10 Ways Parents Unknowingly Hurt Their Relationship with Their Teens

10 Ways Parents Unknowingly Hurt Their Relationship with Their Teens

There is a certain “shift” that happens between parents and teenagers on the journey of adolescence. It may be small and insignificant, or it may be monumental and life-changing. Depending on each family’s circumstances, the teen years can be some of the hardest to navigate.

It’s during this time, that parents can unknowingly hurt their relationship. Extra diligence is required during this season, to ensure a strong and healthy connection that will extend beyond the teen years.

Fortunately, the Bible is the perfect guidebook. We may think it doesn’t have much to say about moody teenagers and overwhelmed parents, but the wisdom within its pages is timeless. Here are 10 ways parents unknowingly hurt their relationship with their teens, and what the Bible offers to help us through this difficult season.

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  • 1. Using them as a sounding board

    1. Using them as a sounding board

    The older our kids get, the more tempted we might be to share our “grown-up” problems with them. But by using our teens as a sounding board, we can end up causing them a lot of undue anxiety and insecurity. They are already dealing with hormonal changes and pressures at school. Why add to their problems?

    We can still be open and authentic with our kids without dumping our adult problems on them. Instead, let’s take our burdens to the Ultimate Sounding Board—the One who knows just how to handle them.

    “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

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  • 2. Being distracted

    2. Being distracted

    Family schedules have taken on a whole new form of “crazy” in recent years. Even when there is down time, the distractions of social media, television, and personal agendas often override much-needed family time.

    Our teens need to spend time with us. They may act like they’d rather be anywhere else, but they truly wish for us to put away the distractions and engage with them.

    The Bible reminds us that our life is merely “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14) Let’s be careful not to waste precious time with our teens by being too busy or distracted.

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  • 3. Talking at them

    3. Talking at them

    Oh, how we just want our teens to listen! Things would go so much smoother if they would simply heed what we tell them. However, talking at them is a sure-fire way to get them to tune us out.

    Most conversations need to be two-sided, asking thought-provoking questions and listening well. Also, it is wise to use fewer words when we communicate. Carefully choosing words that really matter helps keep their attention and gets them thinking beyond the surface.

    The Bible tells us that a “word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) We would be wise to listen more than we speak and converse with our teens in thoughtful, impactful ways.

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  • 4. Not learning their love language

    4. Not learning their love language

    Each of us are like empty vessels that need love to fill us up. God’s love is the primary and most important love we can receive. However, we also need to be poured into by others. It’s a basic, human need.

    By learning the love language of our teen, we can be intentional about how we relate to them. If their need is to spend quality time with us, yet we continuously neglect that need, we are unknowingly hurting our relationship. By taking the time to invest in their love language, we will build a much deeper bond.

    “Love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)

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  • 5. Overreacting

    5. Overreacting

    Our first instinct is usually to react instead of respond. To remain calm and collected with our teens may seem impossible in light of the many conflicts that arise. But one of the quickest ways to squelch communication is to constantly overreact.

    Teenagers will put up walls and even begin to hide things from us if they feel we are unapproachable. They need to feel secure in coming to us, knowing we won’t overreact. It’s important to step back and reevaluate how we respond to them.

    “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9)

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  • 6. Complaining to them about money

    6. Complaining to them about money

    Everything seems to come with a price nowadays. Sports and other extracurricular activities are extremely costly. It can be overwhelming when expenses pile up and be easy to complain to them about money.

    It’s true that our kids need to have a healthy view of finances, but they don’t need to be burdened with our constant worries about money. It may lead to them feeling guilty about even asking for things they need.

    The Bible says we are to be “anxious for nothing, and with thanksgiving present our requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6) Let’s take our money woes to the Lord and not to our children. 

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  • 7. Not setting healthy boundaries

    7. Not setting healthy boundaries

    Believe it or not, kids thrive when parents set healthy boundaries. They may push back, but their security depends on us actually caring enough to follow through. Sometimes, I think we are afraid of setting boundaries for fear our kids won’t like us. We would rather avoid conflict by compromising our standards.

    When the Bible says that “he who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly,” (Proverbs 13:24), it refers not only to spanking, but to the rod of guidance. Just as a shepherd uses his staff to guide his sheep, we too must be diligent in guiding our teens by setting healthy boundaries.

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  • 8. Letting them have too much space

    8. Letting them have too much space

    In today’s culture, more than ever before, our teens seem to be navigating through life unsupervised. This “hands off” approach has crossed the line from teaching independence to letting them raise themselves. This can be detrimental to our relationship.

    Accountability is needed until the day our kids are grown and gone. We can and should be involved in every aspect of their lives—especially the things that impact their character.

    The Bible says we should “keep our hearts with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) This is a poignant reminder for us to guard the hearts of our teens with all diligence as well.

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  • 9. Not getting to know their friends

    9. Not getting to know their friends

    As our teens get involved with different circles of friends, we may feel it unnecessary to get to know them. But it’s crucial for us to know exactly who they are hanging out with and who may be having a negative impact on them.

    Opening our homes and providing a welcoming place to hang out is a great way to reaffirm that we care. Plus, it’s a way for us to discern whether or not their chosen friends are actually good influences.

    Proverbs 12:26 advises us to choose our friends wisely. By getting to know our kid’s friends, we can better instruct them to cultivate healthy relationships.

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  • 10. Not being open to discussions about faith

    10. Not being open to discussions about faith

    We can raise our children to know who God is by training them in the Word, taking them to church, and making sure they have a clear understanding of the Gospel. But we cannot make them believe.

    It may seem scary to have open discussions about faith, for fear our kids will reject what we’ve taught them. However, when our teens know they can come to us with any question they have about God, that is one of the very best ways to witness to them. Let’s not hurt our relationship with our kids by being unwilling to discuss serious faith issues.

    “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.” (Isaiah 43:10)

    Lord, please help us through the teen years by giving us the wisdom needed to build strong and lasting relationships. Show us, Lord, the areas in which we aren’t being as attentive as we need to be. Guide us by Your Spirit and cover us with Your love. We commit our families to You today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Jennifer Waddle is best known for offering Biblical encouragement for women in the trenches of life. She is the author of several books on Amazon, including Prayer Worrier: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer. She is also a contributor for GotQuestions.org and WomensMinistryTools.com. She resides with her family near the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain—her favorite place on earth.

    You can connect with her at www.jenniferwaddleonline.comor check out her books on Amazon

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