I never met a mom or dad whose goal was to be a bad parent. From the moment we hold that little bundle of joy in our arms, we dedicate our lives to guiding, protecting and loving our kid to the best of our ability. Unfortunately, when the hospital hands the baby over, they don’t include a how-to guide on being a good parent. We have to figure it out as we go along. And when our kid reaches adolescence, that’s when our parenting knowledge is really put to the test.
As a parent and grandparent in my own family, and as a counselor to thousands of teens over the years, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. But I’ve also learned a lot. Let me share with you what I think are the 8 most essential qualities we need as parents.
#1—A Thick Skin
Here’s the honest truth—that kid you love will say things and do things that will upset you. Our children have the capacity to hurt us in ways other people cannot. But as parents, we need to learn not to take everything our teen says and does personally. Chalk it up to hormones, growing up, private struggles, or teen angst … and move on. Developing a thick skin allows you to have a clear, rational mind when you deal with your child, instead of operating under emotions of pain or hurt.
#2—A Soft Heart
Having thick skin doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a soft heart for our kids. In order to be the best parent we can be, we need to show compassion, empathy and love, even when our kids are at their worst. We should always be looking to understand where our teens are coming from, and building bridges to their hearts.
#3—Trust in God
Mom and Dad—although you are responsible for your children, God doesn’t leave them up to you entirely. Isn’t that good news? God is working on your son or your daughter, and we can trust that He will finish what He started. There’s a sense of relief and freedom in knowing that though we love our kids, God loves them even more. Nothing that happens to our family is outside of God’s control. And He is working everything for our good.
#4—A Grasp of the Future
Every parent needs to have a solid grasp on the future. It’s knowing that every bump in the road, every hurdle on the path, every storm on our journey is only temporary. It might be tough right now. But tomorrow is a new day and there is hope right around the corner. You can approach every season in your life as a mom or dad as a new chapter in your autobiography. Eventually, you’ll flip the page. These struggles and hard times will end. So keep reading—the best is yet to come.
#5—A Desire to Connect
In my experience, teens trust and relate to people who carve out the time to have a relationship with them. If you want to connect with your kids and be invited to speak into their lives, you have to enter their world. In order to further your relationship with your teen, laugh with him. Talk with her. Play video games with your son. Share your heart with your daughter. Get to know what your teens find funny, what makes them sad, what makes them angry, what inspires them the most, and anything else that makes them unique. Trust me, Mom and Dad—your teen wants to connect with you! Take the time to foster a deep relationship with your child.
#6—A Listening Ear
How do you know if you have the essential quality of a listening ear? Ask yourself these questions … Am I lecturing less, and listening more? Am I asking good questions, or am I supplying all the answers? Am I giving my teenager a chance to speak, or am I dominating the conversation? If we want our kids to talk with us more, we have to be better about hearing what they have to say. Would you want to open up to someone who consistently offered their own opinions and viewpoints without pausing to hear yours? Neither do our kids!
#7—The Ability to Laugh
Parenting is hard. There’s no way around it. That’s why we need a strong sense of humor to make it through adolescence. I’m sure the gaping hole in the drywall from that living room wrestling match didn’t look so funny when it happened. But develop the ability to laugh, make jokes, and see the fun in parenting. The wall can be repaired, but the emotional damage from an uneasy or tense home is not easily fixed. The atmosphere you create in your house is a magnet that can either draw your kids in, or push them out the door. So make your home a place where laughter is encouraged, joy is found, and fun is had regardless of the circumstances. Use humor to sidestep some of the pains, hurts and disappointments of parenting, and you and your teen will be happier for it.
#8—A Knowledge of Your Own Beliefs
To survive the perils of the teenage years, mom and dad need to know what they believe and plan accordingly. You can’t wait till your daughter is standing at the door with her boyfriend to decide what the dating guidelines will be for your home. Why wait until your teenage son sleeps in on a Sunday, to tell him that he has to attend church? Regularly sitting down to discuss and develop your beliefs about the various issues you’ll encounter with your teen is an essential skill for parents. Sooner or later you’ll have to deal with concerns about music, dating, schoolwork and finances, to name just a few. Planning ahead allows you to communicate guidelines to your kids early and often. Then, when the issue comes up, everyone knows the rules and expectations for the home. After deciding and communicating your beliefs, stand your ground. Don’t waver. Your teen may not be happy with the consequences, but he will respect you for holding to your beliefs. Be loving, but be consistent in how you communicate, explain and uphold the rules of the house.