How to Teach (and Love) Teens When School Gets HardBetsy Strauss
Teens are not always easy to be around, especially when the work gets hard. It’s much easier to just leave them to themselves and call it “independent learning.” As your students get older, they might not need the same kind of teacher when they were learning to read, but they do still need a teacher. Maybe a better word is a mentor.
They are experiencing so many changes in their lives, and they need a trusted adult to help them push through the difficult times, build good habits, and identify lazy patterns in their work. My teens love to hide. Although they truly desire to work hard, some days can be a beating, and they just don’t want anyone to know how much they’re struggling. Thankfully, a mentor will be able to identify these challenges and lovingly help correct them.
While passing them off to another trustworthy adult might be a good option, often times, they just need their own parent to be that mentor figure that backs off of the strict parenting toddlers require and shifts to an overseer that offers grace and wisdom for their journey. So how does that work in the day to day life with a teen? Here are five ways to stay in your teens life when school gets tough:
1. Dive In To Subjects You Both Enjoy
Common ground can be hard to find, however, if there is a subject both of you enjoy, dive into their studies with them. It will be good for both of you to see the other engaged in learning. If their favorite subject is one that that you aren’t interested in, like geography, see if you can approach it from a subject you love. As the two subjects meet, you can encourage one another in their studies.
Making the shift into adulthood with your children can be challenging. Finding common ground can not only help you survive these last few years of their schooling, but it can also provide an excellent springboard for future relationships. Life is about more than just getting all of the boxes checked for a perfect transcript.
2. Outsource Conflict Subjects
When you encounter subjects that cause strife between you and your teen, don’t feel guilty finding an alternative solution. Trouble with schoolwork can stem from many different sources. It’s possible you just don’t have the time to do it all, and need a little support. Whatever the reason, don’t feel guilty for getting a little help.
There are so many excellent (affiliate) online courses now for homeschoolers to choose from. They offer an outside perspective, accountability, and an opportunity to gain experience in a classroom setting that isn’t directed by mom. Removing a subject that causes strife in your relationship is a great way to ensure your relationship continues to grow.
3. Spend Quality Time Away From School
Generally, you’d think if you’re clashing with your child, you need a break from them. However, I’ve found that with my teens, if we’re constantly bickering, we need some time to reconnect outside of school time. If the only relationship they have with me centers around my frustration with how they are under-performing on heir work, we’re not going to make it very far.
Even a little bit of this intentional quality time can be very effective. Sit down and play a game with your kids (that doesn’t have some subtle educational bonus) or take them to the store with you when you’re running errands. Talk with them about what they’re interested in—and really listen. Showing them your love isn’t dependent upon their school performance will bless your relationship in many ways.
4. Give Them Grace
Even when you’re doing your best, things will go wrong. Kids will make mistakes both in their work and their life. Show them grace. Grace will get you a lot further than judgement. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be consequences to poor decisions. You need to let them feel that. What I’m referring to is the way a parent’s judgement can debilitate a teen.
Grace says try again.
Judgment says this is who you are. You are a failure.
When you offer grace, you’re letting your child know that you know what it is like to fail and be forgiven. Mistakes are how you learn. Teach them to celebrate the correction that comes from making mistakes by extending grace when they fail.
5. Pray Fervently For Their Faith
Above all, pray for your teens. Feed their faith and watch them flourish. My mother used to pray that if I did anything wrong, that I would be caught. There are so many opportunities for dark paths our teens can take these days. We can’t protect them from all of them, even in the safety of our homes.
Eventually, they’re going to leave our protection, and they’ll have to make choices on their own. When you pray in faith, God will answer. We recently finished reading George Müller’s biography. His life is a powerful testimony to trusting in the Lord for provision. The same God that fed 2,000 orphans daily can rescue your young adult from any situation, and He can lead them to a life of obedience to Him.
Prayer is the first and greatest work you can do for your children. Don’t discount its power.
If your relationship with your teen is in a funk, don’t despair. You’re not alone, and you can teach (and love) your child through their teenage years.