By Michelle Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
Raising teens is a tough area of life to navigate. Your role in their lives changes and their treatment of you changes as well. Although this can be tough on a parent, it is just as tough on teens. In the unstable transition, they must seek to find themselves while not yet knowing where the boundaries begin and end.
One way to help them navigate these new boundaries is to require they contribute to the household dynamic. But in what ways is it appropriate to have them contribute to and what is not? Here are eight ways a teen can (and should) contribute to their families:Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock/bowdenimages
1. Their service
Every child should give of their services when they are needed. As parents age, they cannot take care of homes and children like they once did. When capable, older children should contribute to the family dynamic by doing chores and caring for younger siblings. This teaches them that for a family to function appropriately, all family members must contribute. There are no free rides in life, why should there be one within a family?
Additionally, this creates a feeling of empathy and compassion as they feel a sense of purpose within the family dynamic. When kids contribute their abilities to help others, they can expect that the family will have their back when they need it most.
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2. Their grace
In addition to grace, teens need to extend forgiveness, and do so quickly. James 1:19 says, “My beloved brothers, understand this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires…” This goes for Christians and non-Christians alike. Not only is it healthy for a family to extend forgiveness, but it’s also healthy for the soul. How can a teen grow into a well-adjusted adult when they take everything personally and don’t have proper coping skills to deal with difficult relationships?
\The most important way a parent can teach forgiveness is to model it. As a parent, forgive your kids quickly when they make a mistake. When they fail in school, seek to work it out with them where you concentrate on their strengths as and get them tutoring other forms of help for the subjects that they find most difficult. Offer help and encouragement during difficulty, modeling a person who is leaning on God when times get tough. Parents that do this are more than likely to raise teens that do, too.
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3. Their forgiveness
No one is perfect, not even parents. When parents disappoint their teen, teens should extend grace. When a parent can’t get them something they need, or can’t (or won’t) give a teen something they want, teens need to extend grace. They need to keep in perspective that the world does not revolve around them.
Extending grace even when they are disappointed or hurt helps them to be like Jesus, who chooses to extend grace instead of harboring bitterness or resentment. Teens who can extend grace to others quickly will be more likely to remain free from the bondage anger can cause.
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4. Their talents
If you have a son who likes to cook, why not enlist his help to make dinner twice a week? Have a daughter who loves to dance? Ask her to put on a show for you. Gather other siblings and family members and allow her to put together a dance routine she can showcase in front of everyone. Have a kid who likes to talk? Ask them to help you with your next event where you must speak in public or help polish a speech for an important event.
Whatever your kids’ talents are, foster them by giving them opportunities to use and develop their skills at home. This creates positive memories for them at home and recall their growing up as a place where they were rewarded and encouraged to be all they could be. By using their gifts at home, it also provides the opportunity for them to feel they fill a specific role in the family, which will help them find their place among friends at school, at church and ultimately within the family of God.
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5. Their money
Although this may not be appropriate for younger teens, older teens who are graduating high school and don’t know what they are going to do with the rest of their lives can contribute to pay for rent, food and car essentials, as their budgets allow. Teens at this age should have a job so they can learn how to balance school and work. Parents should not hesitate to charge room and board to an older adult who is not going to college. If a teen is going to college, you might still consider charging for certain aspects of the household. Caring for food, for example, helps them learn that the refrigerator is not open at all hours of the day and night.
If teens don’t want to pay for the food they eat, you may find their food consumption dip radically. Whether you can afford to pay for a teen who lives in your home or not, instilling an attitude of limits and boundaries regarding heat, food and other incidentals will pay dividends in the long run, much more than you can imagine in the short-term.
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6. Their viewpoint
Although parents may still see their teens as kids, they have experienced life in a way different than you. By the time they become close to adulthood, they have developed their own views on cultural norms, topics in the news, finances, etc. They should be able to express it in such a way where their viewpoints—even if a parent disagrees—can be valued and affirmed as adults who can contribute to making a difference in society.
Parents need to listen to and discuss their differences of opinion even if discussion may turn into heated debate. This is how we grow as a society, by accepting others even if they don’t agree with her viewpoints.
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7. Their leadership
In some of today’s churches, teens are still considered kids and not yet a valuable asset to the family dynamic. But what if teens learn they are a valuable contributor to the way families are run? Instead of focusing on merely teaching and raising teens, families can allow teens to offer opinions on how they are utilized in the church and in the home. Also, allow them to feel comfortable sharing opinions about household decisions, like how money is spent, where to go on vacation, or what groceries are bought.
Although you do not have take every idea, allowing them to voice their opinions will contribute to the overall emotional health of the family as well and allow them to express their dislike for the areas they feel the family is weak. By offering tangible and concrete solutions, teens can feel they are being used effectively and can develop their autonomy which will help them assume success when they have their own families.
Raising teens is tough, but by understanding and changing your boundaries and limits with them, you can find raising teens as one of the most rewarding parts of your lives. By understanding that contributing helps foster a teens’ self-esteem and self-concept, asking teens to contribute to the family will no longer be awkward—but as a catalyst for a teen’s success later in life.
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Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award winning author, speaker, writing coach, pastor's wife and mother. As a literary agent for Wordwise Media services, she is a sought after workshop presenter at popular writers' conferences like She Speaks and Greater Philly Christian Writers conference. Please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.