Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of youth as a youth pastor. In that time, I saw everything: from teens you’d want your kids to be to teens who were a train wreck waiting to happen. Church attendance wasn’t the deciding factor, because they all were active in church. While there are many aspects of parenting, two aspects always come to the top for me. Here are the two best ways to raise amazing teenagers while they are still toddlers:
1. Make your marriage your first priority. The way to raise a great kid isn’t to make the kid your first priority. It’s to make your marriage your first priority and let parenting flow from that. Why? Because that’s how God designed it. Marriage trumps almost anything else in parenting. You can do a lot of things right, but if your marriage is struggling, your kid will struggle.
I saw a huge disparity between the kids from a broken home and kids from a strong marriage. Both sides could get in trouble, but the kids from a broken home had so much more baggage to deal with, it wasn’t really fair. Girls without dad figures struggled the worst, leading to too many ‘bad guy boyfriends’ while teenagers. If there are cracks in your marriage, work on them now, so that your child has a strong parental marriage to lean on when they’re teenagers.
2. Live an authentic faith. You can’t fake it. One of the most important longitudinal studies on passing faith from one generation to another summarized their conclusions in one simple statement: You get what you are. Kids who tend to develop a vibrant, lasting faith do so because they saw the vibrant, real-world faith of their parents. If you want your kids to grow up in the faith, you’ve got to have a real growing faith as well.
Treating the church as a spiritual drop-off service doesn’t work. You can’t expect the church to instill strong spirituality in your child one hour a week if you’re not living a strong faith out the other 167 hours during the week. Do you want a child that follows after Christ as a teen? Live out an authentic faith of your own, and your teenager will naturally follow.
Tomorrow I’ll share three tensions that all parents must manage when raising kids in today’s culture.