we want you to be real with us. Acknowledge your brokenness, because we know by now that our parents aren’t perfect angels who get it right every time. We want you to stand by us and talk with us about normal, geeky stuff (at least my friends and I do, maybe not other people). Don’t overlord our lives, but be there, because we really secretly do want you as a friend. Dawn, your devo was amazing, and it’s honestly good to be reminded that my parents care about me outside of telling me that they love me and taking care of me and being my friend, even though I know that (There’s nothing you’re doing wrong, Mommy). 🙂 😛 Thank you!!