Jeff Strong posted this list in 2010... it is due to be redistributed.
10. Not spending time with your teen.
A lot of parents make the mistake of not spending time with their
teens because they assume their teens don’t want to spend time with
them! While that’s true in some contexts, teens still want and need
“chunks” of one-on-one time with parents. Despite the fact that teens
are transitioning into more independence and often carry a “I don’t
need/want you around” attitude, they are longing for the securing and
grounding that comes from consistent quality time.
Going for walks together, grabbing a coffee in order to “catch up,”
going to the movies together, etc., all all simple investments that
teens secretly want and look forward to. When you don’t carve out time
to spend with your teen, you’re communicating that you’re not interested
in them, and they internalize that message, consciously or
9. Letting your teen’s activities take top priority for your family.
The number of parents who wrap their lives/schedules around their
teen’s activities is mind-boggling to me. I honestly just don’t get it. I
know many parents want to provide their children with experiences and
opportunities they never had growing up, but something’s gone wrong with
our understanding of family and parenting when our teen’s wants/”needs”
are allowed to overwhelm the family’s day-to-day routines.
Parents need to prioritize investing in their relationship with God
(individually and as a couple), themselves and each other, but sadly all
of these are often neglected in the name of “helping the kids get
ahead.” “Don’t let the youth sports cartel run your life,” says Jen
singer, author of You’re A Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad
Either). I can’t think of many good reasons why families can’t limit
teens to one major sport/extra-curricular activity per season. Not only
will a frenetic schedule slowly grind down your entire family of time,
you’ll be teaching your teen that “the good life” is a hyper-active one.
That doesn’t align itself to Jesus’ teaching as it relates to the
healthy rhythms of prayer, Sabbath, and down-time, all of which are
critical to the larger Christian task of “seeking first the kingdom of
God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
8. Spoiling your teen.
We are all tempted to think that loving our kids means doing all we
can to ensure they have all the opportunities and things we didn’t have
growing up. This is a terrible assumption to make. It leads to an
enormous amount of self-important, petty, and ungrateful kids. A lot of
the time parents are well-intentioned in our spoiling, but our continual
stream of money and stuff causes teens to never be satisfied and always
wanting more. Your teen doesn’t need another piece of crap, what he
needs is time and attention from you (that’s one expression of spoiling
that actually benefits your teen!).
There are two things that can really set you back in life if we get them too early:
a. Access to too much money.
b. Access to too many opportunities.
Parents need to recognize they’re doing their teens a disservice by
spoiling them in either of these ways. Save the spoiling for the
7. Permissive parenting.
“Whatever” — It’s not just for teens anymore! The devil-may-care
ambivalence that once defined the teenage subculture has now taken root
as parents shrug their shoulders, ask, “What can you do?” and let their
teens “figure things out for themselves.” I think permissive parenting
(i.e., providing little direction, limits, and consequences) is on the
rise because many parents don’t know how to dialogue with and discipline
their children. Maybe parents don’t have any limits of boundaries
within their own life, so they don’t know how to communicate the value
of these to their teen. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to, because
their own self-esteem is too tied up in their child’s perception of
them, and they couldn’t handle having their teen get angry at them for
actually trying to parent. Maybe it’s because many parents feel so
overwhelmed with their own issues, they can hardly think of pouring more
energy into a (potentially) taxing struggle or point of contention.
Whatever the reason, permissive parenting is completely
irreconcilable with a Christian worldview. I certainly do not advocate
authoritarian parenting styles, but if we practice a permission
parenting style we’re abdicating our God-given responsibility to provide
guidance, nurture, limits, discipline and consequences to our teen (all
of which actually help our teen flourish long-term).
6. Trying to be your teen’s best friend.
Your teen doesn’t need another friend (they have plenty); they need a
parent. Even through their teens, your child needs a dependable,
confident, godly authority figure in their life. As parents we are
called to provide a relational context characterized by wisdom,
protection, love, support, and empowerment. As Christian parents we’re
called to bring God’s flourishing rule into our family’s life. That
can’t happen if we’re busy trying to befriend our teen. Trying to be
your teen’s friend actually cheats them out of having these things in
Sometimes parents think that a strong relationship with their teen
means having a strong friendship—but there’s a fine line that shouldn’t
be crossed. You should be friendly to your teen but you
shouldn’t be your teen’s friend. They have lots of friends, they only
have one or two parents—so be the parent your teen needs you to be.
5. Holding low expectations for your teen.
Johann Goethe once wrote, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as
he is. Treat as man as he can and should be, and he become as he can
and should be.” All of us rise to the unconcious level of expectation we
set for ourselves and perceive from others. During the teenage years,
it’s especially important to slowly put to death the perception that
your teen is still “a kid.” They are emerging leaders, and if
you engage them as such, you will find that over time, they
unconsciously take on this mantle for themselves. Yes, your teen can be
moody, self-absorbed, irresponsible, etc., but your teen can also be
brilliant, creative, selfless, and mature. Treating them like “kids”
will reinforce the former; treating them as emerging leaders will
reinforce the latter.
For an example of how the this difference in perspective plays out,
I’ve written an article entitled “The Future of an Illusion” which is
available as a free download from www.meredisciple.com (in the Free
Downloads section). It specifically looks at my commitment to be
involved in “emerging church ministry” as opposed to “youth ministry,”
and it you may find some principles within it helpful.
4. Not prioritizing youth group/church involvement.
This one is one of my personal pet peeves (but not just because this
is my professional gig). I simply do not understand parents who expect
and want their kids to have a dynamic, flourishing faith, and yet don’t
move heaven and earth to get them connected to both a youth group and
I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret: no teenager can
thrive in their faith without these two support mechanisms. I’m not
saying a strong youth group and church community is all they need, but what I am
saying that you can have everything else you think your teen needs, but
without these two things, don’t expect to have a spiritually healthy
and mature teen. Maybe there are teens out there who defy this claim,
but honestly, I can’t think of one out of my own experience. As a
parent, youth group and church involvement should be a non-negotiable
part of your teen’s life, and that means they take priority over
homework (do it the night before), sports, or any other extra-curricular
Don’t be the parent who is soft on these two commitments, but pushes
their kid in schooling, sports, etc. In general, what you sow into
determines what you reap; if you want to reap a teenager who has a
genuine, flourishing faith, don’t expect that to happen if you’re ok
with their commitment to youth group/church to be casual and
3. Outsourcing your teen’s spiritual formation.
While youth group and church is very important, another mistake I see
Christian parents make is assuming them can completely outsource the
spiritual development of their child to these two things. I see the same
pattern when it comes to Christian education: parents sometimes choose
to send their children/teens to Christian schools, because by doing so
they think they’ve done their parental duty to raise their child in a
As a parent–and especially if you are a Christian yourself–YOU are
THE key spiritual role model and mentor for your teen. And that isn’t
“if you want to be” either–that’s the way it is. Ultimately, you are
charged with teaching and modelling to your teen what follow Jesus
means, and while church, youth groups, Christian schools can be a support to that end, they are only that: support mechanisms.
Read Deuteronomy 6 for an overview of what God expects from parents
as it relates to the spiritual nurture and development of their
children. (Hint: it’s doesn’t say, “Hand them off to the youth pastor
and bring them to church on Sunday.”)
2. Not expressing genuine love and like to your teen.
It’s sad that I have to write this one at all, but I’m convinced very
few Christian parents actually express genuine love and “like” to their
teen. It can become easy for parents to only see how their teen is
irresponsible, failing, immature, etc., and become a harping voice
instead of an encouraging, empowering one.
Do you intentially set aside time to tell your teen how much you love
and admire them? Do you write letters of encouragement to them? Do you
have “date nights” where you spend time together and share with them the
things you see in them that you are proud of?
Your teen won’t ask you for it, so don’t wait for an invitation.
Everyday say something encouraging to your teen that builds them up
(they get enough criticism as it is!). Pray everyday for them and ask
God to help you become one of the core people in your teen’s life that
He uses to affirm them.
1. Expecting your teen to have a devotion to God that you are not
cultivating within yourself.
When I talk to Christian parents, it’s obvious that they want their
teen to have a thriving, dynamic, genuine, life-giving faith. What isn’t
so clear, however, is whether that parent has one themselves. When it comes to the Christian faith, most of the time what we learn is caught and not taught.
This means that even if you have the “right answers” as a parent, if
you’re own spiritual walk with God is pathetic and stilted, your teen
will unconciously follow suit. Every day you are teaching your teach
(explicitely and implicitely) what discipleship to Jesus looks like “in
What are they catching from you? Are you cultivating a deep and
mature relationship with God personally, or is your Christian parenting
style a Christianized version of “do as I say, not as I do”?
While having a healthy and maturing discipleship walk as a parent
does not garauntee your teen will follow in your footsteps, expecting
your teen to have a maturing faith while you follow Jesus “from a
distance” is an enormous mistake.
You are a Christian before you are a Christian parent (or any other
role). Get real with God, share your own struggles and hypocrisy with
your entire family, and maybe then God will begin to use your example in
a positive and powerful way.