The aim of this post is to give the parents of my teens a bit general advice in parenting the teens I see on a weekly basis. Admittedly, parents know their children better than I do. But I think that my position grants me unique insight that might be valuable to share.
1. Ask your child what they learned at youth group; then actually take the time to learn about the subject for yourself
I have taught some pretty substantial Bible lessons to Middle/High and College students over the years. Imputed righteousness, the hypostatic union, the authority/necessity/clarity of scripture, soteriology, lower criticism etc. have all run through the halls of Roc Solid Student Ministry. Topics such as these provide a wonderful grounding for the Christian. If you (the parent) take the time to learn these things, you may have the unique opportunity to have a Word based conversation at the dinner table. Learning together is fun for all, but rest assured that you must initiate that convo.
2. Pray with your child
I have found that may parents make this a priority until about 6th grade. My advice is to press on with the practice of praying as a family. Not just at mealtime. Praying as a family gives you the opportunity to be vulnerable with your children. Recent studies have shown that generation Z (approx. 1995-2009) are a relational bunch with a love for transparency. Keep it "100" with your children. Many parents hide their flaws (or don’t own up to them) from their children. Monkey see, monkey do. They will go elsewhere with their feelings of failure (if not the youth pastor, they will seek out their peers). Pray prayers of repentance, dependence, joy, and victory in Christ with your children. Teach them how to pray!
3. Remember that they were born with a sin nature
Just to clarify, this does not mean that you tolerate sin in the home, nor in their lives. However, lowering the boom on every offense will lead to a cold child who is good at hiding sin from you. A friend of mine told me their philosophy of child rearing, which they got from their parents, “Set high expectations, but parent with grace”. I think that’s wise counsel. They will sin. Don’t freak out and don’t shame them into oblivion. Knee-jerk reactions often cause more harm than good. Take time to pray and evaluate your discipline. Make sure the punishment fits the crime. They are sinners just like you. Show them grace just as you have been shown.
4. Teach them to respect adults and authority
This should ideally be taught during their single digit years. But if you notice that your teen only respects your authority and not the authority of others, you may want to sit and talk to them about it. I happen to have a very dominant presence/approach to teaching large numbers of teens. Many other teachers do not. And they shouldn’t have to. Remember that your teen is not primarily your friend; they are your child. Teach them basic social skills “Hello Mr., Mrs.”, “Can I hold the door for you”, etc. Often a lack of respect comes from ignorance in communication.